Not Every Relationship is ‘fixable’

“If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?”

 Kabir

I recently met a guy for lunch. A former client, he wanted to talk about a potential opportunity in a company where he was applying or a job. I happen to know the company reasonably well and was able to fill in some of the blanks. So far, so normal. But his demeanor was interesting. Normally upbeat, bullish even, he was having trouble dealing with his current boss, a non-Irish national. Now, this guy has clocked up more air miles than Willie Walsh in British Airways – so he is well versed in working internationally. The question that kept re-emerging over the lunch was: “Why can’t I manage this guy?”

The answer … perhaps he’s not manageable.

Problem-Solvers: Most of us who’ve trained in management are problem-solvers. Like a plumber hunting down a leak, we’re programmed to find the source of the problem, understand it and put in the weld. But sometimes we encounter a problem in a personal relationship and we just can’t fix it.  We try all the usual ‘tricks’ – but the water keeps dripping down the wall. And we don’t know what to do.

Three Solutions: The first option is easy. You can decide to shut up/put up with it. This can be quite useful in the sense that you resign yourself to your fate and stop wallowing. The reality is that the chess pieces move so fast around the managerial board that you seldom have to wait for too long for a change to happen. Time takes care of it. The second option is where you decide to confront/change something. Obviously, there are a range of approaches and some work better than others. In my experience, telling someone that they are “A brain-dead gobshite” in front of other members of the management team (it actually happened during a recent meeting I was attending) is not the smartest career strategy. The final option is that you can move on. Sometimes divorce is the solution and someone has to leave the house!

Doing Nothing: What you absolutely cannot do is decide to do nothing. Doing nothing means that you constantly churn the thing in your head, over and over and over again. Doing nothing is a decision to lift the heaviest weight of all. Remember that anonymous quote: ‘We don’t judge those who try and fail, we judge those who fail to try’. Of course it would be delightful to be so interpersonally skillful that you could successfully manage all of the key relationships in your life. But, that’s like setting the basketball net at 28 feet. For sure, it’s an objective. But it’s not realistic. You can’t win every single relationship, regardless of how interpersonally skillful you are. Cut yourself some slack. You won’t win them all. This is one area of your life where you are going to have to settle for a 97% solution

 

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