Are you an Empathy Hijacker?

“We can relate to people without hijacking the conversation” Communication expert Sharon Steed.

Sharon and I connected recently as we were both on an empathy panel together. I’m in love with her work transforming company culture with empathy. She has a great LinkedIn course about communicating with more empathy as well, and that’s where I got this insightful quote.

People often assume that sharing similar experiences with someone is empathy. Not quite. Empathy is more about listening and sitting with someone to see things from their point of view. Unless asked, it’s not about you hijacking the conversation and making it about you. 

You know you’re doing this if you ever tell someone: “I know how you feel, when this happened to me, I…..”

I say this with love, because I think we all (myself included) do this in an effort to show people we understand them. It’s our way of active listening and our intention is to make others not feel so alone. So I get it.

During my long recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm, and even today, as I struggle with life-long cognitive impairments as a result, well-intentioned people do this all the time:

“You have to write everything down? Oh my gosh, I forget things all the time, too. You’re just getting older like the rest of us!”

“Wow, now you know how I feel, not remembering dates and faces.”

“I have bad short-term memory too – it must just be mommy brain!”

All of these are well-intentioned attempts to connect. But all this does is diminish another person’s pain and experience. For me, when someone says this, it negates everything I went through, all the therapy, education, and struggle, as if it’s no big deal. 

Somewhere along the line, we mistakenly learned that sharing your own similar experience was empathy. It’s not. (Tweet This!)

Empathy is about perspective taking, information gathering, and actively listening. It’s about acknowledging another person’s experience. Yes, where appropriate one can share lessons learned or how they got through something, but the initial sharing is not the time. Just be patient. Give the person room to process and share first before you dive in with wisdom or advice.

Your response is about you, not the other person. You want to feel more comfortable, or “fix” things for the other person. That is not what they need. They need to feel heard.

You can understand someone without hijacking the conversation.

Sharon also shared this gem in her LinkedIn course: “Patience means slowing down your response to judgement. Without patience, there is no empathy” (Tweet This!)

When someone is sharing their experiences, here are 4 things you can say instead:

  1. Tell me more…
  2. Wow, that must have been a lot to go through. How does it make you feel?
  3. What I hear you saying is… that right or do you want to share more? I’d love to understand more.
  4. How can I help?/What support do you think you might need?

Got more? Tweet me @redslice or DM me on Instagram @redslicemaria

Photo Credit: Jude Beck via Unsplash

How to Become a Better Connector

It’s time to go beyond networking and start connecting. Being a good connector reaps endless benefits for your business and life. Knowing the right people gets you jobs faster, scores you more clients, boosts your visibility, increases your acumen and skills, and shapes your ideas. It is also great for your health and enjoyment in your career.

But how do you become a good connector if you think you’re terrible at it? And if you already feel pretty good about your connecting ability, how can you uplevel for even more influence and impact?

Today’s I’m interviewing leadership speaker, connection creator, and author Michelle Tillis Lederman on this very topic. She just wrote The Connectors Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact

Whether you are horrible at making connections, or you want to further build your skills and uplevel your connection-making status so you can get to success faster, enjoy this video, power-packed with useful tips.

YouTube video

Highlights include:

* How to be a good connector even if you think you suck at it (5:50)
* What level connector are you and how you can level up (7:50)
* Difference between a connector and a thought leader (10:50)
* Take Michelle’s Connector Challenge! (12:59)
* Two mindsets necessary to be a good connector and keep your boundaries (17:30)
* How to use underutilized time to nurture connections (23:03)
* Action tip to become a better connector: Eat that frog! (28:00)
* How to be a more inclusive connector and get out of your bubble (29:34)

“Connecting is not nature over nurture. Anyone can become a good connector and find success.” – Michelle Tillis Lederman (TWEET THIS!)

Learn more about Michelle on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Download your free connection gift pack.
Learn more about The Connectors Advantage and enjoy great book bonuses.

A Dear John letter for Starbucks

Dear Starbucks,

We’ve been through a lot, you and I.  But it’s time for me to see other brands. It’s not you, it’s me. No, that’s a lie. It’s totally you.

