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October 16, 2013

Relationship Lessons from the Government Shutdown of 2013

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, most people agree that the government shutdown is not one of our country’s proudest moments. And, I thank our government for teaching all of us, through their mistakes, relationship lessons of a lifetime. Below are the top ten relationship lessons we can all take away from this unfortunate event.

  • Always be open to hearing the other side with an open mind rather than a righteous mind. One leads to healthy dialogue; the other to ill feelings and resentment. Don't ever get so stuck on being right that you become blind to solutions. 
  • Know that your actions and decisions create a ripple effect of consequences across the lives of those around you...and beyond. It's simply not all about you. Remember that how you live your life has great implications for those around you. Think about the ripple effects of your decisions before you make them.
  • When things don't go your way, don't dig in your heels in an attempt to FORCE them to go your way. This tactic is called bullying. It's toxic and damaging, not only to others, but to you as well.
  • If you agree to do something, do it. Don’t wait for a later issue to use as collateral to avoid doing what you agreed to do in the first place.
  • When you make an initial agreement, do so with thorough discussion and collaboration. Do not rush to get someone to agree on something if there is a good chance that there will be hard feelings later about the process. Relationships are about give and take, not winning and losing. Be considerate on all issues, not just your issues.
  • Stay on the issue at hand—don’t fight a past issue with a current problem. Too often people bring countless past issues into a current argument. Bringing in old issues makes discussion difficult at best. Deal with the issue at hand and don’t throw others into the mix.
  • The end does not justify the means. Using any means necessary to win your side is toxic to relationships. Don’t change the rules to suit you, shame people for disagreeing with you or intimidate others to get your way. Remember that even if your tactics get you what you want today, that doesn’t mean they won’t hurt you tomorrow. Don’t be shortsighted.
  • Don’t allow the power of a few to determine the behavior of many. S/he who speaks the loudest often wins…unless you have the courage to not cower to the power. Don’t allow intimidation to silence your voice.
  • Learn to ask yourself if what you’re doing is the “right” thing to do. Be the spouse you wish you were with and be the parent, friend or boss you wish you had. Do the right thing even in the most difficult of times.
  • When you hear the same information about your actions from two or more different sources, trust that there’s truth in what they’re saying. In politics we have polls that speak volumes; in marriages we have divorce. Listen to the feedback you’re given and make the necessary changes. Don’t wait until it takes a bullhorn to wake you up. 

Regardless of which political party you support, have the courage to learn from the mistakes of both parties. We do in our relationships what our politicians are doing in our government. In our relationships these actions lead to divorce and in our government it leads to a shutdown. We can do better.

Challenge: Look over the list above and check those that apply in your relationships and work them.

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