Relationships. They’re the worst!

By Dennis Lonergan, Eidolon Communications

Relationships. So many expectations, annoyances, and demands. So much backstabbing, scapegoating, and excuse-making.

Or is it just me?

I’ll admit relationships aren’t my forte. They are unavoidable. Decades of retreat have done little to stop them. So, I’ve been forced to come to terms. Herewith, a few hard-learned lessons.

Act “as if.”

You already do this at parties and family gatherings. Now, apply it to meetings and Zoom calls.

  • Pay attention. Maintain eye contact. Smile appropriately. We all want to feel our time and talk matters. Focus on the conversation at hand. Sit on your hands and defy scrolling. What’s wanted? How can you assist? Work to understand, then reiterate how you’ll help and when.
  • Make Time. Let people know they matter to you. Be available — on their terms as much as possible. Your time is valuable, acknowledge its value to others by sharing it willingly.
  • Say Yes. Even when you don’t want to. Pay it forward by saying yes whenever possible.

Beat them to it.

  • Don’t wait to be asked. Have you agreed to a deadline? Check in ahead of time to let them know you’re on track. Rather than leaving someone wondering if you’ll follow through with a favor, tell them where it stands. You may buy yourself extra time and goodwill.
  • Follow-through, always. We’re only as good as our word. The promise you made: did you write it down, add it to your to-do list, or give it a deadline? If someone doesn’t circle back, don’t think the pledge was forgotten or unimportant.
  • Extend an invitation. Nothing lifts the spirits like being invited to lunch or dinner. From the office newbie to the client who’s moved on, people like to be thought of. Make it a point to reach out. Wave over someone who is standing alone. Pull out a chair from your table. Relationships need your attention.

Honesty is the only policy.

  • Give candid feedback. Honest feedback is essential in an industry as demanding as ours. Be transparent. Acknowledge the effort but offer suggestions to improve. If you weren’t clear about your needs, own it. Set colleagues up for success.
  • Own up to errors. Acknowledge your mistakes. We all make them. Set a tone of sincerity; it’s the only way to build trust. Admit if you’re at fault and identify what should have been done differently. If you’re running late, let folks know. If you’re missing information or can’t deliver what you thought you could — be up-front about it for your sake and theirs.
  • Say no. It’s great to give the answer they’re hoping for. But sometimes you’re not the right person, or the ask doesn’t fit. If you can’t say no in the moment, ask to think about it. If you can’t do it, think of someone who can. Your only obligation is to do the right thing, thoughtfully.

Random acts of kindness.

  • Send that birthday, congratulations, or bereavement card. Try to use pen and ink. It’s the essence of our business, and the gesture will be remembered.
  • Apologize. If you had to cancel, failed to deliver, said something unwise, or simply weren’t your best self, tell the person on the other end that you regret it and understand the consequences. Be heartfelt and write that extra sentence to really make it land.
  • Say “Thank you.” Even if all someone did was expected, expressing thanks — in more than a perfunctory way — is a low-cost way to make someone feel like a million.

Maybe I’m not so bad at relationships after all! Each one is an opportunity to be your best self, and we can all use more of those.