You swept me off my feet in my early 20’s and taught me how to love coffee – for that I will be eternally grateful. Late Saturday mornings in Chicago. Stolen afternoons in Washington D.C. Even in Indianapolis – back before they actually had a Starbucks – I made do with brief encounters with you at Barnes and Noble whenever I could.

I adored everything about you and people were sick of hearing about my brand crush. I devoured Howard Schulz’s autobiography, Pour Your Heart Into It, as a brand manifesto for how to delight customers and make a a difference. You created a cherished “Third Place” for people to gather – and when I began working for myself, you were right there by my side, hosting meetings and giving me a comfy place to work.

Others tried to make me hate you. Especially when I moved to Seattle (I was thrilled to live in your hometown!). They scorned you as a mass market sell-out, a bland factory coffee line for people who didn’t know better. They scoffed at your hipster lingo, your (in their eyes) sub-par quality. “No, but I love them!” I would scream. Starbucks delivers everything they promise and that’s why they are so great. They deliver a convenient, cozy and consistent experience.  And the Seattle Starbucks locations were flawless models of efficiency, service, and experience.

I held you up as my Prince Charming of a Brand Story.

But then, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and something changed. You stopped delivering the brand benefits I’d come to know and love.

Every Starbucks in the Bay Area let me down – on the Peninsula to be exact. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Had to just be one store. So I tried another. And another. Same story: long wait times, non-engaging baristas, even inconsistent latte quality.  I witnessed your baristas being surly, brusque and downright rude sometimes. Then you started warming up pastries – and nearly scalded my tongue. Why were you being so mean? I thought maybe, since we weren’t in Seattle anymore, you just stopped trying to impress Corporate visitors who might pop in.

Still I kept defending you. I tried to communicate with you. Reaching out on Twitter several times, you gave me radio silence. Other brands like Virgin America and Nordstrom respond back, but you, you just gave me the cold shoulder.

My loyalty is worth more than this, I thought.  So I started dating around. And every time I went somewhere else, I felt like they valued me and my time more that you do. They delivered my latte hot, fresh, and fast. It tasted better. The baristas smiled at me. They seemed like they had their acts together.

And then, the kicker. Peet’s started offering almond milk. Oh, how could I resist?

I tried to get you to change. I tweeted several times to ask if you’d please carry almond milk. No response. I even asked the baristas in store and they said they just couldn’t do it.

I think that was the final straw. I’m a valuable customer and waiting inordinately long amounts of time on a brand who says its fast and convenient just to get bad service, a burnt tongue and inconsistent latte quality – on top of not being able to get the milk I want – is not something I’m willing to stand for any longer.

So I’m leaving you, Dear Starbucks. I emptied the last cent on my Starbucks card and I now frequent my neighborhood Peet’s as well as an indie coffeehouse I discovered.

Oh sure, I’ll call you for a quick hook up now and then. You do make a great gift card. And when I have no other option, I’ll see  if you’re around. But to be non-committal, I pay cash instead of  reloading my Starbucks card  – so no need to give me any more free drinks on my birthday. We don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.

I wish you the best, Starbucks. I really do. You’ve done a lot of good for a long time. But a brand has to be consistent to be brilliant. (Tweet this!)  If you feel like changing – at least in the Bay Area – and being the brand I fell in love once again, give me a call sometime.



Photo credit (edited): Siti Fatimah on Flickr

Got a brand you’d like to break up with? Jot down your brand Dear John letter in the Comments below and vent away!


14 Secrets to Selling $4 Million: How to Find Digital Success Using Old-Fashioned Values

I adore today’s guest post from Beth Marbach of Downtown Gal. She spent 12 years building a $4 million designer shoe resale business on eBay. Her story has everything: Scrappy moxie, digital prowess and a health dose of good old -fashioned values that catapulted her to success. Whether your business is online, in an office park or on Main Street, you will devour these 14 secrets which Beth was kind enough to share. Enjoy.

In 2001, I was an executive recruiter, and I wanted out. Desperately.

