The #1 Way to Kill a Relationship (or Business, or Life!)

Recently a respected friend suggested I read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.  I ordered it.  It came.  When I thumbed through it and discovered many pages of small print, I set it aside.  “Not now.  Maybe later.”

Yesterday I opened it to the section on business.  I barely made it through the true examples of well-known business leaders who made an initial big splash in recovering a failing company, but failed to prepare the company for ongoing growth, and so, ultimately failed in their mission.  The cause was what she terms as a “fixed mindset,” meaning “Only I, the Leader, knows what is best for this company.”

These were compared to less lauded business leaders who faced a failing company with the desire to learn, grow, identify issues, listen to team-mates, create a learning, encouraging mindset…and who ultimately led their team to recovery and profit.  An “open mindset” is eager to hear another’s opinion, listen to feedback, and make adjustments

This was sort of inspiring, but I have a hard time relating to an executive of a multi-billion dollar company like Chrysler, GE, Enron, Chase-Manhattan Bank.

This morning I opened the section about relationships.  NOW she began speaking my language!  My late husband and I believed, and taught, that SoulMate Relationships are created…earned…not born.  (See our book,  How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage.)

Carol says it this way, “…people with the fixed mindset expect everything good to happen automatically.  …sort of like it happened to Sleeping Beauty, whose coma was cured by her prince’s kiss, or to Cinderella, whose miserable life was suddenly transformed by her prince.”

In relationship, as in business, parenting, and life, Carol says, “In the growth mindset, there may still be that exciting initial combustion, but people in this mindset don’t expect magicThey believe that a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and from working through inevitable differences.  But those with the fixed mindset don’t buy that.”

In my twenty-five years of coaching couples, as well as painfully learned in my own relationships, a fixed mindset believes that “if we love each other, we shouldn’t have to work hard.  We should just be able to talk to work things through. A great, lasting relationship should just come automatically from our love.  If my partner loves me, he/she will give me what I need, understand me, accept my foibles no matter how irritating they are, etc., etc., etc.”

Couples with a fixed mindset blame each other for problems, label each other as “selfish, stubborn, unfeeling, lacking empathy, abusive and incapable of change.”  Each sees the other as stuck in a “wrong” position that makes no sense, isn’t reasonable.  Each sees him or herself as “right, reasonable, and justifiably wronged.”  They eventually see the relationship as “impossible, doomed, deserving of dissolution.”  These fixed ways of viewing a partner or relationship are guaranteed to produce unhappiness, and ultimately failure.

It was my challenge as a wife in a very conflicted relationship to open my mind to new ways of saying things that were less inflammatory and new ways of seeing my husband rather than labeling him as “wrong.”  I needed to look at what I was contributing to the hostile atmosphere that had begun to consume our relationship…and be willing to learn and change.

As a coach, it is my challenge to help couples who are stuck in a “fixed mindset” about each other and their relationship to open up to new possibilities, new communication skills, new ways of viewing each other and the future of their relationship.  I must create a vivid picture of what they can have if they are willing to learn and change.

Back when computers were a new phenomenon, a term was coined describing what computers could…and couldn’t do for us.  It was “garbage in/garbage out.”  I find that true in relationships, as well.

The good news is that when you learn better communication and conflict management skills, and are then willing to contribute those skills to the relationship, you will soon enjoy the results of a more loving, supportive, mutually nurturing relationship that you will gladly be a part of “until death do us part.”

Click on Ask Nancy about Coaching.  Coaching available world-wide.

Holiday Traditions: Three Wise Men

A big part of Christmas is the story of the three wise men and their journey to find the King.  This story of an amazing journey comforts me because of my own periodic journeys into the unknown. 

I believe the wise men must have been on a spiritual quest that led them to be “called” to embark on this strenuous physical journey.  I wonder what “the call” was like?  How did they know this is what they must do? What did they tell their friends?  “We’re going to find the King of mankind by following this star!”  What did they tell their families?  “I don’t know how long we’ll be gone.  I’m not sure where we’re going.  I have no idea what will happen when we find the King!  We only know we have to do this!”

After a journey of months, they arrived at the palace of King Herod, asking to meet the recently born potential King.  They expected to find him among royalty, right?  Herod was so intimidated by their message, that he ordered all boy children in the area under the age of two to be killed.

When the parents of baby Jesus heard about the coming slaughter, they high-tailed it to Egypt!

What must these wise, wealthy men have thought when they ended up at the home of a humble carpenter? Yet they must have felt deep validation in their hearts that they had found the King, because they gave him their valuable gifts in homage and worship.

