We had a great response to our Mother’s Week in May—thank you! With Father’s Day approaching, I couldn’t help but reflect on all kinds of relationships. We’ll be featuring a variety of articles on that theme all month.
When I think about relationships, my first instinct is to think about those I have with the people closest to me: my mom, my dad, my husband, my kids. But there are so many other kinds of relationships. Something happened recently that made me take a new look at my relationships at work. I run a real-estate firm in New York, and an employee of mine resigned. Nothing unusual about that, except that it came to my attention that he had been painting a negative picture of me. My gut reaction was indignation. How dare he?! I like to think of myself as fair and generous in the office. I really make an effort to show gratitude and look out for my co-workers.
We owe it to ourselves to examine our effect on the people around us. Who knows? We may even find we’ll be happier with ourselves if we do.
It reminded me of an equine exercise I did on a ranch in Arizona, when I had to get Pepe—an 800-pound gray Lipizzaner—to raise his hoof so I could clean it with a tool that looked like Captain Hook’s hook. Pepe was big, strong, and muscular, and he scared the daylights out of me. As I approached, I saw him watching my every move. In an attempt to get him to raise his hoof, I did as I’d been instructed. I leaned in, pinched an area on him that looked like an elbow, and held out my other hand for him to raise his leg onto. Nothing. After a few minutes, I tried the same thing with his three other legs, but Pepe was having none of it.
They say horses’ behavior is similar to ours, except free from our emotional baggage. The purpose of the exercise was to bring people to an awareness of how others respond to our treatment of them. Well, if I couldn’t even communicate clearly with emotion-free Pepe, how well could I have been doing with complicated office interaction?
I decided that rather than let my ego take control and experience my former employee’s remarks as an attack on my character, I would try to see the situation as an opportunity to reflect on my role in my relationships. It’s so easy to see things insistently from our own point of view and to feel righteous indignation if anyone assails us. But we are responsible for how other people perceive us, not just our best friends and spouses but acquaintances, neighbors, cashiers—everyone who crosses our path. We owe it to ourselves to examine our effect on the people around us. Who knows? We may even find we’ll be happier with ourselves if we do.
Can you think of a time when someone’s unexpected reaction made you assess yourself in a new way?