On the side, I started selling books, CDs and DVDs on eBay. With time I moved onto selling dog jackets. My profits on books were $4 to $6; my profits on canine apparel were $19 per jacket.

It was when I spotted a $49 pair of Coach Boots at DSW, which I bought and sold that very evening for $149 that my whole life changed. Twelve years later I had earned $4 million selling designer shoes online. The lessons I learned along the way were many. I honed relationship, business and marketing skills amongst many others.

Here are 14 such lessons I feel were some of the most critical to the success of my business.

1. Make Study Sheets

The success of my business was critically dependent on the monthly trips I took to various designer shoe outlets around the country. I made these trips to purchase shoes, but I also made them to solidify and grow relationships with store personnel.

See, my revenue was determined on the quantity and quality of shoes I could access, and as I could not be in all places at once, that access was greatly determined by the store personnel who thought to call or email me first (before any other reseller) when new inventory arrived.

To help support me in this, I made laminated spreadsheets which included basic information such as store names, phone numbers and addresses. These spreadsheets also included names of all store personnel (which I had met to date), and any information which would be helpful in both personal and work related conversations.  Prior to going into every store I studied these sheets and directed conservations accordingly.

2. Call Ahead

Spreadsheet studying and traveling across the country all prove to be futile if, when you arrive, your favorite sales person has the day off. To prevent this from happening I always called ahead to make sure when I arrived, they were waiting for me.

3. Know the Best Days of the Week to Shop

I was not a store’s average customer. I did not go in and purchase a few pairs of shoes. I went in and made purchases up to $10,000. To do this, I needed the undivided attention of store personnel which meant I needed to go on the slowest shopping days of the week – Monday and Tuesday. 

4. Inexpensive Branding Can Work

My branding did not come from a high priced design shop but from a few hours of my husband’s time with Photoshop. Likewise, my business name was not derived from expensive brainstorming sessions but was simply borrowed from what was, during my single days, my handle – Downtowngal. (Editor note: See? Told you building an irresistible brand on any budget was possible!)

5. Hire Effectively by Hiring Creatively

Having 100s of pairs of shoes to photograph, inventory and ship required assistance. I hired super smart high school gals, paid them more than the mall and kept them happy by letting them listen to whatever music they wanted.

6. Consider Office Space Very Carefully

Storing 100s of pairs of shoes in a basement and working for 12 years alongside them might seem less than ideal, but doing so saved me $1000s of dollars annually (or 10s of 1000s of dollars over 12 years).

7. Know there is More than One Way to Get Supplies (and Just about Anything Else You Need)

The price of shipping supplies was always a challenge. As a cost savings work around, I utilized the clean (and in good condition) shipping boxes from my local grocery store and daycare center. I then invested 2 cents per branded sticker and placed one on every box I shipped.

8. Become an Expert

95% of what I sold was shoes, and within that I focused on a small handful of designer brands. Developing my niche allowed me to use my time effectively (which was very important when you have two little kids), provided me focus on the key relationships to develop and provided me the ability to increase revenue in ways that would not be feasible had I attempted a broad product line. (Oh, and it greatly reduced daily insanity, so there is that too.)

9. Please Your Accountant

With the enormous number of fraudulent designer shoes in the marketplace, it was critical for me to keep all receipts in the case the legitimacy of my inventory ever came into question. More often than you might imagine customers asked for proof that shoes they purchased from me were legitimate. It was always good to have that validation readily available.

Keeping all receipts also helped quarterly taxes go quicker, ensured I received maximum tax benefits and made my accountant quite happy. (Happy accountant = Happy business.)

10. Categorize Your Customers

Keeping detailed records on my customers including their gender, designer preference and shoe size allowed me to easily contact people when I received shipments in which they might have interest. Sometimes I could even sell shoes to them before I had to take the time and expense to put them on eBay.

11. Consider Online and Offline Inventory Acquisition Options

The majority of the shoes I purchased were from brick and mortar stores; however there were times where I could buy shoes directly off their website. To make this process efficient, I bookmarked 20 stores, which I knew carried the designer shoes I desired. Every morning I would go through these links, purchase desirable footwear and have it shipped directly to my house.

