Relationships we have in all areas of our lives are fundamentally important to our growth and happiness.
I’d like to share a story of a hard lesson I learned about 5 years ago and the powerful outcome it had on my relationship with a work colleague.
At the time I held a sales position at my father’s plastics manufacturing company.
There was an employee I worked with, we’ll call her Karen, who wore many hats at the office, one of which was sales support.
In a small family business everyone is like family… but Karen and I were never really close.
One Friday evening she did something that really pissed me off.
I went home and stewed about it all weekend then marched up to her office on Monday and let her have a piece of my mind.
I seemed to forget in the moment that my father’s office was next door… and the door was open. Whoops!
My father marched over to my office, closed the door and let me have a piece of HIS mind.
He was extremely disappointed in the way I treated Karen and made it clear that the way in which I’d handled the situation was totally unacceptable.
Even though in my mind I had justified it… I realized he was right.
He looked at me and said “You need to fix it.”
I remembered a book I read in college and picked up a copy of it on the way home…
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
I can’t recommend this book enough. What I learned from this book completely transformed my relationship with Karen and my destiny.
In this book Dale Carnegie spells out his plan for getting what you want from other people by changing your behavior…. because at the end of the day, you only have control over your own behavior.
All of the techniques in this book revolve around one simple concept… put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
When you take the time to really understand where someone is coming from, the frustration and judgment you have towards that person seems to fall away.
You gain compassion for them… and you can’t be compassionate and angry at someone at the same time.
It’s like magic!
If you’ve tried this and you’re still angry at the person then you know you haven’t fully put yourself in their shoes… keep working on it. The first step for dealing with Karen was to be nice to her.
I know that sounds silly but when you have to work with someone who is pissed off at you, it’s not always easy to be nice.
After the incident, whenever I called the office and she picked up the phone she wouldn’t even say “Hello” to me. It was, “Yeah?”
It took a few months of being really nice to her, but I saw a shift. She let her barrier down and I was able to begin to rebuild our relationship.
Because I had put myself in Karen’s shoes I became genuinely interested in her and really listened for what she wanted and needed. Then, whenever possible… I would help her get what she wanted.
It might have been that she hadn’t heard back from one of our customers… so I would call them up and get her a response.
We began to develop a friendship and to this day, I would say that friendship remains.
Interestingly enough, this way of relating to people became a powerful tool in my position as Chapter President of the National Association of Professional Women. It was an integral leader skill that allowed me to relate to my members and Leadership Team on a whole new level.
As I look back now… that simple practice became a habit, and eventually influenced my character.
My favorite quote by Margaret Thatcher explains this quite well…
“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.”
If there is a relationship in your life that you’d like to transform… first start by putting yourself in their shoes.