This year I felt called to embark on a course of action without having any idea where I would be when I arrived.  So far, the outcome hasn’t revealed itself to me.  I was hoping to arrive at a palace, but instead, I am still mired down in traveling an unknown road.  In spite of some very challenging circumstances, I just can’t bring myself to quit this journey.  I believe I am meant to keep going.  I long for encouraging signs. I want to know that I’m going in the right direction. But other than the flicker of Star-Light I have in my heart, there are few encouragements.

Are you on a journey without a clear destination?  Are you working toward a goal that seems just out of reach?  How do you keep going?  Why do you keep going?  What hope is it that keeps you putting one foot in front of the other? 

I’d love to hear about your journey.  Maybe we can learn a few lessons from the Wise Men.  Without understanding everything ahead, they just kept going.  They went where they thought the answer would be, but when it wasn’t there, they course corrected.  When their destination looked very different than they anticipated, they still believed.

I wish you safe travels this holiday season!

Share your journey with me on Facebook at Nancy Landrum Author Relationship Coach or email me from NancyLandrum.com

Free Download: Lessons from the Wise Men

The Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #2

The Art of Expressing Gratitude

This is Week #2 in my Radical Gratitude Challenge.  Last week I challenged you to express gratitude to your partner.  And, if necessary, work at it, dig around a little, but find things for which you can express appreciation face to face.  Thinking it in your head, doesn’t count.

But there’s an art to effectively expressing appreciation.  Throwing out a general, “Thanks for marrying me” doesn’t cut it.  In order to reach your partner’s heart, the words must describe a specific act, or habit, or character quality.

Like this: “This morning when you went out of your way to kiss me before leaving, I felt so loved!”  Or, “I saw how you handled the situation with our daughter.  You were so kind!”  Or, “Today I was thinking about how lucky I am that I can always count on you to come home after work each day.  Not every woman can say that!” Or, “Thank you for cleaning up after dinner last night.  That was a special gift to me!

My late husband Jim would sometimes put in a very long day.  He loved it when I met him at the front door with a hug, and said, “Thank you for working so hard for us today!”

If Jim saw me at my sewing machine, he would grin and say, “There you go! Making something cute again!”  And my heart would glow.

So in addition to being very intentional about expressing gratitude and appreciation this week, deliver the words about something specific in order to make the most impact in your relationship!

Download your free guide to the Art of Expressing Gratitude.

How’s it going?  Are you finding this Radical Gratitude Challenge a challenge?  Please share what has happened when you gave your partner a compliment. What happens inside of you?  What was your partner’s response?  Share with me on my Facebook Page or in the comments below!

Differences Can Be Scary

My late husband Jim’s father was a gifted mechanic.  All of his life he worked as a machinist.   He could fix anything with a motor or wheels.  Jim inherited his father’s work ethic and values, but was lost when it came to fixing his scooter or knowing what to do with a broken lawn mower.  His dad couldn’t hide his disappointment, and sometimes even anger, over Jim’s lack of instinct about mechanical things.

Jim began his singing career at the age of five by singing to the chickens. It wasn’t until high school, however, that his amazing voice began to be noticed in a big way. He was one of the first in his family to graduate from college, even getting a Masters Degree in Voice and Church Music. His father didn’t come to his Masters Recital, an event that filled the huge college auditorium.  He eventually recorded seven gospel albums featuring his gorgeous baritone voice.

In contrast, a story in the September 2013 Guideposts magazine tells about TV’s Mike Rowe and his relationship with his grandfather.  His grandfather could build anything…anything!  Whenever young Mike tried to help him, he’d muff the job.  Once at the height of discouragement, Mike said, “I can’t do anything right!”

His grandfather said, “God gave me a toolbox, Mike.  He gave you one too.  But he didn’t give us the same one.  You understand?”

Mike didn’t understand that day, but over time gained appreciation for the tools he had: a great voice (he sang professionally for several years) and a natural way of smiling and talking with folks.  He eventually designed and hosted a show called *Somebody’s Gotta Do It”–short profiles of people who do the tough jobs…like his grandfather.  Eventually that led to Discovery Channel’s *Dirty Jobs.

Near the end of Jim’s father’s life, he apologized.  He admitted, “I was wrong. I’m sorry I didn’t support your gifts.”  It meant a lot for Jim to hear that apology, but not as much as it would have meant to get his dad’s interest and pride all the years that went before.

Is there someone near you who’s gifts need encouragement?  Might you possibly be blind to her gifts because they are different than yours?

*Free Download: Giving and Receiving Appreciation