12. Be Nice to Everyone. No Exceptions.

The sales folks at the designer outlet stores were underpaid, overworked and rarely appreciated. I found the simple act of bringing a goodie along – calling and taking coffee orders before I arrived, buying nice chocolate as gifts or bringing in a fruit basket significantly differentiated me from other resellers who, I might add, were frequently downright ruthless to store personnel.

Who wants to call a jerk to give them the heads up that new inventory has arrived?

No one.

Who wants to call the woman who is nice to them every time she sees them, brings them coffee and gets to know them so well she is invited to their wedding?

Well, that is how I built my business. It is also how I made an enormous number of wonderful friends.

13. Thank People the Old Fashioned Way

When I was growing up my parents made me send handwritten thank you notes when someone extended kindness towards me. When I received a shipment from a reseller who thought to call me first, I did the same. Within that note I included a $25 Starbucks gift card. For one quick note and a small gift of coffee, I was always one of the first resellers they called.

14. And Keep Thanking Them. All of Them.

I certainly wouldn’t have a business without the designer outlet personnel I befriended over the years, but I also wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for the UPS drivers, the folks at the post office, my staff and of course, my customers. Christmas time at DowntownGal Shoes meant it was “thank you” time.

To my UPS drivers and post office friends I gave wonderful holiday cakes and popcorn tins, the gals I worked with could pick any pair of shoes they wanted, and the sales associates at the designer outlets would receive a  Starbucks gift certificate (with a higher value than the normal $25 cards I gave throughout the year), a card and a photo of my family. And regardless of what time of year it was, I included a free shoe shine kit for my customers with every purchase.

In the end, I found that although we live in a society that drives very hard towards the big things; it is, in fact, the little things that guarantee we get there.

About the author: To learn more about Beth Marbach, and her 12 year saga selling $4 million dollar of designer shoes on eBay go to:

Photo credit:  geishaboy500

Your Call to Action: Which ONE tip will you put into practice to boost your business this week? Please share in the Comments below!

12 things you will never regret saying in business

We all have had that moment when our mouth moves 3 milliseconds faster than our brain. Often, the heart has bypassed the brain’s filter completely and as you say something, you can almost literally see the words flying out of your mouth in slow motion but can’t stop them and stuff them back in.

As a fiesty redhead, this has happened to me way more times than I care to admit. With age and experience, I can honestly say it’s getting better. But tell that to the sassy 8 year-old who walked out of a TV commercial audition for a new snack cracker only to exclaim loudly to my brother, “God, those were soooooooooo gross!” – with the casting agent and client walking right behind me sporting  nervous smiles and shocked expressions. Yeah, not one of my finer. more tactful moments.

But I came to a realization in recent years that there are just some things you will never regret saying in business. You will never want to take them back and, however uncomfortable it may feel at the time to say some of these things, the regret would be in not saying them:

  1. You’re right. This seems like a great idea and offer. Let me think it over before giving you my answer, ok?
  2. I adore working with you, too! Let’s just make this official and put it in writing, so I’m sure I can deliver exactly what you’re expecting and we’re on the same page.  Protects you and me.
  3. I’m sorry. How can I make it right?
  4. That’s a really good way for us to go. Or, another option we may want to consider is….
  5. It would help me serve you better and ensure I’m delivering on my end if you overcommunicate rather than undercommunicate. I don’t mind multiple emails or calls if it means we can be successful.
  6. Let’s set up a weekly status call for this project. Sometimes, voice is easier than going back and forth on email.
  7. I would love to help you with this project but I am just too overcommitted right now and would not be able to give it the attention and care it deserves. Here are 3 other people who may be able to help you out.
  8. Please
  9. Thank you
  10. You’re welcome
  11. How can I support you in your efforts?
  12. Great job!

