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.

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