I sat in a conversation with a guy the other day. He was working through a lot of things in his life. He was struggling with his kids as well as at the office. Both were impacting the relationship he had with his wife and not for the better.
As he shared his story, I immediately remembered the similar experiences of my life. Believe me, I have plenty of them. Anyway, those experiences started running through my mind at a mile a minute. Have you ever had something like that happen to you? I couldn’t stop thinking about those experiences and all I could do was look for an opportunity in the “conversation” to bring one or more of them to light. In fact, I got so consumed with what I wanted to say that I completely stopped listening to what I was being told.
Oh yea, I forgot to mention that all of those thoughts were about the experiences I had in which I successfully maneuvered my way through the situation. I had a handful of examples I wanted to share that clearly showed just how successful I was at handling my own problems.
And then it happened. There was a slight break in the conversation and I immediately started sharing how I had successfully handled a problem just like the one my friend was experiencing. For some reason he didn’t seem to be all that interested in what I had to say. His eyes and head lowered.
Right then, in that instant, it came back to me; the words that my coach shared with me 20 years ago. “If you want to draw someone closer, share a failure. If you want to keep a distance, share a success.” Wow, how many times had I said those words to someone else?
I love to sail, it is a dream and an aspiration of my life. But every sailor knows that each voyage is a series of corrections and course changes. The best sailors know how to correct quickly and gracefully. It was time for me to make a major course correction.
There it was right in front of my face. I was in the middle of a similar circumstance at the office; one that I hadn’t handled very well and was living through the consequences of. I was a little embarrassed to share the details but I also knew that it was important for me to do.
As I changed course and began sharing my own struggle and failure, his head and eyes moved upward. He began to listen to what I was saying and I could see hope returning to him. All of a sudden he wasn’t alone in his struggle.
By sharing my success I had made him feel as if he were an even greater failure in his own struggle. By sharing my failure he felt as though he wasn’t alone…he felt there was hope in the middle of the struggle. That hope can give each of us the strength to continue.
How about you? Have you been on either side of one of these circumstances? How did you handle it, good or bad?