Photo credit: dno1967b on Flickr

Want even less regrets? If you’re in Seattle on April 23, please join me for a special workshop with the Puget Sound Business Journal: Building a Buzz-worthy Brand on Any Budget, 9-11 am. Click here for details (hurry, space is limited!)

Your turn: I know you’re dying to share your own bit of hard-earned wisdom with us, so please tell us below what phrase you have never regretted saying when doing business.  Or is there a deadly phrase you have regretted saying that led to bad consequences? Please share in the Comments below!

How to make and keep friends….without the playground. A conversation with Shasta Nelson

As I get older, I’m fascinated by friendship and how it evolves over time. Since moving several times in my life and leaving a corporate job for solo business ownership, I’ve also had to learn to cultivate new friends and “work friends” in a whole new way.

I’m excited to announce that a new friend in my life, Shasta Nelson, wrote an amazing book – Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends— which hits bookshelves this month. As the founder of, a women’s friendship matching site in 35 U.S. and Canadian cities, she is one of the foremost experts on the subject of healthy female friendships. Shasta can frequently be seen in national media, speaking about how adults can develop effective friendships.

Whether you’re currently looking for new friendships for work or play or you want to strengthen the ones you have—Shasta’s book is a treat. I sat down to talk with her about the role of friendship in our personal and professional lives.

RS: Welcome Shasta! Why did you call the book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen?

SN: Many of us wish we had a few closer friends but we tend to want those friendships to just happen, the way it felt like as a kid of college student. Those friendships seemed to just happen automatically without us having to be all that intentional. The title of my book reminds us that we can create meaningful adult friends. It’s less about us waiting around for the right person and more about creating the right friendship with those who are around us.

RS: In a world where we are all increasingly busy, are friendships a nice-to-have or a must-have?

SN: Without a doubt, they are a must-have. The health benefits of close relationships are too numerous to count– everything from lower stress and fewer colds to increased happiness and greater success in our personal goals. If we feel like we have a circle of supportive friends then we recover from surgery faster, increase our odds of surviving breast cancer, and literally extend the years of our brains and hearts. Research has shown that if we feel disconnected then it is twice as damaging on our health as being obese and is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Building up healthy friendships is a non-negotiable for those who value their health.

RS: How can entrepreneurs, especially women, nurture and cultivate their friendships when, so often, the friend/work colleague lines get blurred for them in particular?

SN: I say let the lines blur!  Work is still the number one place where we make friends and for those of us who own our own business or work from home, we definitely still want to use our work as a connection point with others.  But it’s more important to understand what those friendships are and what they are not.

In my book, I talk about 5 different types of friends; the 2nd being what I call Common Friends, those friendships where we have one thing, such as work/business, holding us together.  This can look like scheduling a lunch with two fellow business owners every month, joining a local mastermind group, or participating in an active networking association.  Our goal is to be as consistent as possible with our chosen connections so that our sharing can become deeper and more meaningful within the area of shared commonality.

There are two common mistakes that are often made in this Common Friends circle.  The first one is minimizing the significance this group of friends can have in our lives. It’s easy to think that if we can’t see ourselves becoming best friends with these women that somehow there’s no point to investing in these friendships. This is such a hugely important area of friendship as these friends understand our business, know what it feels like to be entrepreneurs, and can provide us introductions and resources  – and many of our  closest friends can’t always support us in this way.

The second mistake is to do the opposite and actually start believing that this circle of women is also our group of best friends. Many women get their feelings hurt when they leave a job and none of their former colleagues followed up with them. That is because the friendship was built on having one thing in common–work– so when that one thing ends, so does the friendship. Friendships must be developed, not discovered, which means that moving these women from the 2nd circle to the 4th or 5th one takes consistency, intimacy, history, and an expanding of what we share when we’re together.    Some of the women from your business group may eventually become your closest friends, but that is part of the process I talk about in the book to help move women into the friendships that matter most to you.

RS: Why should people read this book?

