My Nana used to tell me, “Baby, you never cut what you can untie.” And she would always follow that with these words: “You get more with honey, than vinegar.” How right she was. I get that now.
Lately, I have been hearing about, reading about, and experiencing myself (and in my closest circles and networks) an unfortunate phenomenon. And that is a total lack of respect for how we treat people who have been good to us, helped us, opened doors for us, or blessed us in our life’s journey. We get all in our emotions and in a moment’s notice we blow up, and then we blow it. Relationships affect everything we do in this life. You cannot escape people. We are everywhere. People need people. You will never attain true success, wealth, or opportunity without the help of other people along the way. Period.
Whether it be professional or relational really doesn’t matter. Because the truth is the professional is relational. Don’t miss that.
Here is the thing: There are some relationships that should be cut. There are others that should be untied. There are bridges that should be burned, and ones that should be crossed again. The challenge is all in how we EXIT those relationships, or slam shut the doors of our lives, or keep them cracked open that matters most. I mentor and counsel lots of young professionals, and I tell them all the time that they should not job hop, handle conflict by text, email or IMs. That they have to cultivate mentors, send thank you notes, be gracious, be long-suffering and hard working. Nothing comes easy in this life and if it does, be careful. It won’t last long.
I wanted to simply say this to us all: How you release people and how they release you matters a lot. If you make another human being feel small, humiliated or attacked, they will find a way to get back at you. Count on it. If you take a valued friend, business partner or mentor and “cut” them in a moment’s anger or emotion, try to damage them, steal intellectual property from them, “teach them” a lesson, “destroy them” IT WILL COME BACK ON YOU. And as one of my dearest friends always says, “Then there is the collateral damage”. Boy is she 100% right. Collateral damage is what happens when the aggrieved party starts to trash you, bad mouth, slander, lie or damage your name. Or vice versa. And now, 20 other innocent people are dragged into the mess, they take sides, everyone joins a camp, and the bad blood never ends. It is the grudge that never ends. All because two people could not talk it out like adults.
So here is my advice, learned the hard way. Take a minute if you are upset and want to close a door to do the following:
1. Seek wise counsel from someone who is not emotional, who is of good character and who lives by a life code of honor, loyalty, integrity and truth.
2. Write a letter, email or note and do NOT send it. Let someone else read it. Then and only after you have tried to have a conversation (and they refuse) can you send it once it has been edited and approved by someone you trust who is a peacemaker not a gossip or trouble-maker.
3. When you want to end business relationships, you must be careful. Consider the reaction, or response. Consider the “collateral damage”. The world is too small. 2 degrees of separation. Not 6. We are all interconnected and people talk. Fair or unfair. Give people the respect of talking to them, state why you want to end the alliance, and end it amicably and well.
4. Talk before you walk. I have said this many many times. How many marriages, friendships, families, businesses, etc. could have been saved if only people had the courage to TALK it out. Get a mediator, get a trusted friend. Clear the air. You may not be able to be friends, stay married, or stay in business, but you owe it to yourself and to others to TALK, LISTEN, and BE HEARD before you destroy someone or something that means the world to you, or once did.
These four steps can save you lots of grief. All of these devices are destroying our ability to talk. I have received some of the most horrible texts, emails, and blow offs ever. Sadly, I have, at times responded in kind. Instant communication is bad. We feel attacked, savaged, and we go native on the offender. Everybody loses. Nobody wins. At the end of the day, we need to be real clear about what doors to close and which ones we keep open. For me, I use this checklist for when I CUT vs. UNTIE. And when I should close the door forever, versus leaving it open for another day.
1. If you lie to me, or on me. We are done. For good. Lying is a character flaw that leads to major problems down the road. Do not consort with liars. Lying is not making a mistake in judgment, or some other human error, lying is treacherous, intentional and deadly.
2. If you gossip about others, I know you will do it to me. Never consort with gossips. As my Nana used to say: “A dog that will bring you a bone, will carry one away.” Oooweeeee did I learn this one up close and personal back in 2012. One day I will so tell that story. Gossips are people seeking attention. They divide and conquer. Gossips have started wars, caused deaths, caused financial ruin and more. Stay away from a gossip.
3. If you demean me, bully me, make me feel less than, or use me for my access. We are done. It may take me a minute to see you for who you are, but when I do, I am done. Stay away from takers, users, bullies, and haters. Close that door and nail it shut.
These are my big three. They break my CODE. I have faults, major ones. But I am not unkind. I don’t lie. And gossip (slander) makes me physically ill because I have seen what it can do to people’s lives. Once a lie is spread, it is like a feather blown by the wind (the gossip). You cannot catch it, and once it sticks to the wet pavement (the receiver of the gossip) there is no removing it. I will talk more about this in the Woman Code, but for now you get my point. Be careful how you close doors. Sometimes, you may need to open them again.