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Why Do You Always Hurt The Ones You Love?

Over the last several years, we’ve had the privilege of coaching executives of a high-tech company, whose name you’d recognize.  They’re an S&P 500 company that makes the equipment and provides the services that allow the modern world … and all the incredibly complex systems we take for granted … to operate seamlessly behind the scenes.

The senior VP in charge of the division we’re involved with is a force of nature and a great leader, in large part because he’s both a good strategic thinker with great instincts and a very skilled, supportive communicator who’s able to get the best out of his people.

We were talking with him and one of his direct reports … another standout leader … about how easy it is to get impatient and kinda growl at people when we’re frustrated.

Our VP told us this story … short and bittersweet.

There was a time when he was talking with his kids in a frustrated and emotionally charged way, and one of his daughters said

”I wish you’d talk to us the way you do to your work people.”

Bam.  That’ll get your attention.

The four of us all acknowledged that we are, indeed, more likely to behave that way with our families than we are with the folks we work with.

I guess we know intuitively there’s both an expectation … and a practical need … for a more respectful communication style at work.  You simply have to be nicer … more restrained and diplomatic.

The need part comes from the fact that outright forcing, coercing, or browbeating people into doing things doesn’t work very well.  As the old saying goes, “He who complies against his will is of his own opinions still.”

You need to get along and form good relationships to secure the kind of cooperation, support, and enthusiastic engagement required to get important things done.

At home, we’re far more likely to just let ‘er rip with whatever emotional upset is front and center at the time.

That doesn’t seem right, does it?

And yet, in the same week our SVP shared his story, two of my coaching clients confided how they’ve been struggling with their personal relationships … the people closest to them.

Hmmm … I’m seeing a trend here that bears exploring.

As the Mills Brothers sang in their classic tune… You Always Hurt the One You Love … the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.

This “coming down harder on the fam” is a pretty common syndrome.

I mean, nobody writes a song that becomes a big hit like that if the message doesn’t have a kind of universal resonance.

So, what do we take from this?

Would we be better off behaving more like we do with our colleagues and direct reports when we communicate with family members?

Yeah, probably.

Maybe the key word there is more.

Of course, you’re gonna let your hair down and be freer with your expression of what you’re thinking and feeling when you’re at home.

A family whose members hold their cards close to the vest and keep themselves at arm’s length emotionally isn’t a very healthy family.

It’s just a fact of life that people living together are gonna have their moments.

But nicer … kinder … softer … more diplomatic … more understanding?

Yeah, why not?  It’s a no brainer.

So, why don’t we do it?  Because it’s not always so easy when you get triggered.

And yet, if you can learn to control yourself and treat the ones closest to you more gently, the payoff is immense.

The ones you love won’t end up getting hurt.

At least, not as often.

And that’s a good thing.





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