SN: Much is written and taught about romantic love and parent-child relationships. We buy armloads of books on these subjects that feel so urgent and life consuming. Yet, when it comes to our friendships—relationships that will outweigh in quantity the number of kids and spouses most of us will have—we tend to take a much more laid-back approach. We end up just hoping that we’ll meet the right women, at the right time, and both know the right way to act. While some of us have seen good modeling of healthy platonic friendships, the vast majority of us are left hoping that it just comes intuitively, as though we should know how to make and keep good friends. Few of us have been taught what we need to know. This book not only offers the steps to creating meaningful friendships, but provides a helpful way to constantly evaluate and better understand our friendships as we go through life.

To learn more about Shasta and the book, please click here. To snag your print or digital copy, click here.

If you own your own business, work at a small start-up or work from home, what one tips do you have about making and maintaining friendships? What has worked for you? Are your business colleagues also your friends? Please share in the Comments!

Social media: the forum for those who suck at relationships?

Trolls. Haters. Pompous asses. By now, many of you have experienced those people who think hiding behind a computer screen – and often, near anonymity – gives them the right to throw all manners to the wind.

Whether a blog post comment that personally insults the writer’s mother or a hand grenade thrown via a sharp Tweet, many people have chosen the bring the worst of themselves online. This is not only annoying to others, it can impact your brand in a negative way. But there’s also lesser known offences about how to network and connect which I’m sure you’ve seen.

What gives?

My theory: Many people are bringing their real-life social skill baggage online.

There is no excuse to bring bad behavior online with you. If you suck at relationships in real life, chances are you’ll suck at them online as well. The medium can’t correct for human flaws around self-awareness, egotism, stubbornness, or civility, no matter how much people might think it does.

Some etiquette blunders I’ve seen:

  1. The Assumptive Connection: Sending a LinkedIn or Facebook connection request to someone you’ve never met or have no connection to – and not explaining in the note why you’re connecting or what the value of that connection might be. If I was sitting alone in a restaurant, would you just walk in, sit down next to me and not even introduce yourself if I had no idea who you were? Of course not. Just because you can click a button doesn’t mean you should. If you want to connect, use the Personalized Note space to say how you found me, why we should connect and how we can help each other. There’s a reason this field exists. Note: this is not an issue if you’ve obviously worked at the same company, met the person live/by phone or have done business with them. This is mostly for those who choose to randomly connect via Group Connections.
  2. The Fan Page Hijack: I’ve been a victim of this myself. One of your fans gets a little overzealous with their message and decides to use your business page as a forum to broadcast it to the world. I’m not talking about legitimate wall posts fans may post  – on my Fan Page, for example, I love if people promote their businesses or projects to each other on my Wall and I highly encourage it. I’m talking about someone who starts shouting their cause or message through the Comments. Not only does it derail the curated conversation you’re trying to have, but it doesn’t add any value to the community. If you disagree with a point being made by the page owner, that is one thing. But to craft 3 consecutive comments with links and aggressive opinions that go off on a tangent, that is entirely another. Be civil, people, and remember it’s a community page. PS : I must admit to being a little pro/con on this one, as I’m aware that some folks use this as a forum to get larger companies to listen or to protest, as in the recent Chick-fil-A controversy. I guess I’d argue it depends on the issue and the size of the company. Arguing with a Fan Page owner who supports a certain charity, for instance, is probably the best case of overstepping the bounds.
  3. The Over-Poster: I’m not sure if people realize this or not, but when you post 6 or 7 Facebook or Twitter posts in a row, you affect your friends and followers by “hogging” their mobile stream on a smart phone. One person I know, for example, had really interesting posts, but it got to the point where she’d crowd out all the updates from my other friends on my phone. It’s good to post valuable content – but not 9 or 10 times in a row. That’s just annoyng. There are scheduling tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite you can use – and even Facebook allows you to schedule posts on Fan Pages now. Use the tools. Just because it’s easier for you to write all your posts at the same time each day, doesn’t mean it’s easier for your audience to consume them all at the same time. Besides, studies show Fan pages lose subscribers and people lose FB friends if you post too often.

 What social media practices bug you the most? What bad behavior have you seen to add to this list? Please share in the Comments below!

