When a relationship is difficult, especially one in which you have a large business or familial stake, it can color your whole outlook on life. I’ve certainly found myself with a black cloud hanging over my head, thinking, “What can I do to make this better?” I’d like to explore some aspects of making difficult relationships better in some upcoming posts, though much of the time I will admit to being bewildered as to how things can become so botched up sometimes. I know one unhealthy approach I’ve found myself falling into has been to become defensive and lose perspective.
With respect to the business environment, in a classic article by Peter Drucker, he suggests two tips for improving relationships with colleagues: 1) Recognize their strengths and figure out a way to have yours and the others’ strengths compliment one another 2) Take responsibility for communications between you and the other.
This latter point reminded me of something else I learned of a few years ago. I wanted to pass it on here in case it might help you or someone you know.
It is called the 100/0 principle, and it was written initially by Al Ritter. This is the formula: You take full responsibility for the relationship (the 100) and expect nothing in return (the 0). As you take authentic responsibility for a relationship, it will be that the other person does as well. Consequently, the 100/0 Principle transforms to something approaching 100/100, at least that is the hope. By being persistent in your kindness and respect for another person, you will change the dynamic of a relationship. When that happens, true breakthroughs occur for the individuals involved, their teams, their organizations (and, depending on the situation, perhaps their families). Most people just give up too soon. Doing this requires tremendous discipline, faith, and humility, but when faced with a “failure is not an option” relationship, it may be what you need to do.
I will admit that I find the concept intimidating, but I also think it can be hugely rewarding. If you try this, please let me know how it goes. Also, if you have any wisdom on how to work your way through relationship difficulties, please share with us all!