Damaged Relationships

Over the course of building my business I have had the opportunity to team up with various individuals, groups, and businesses on client projects, workshops, events, and other businesses.  The lessons learned from these have proven invaluable and at times costly.

There seem to be two very different categories of people.  The first group is confident, capable, ethical, and willing to work on win-win outcomes.  These individuals believe success comes from giving and having an attitude of “I’m good at what I do, so I’m comfortable teaming up with others to benefit us all.”

The second group appears to be confident and capable, but what they are really good at is talking about how good they are.  These individuals are able to sell ice at the polar ice cap!  They position themselves as operating at a “higher level” than their true level of competence.  Perhaps they really believe this exaggerated ability.  If so, God bless them.

Experience with one or two of these individuals (or more) can lead to collateral damage in other relationships.  Once (or twice burned) you may find yourself being more cautious (not necessarily a bad thing), looking for more proof before you get into relationships (requesting references, although who is going to provide you with contact info to a poor reference), and magnifying even the smallest misstep into a significant issue.  Because your experience has increased your sensitivity to signs of danger, you may learn to proceed more cautiously and with more care.

Sometimes contractual obligations, business necessity, or financial reasons require that you continue a less than satisfactory relationship.  When that occurs, it is important to find a way to mitigate the potential impact.  For instance, document any agreements – if you talk by phone on what will happen, follow-up with an e-mail which states “This is my understanding of our agreement based upon the phone call we had today.”

It is a terrible thing to lose trust, and it is difficult to recover when that happens.  Standards of conduct or integrity differ from person to person.  What is right for one is not acceptable for another.  Relationships work best when there is a shared value system, when what is acceptable is the same for all parties.  Many people today are conditioned to “win”, to get the most out of the other person, and to limit what they are giving to the minimum that is perceived as “acceptable”.  Unfortunately these perspectives often place a heavy toll  on someone with a higher expectation of the relationship – financially, emotionally, and expectations of future relationships.

Here are some suggestions for relationship building after bad experiences:

1.    Be cautious in establishing relationships with another person – no matter how well you believe you know them.
2.    Understand how to mitigate the damage a relationship can cause before you enter into it.
3.    Don’t enter into the relationship expecting it to go wrong; this can become a self-filling prophecy.
4.    Create a written, formal agreement of the expectations of all parties, including written definitions of the terms used.
5.    Trust your instincts…listen to your “gut” – if anything seems “off,” walk away.

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