Two to tango or tussle? How to build better business relationships

Any business relies on relationships, no matter what you sell.  Whether with customers, suppliers or your business partner – maybe you’re co-authoring a book with someone – your relationships are a key business asset and can make or break your brand…and your success. How do you make a business “marriage” work?

Enter Kathy Clayton: Personal and partnership coach, “radiant guide and dog-on-a-bone
relationship advocate.” She is passionate about making the world a better place by teaching, guiding and sometimes cajoling her clients on how to be self-aware and conscious in their life, work and relationships so they can transform the world with their unique genius.

Kathy’s work with couples and especially business partners really sparked my interest so I invited her to the Slice of Brilliance column to share her wisdom about common relationship pitfalls, how to maintain a healthy work partnership and how to be more self-aware of our actions.

RS: Welcome! Kathy, your specialty seems to be working with a couple or business partnership when people get stuck and can’t move forward. When your clients need to rely on a relationship with another person for success but have obstacles, are there common issues you see time and again?

KC: What I see most often is the need to be right. As soon as one person takes this position, communication grinds to a halt because, well, they’re right and they aren’t particularly interested in the other person’s point of view.  The question you have to ask, “Is it more important to be right or to be happy?”  Too often folks are so invested in their position they lose sight of what really matters: the relationship.

Another trap:  listening to respond vs. listening to understandThink how often you have the perfect response and you’re just lying in wait until they stop talking so you can get ‘em with your brilliant, likely stinging retort.  If what you want is to keep this ‘me vs. you’ dynamic going, stay the course.  On the other hand, if what you want is to be on the same team again, get quiet, check your intentions and be honest with yourself and your partner.  You actually have a tremendous amount of power to change the dynamic by simply using these two tools.

RS: Business partnerships especially can be tricky with different personality types, expectations and work styles. What is a good first step that readers in this situation could take to start moving forward when they hit an impasse?

KC: Know thyself and know thy expectations! The first piece, knowing yourself, is essential for success in any relationship.  We are all wired differently and it’s folly to think you’ll be on the same page with your partner all the time.  Investing in self-development pays off so quickly and in so many arenas – you will see positive results immediately.  More importantly, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively.

As for expectations, we all have them.  Usually we’re too scared or worried about what our partner will think that we don’t speak up.  I advocate transparency.  The very first conversation I have with new clients is about expectations.  I have them, you have them: let’s get them out in the open so when inevitably one of us doesn’t meet those expectations, we can talk about it.  This lets us find solutions and strategies to stay focused, keep moving in the desired direction and get the results you say are most important.

RS: You talk about self-awareness as a prerequisite to healthy relationships. My husband complains often about people who seem to have none: the person who talks too loud in a restaurant, the one who pulls out of a parking space without looking, the one who cuts right in front of you in line. What is your take? What tips can we put into practice to ensure we’re appropriately self-aware? 

KC: I believe every person is trying to do their very best given their life and experience, and like your husband, I get irritated when folks go unconscious, too. The remedy?  Pick one area of your life where you want a different result or experience and practice, practice, practice compassionate honestyThe ability to tell yourself the truth about who and how you really are is the first step toward self-awareness.   Why compassionately?  Because all of us have an amazing array of torturous, insidious tools and methods for beating ourselves up for being, well, who we are. Never in a million years would we talk to others the way we talk to ourselves. Changing your internal dialogue – be kind to and with yourself! – opens you up to seeing yourself and the world through a new lens.  This new perspective changes how you engage with others, which leads to greater self-awareness.

More about Kathy Clayton: Over the past 20 years, Kathy Clayton has capitalized on her insatiable belly-button gazing by creating tangible, practical, effective strategies and tools that transform how people relate to themselves and their partners (business and personal).  Using the living laboratory that is her marriage (thank you, Michael!), Kathy commits daily to walking her talk and being in service to all who say “Enough!” to the status quo and seek authentic connection and expression with themselves and their partners. Visit her website, reach out to her on Twitter or Facebook

What is your biggest relationship challenge with a business partner, colleague or client/customer? Please share in the Comments and tell us how you deal with it.