"Mom, he was mean to me?"
"I just asked him to pass me a toy!"
"Yes, but how did you ask him?"
This theme of "how" seems to be a common thread in multiple areas of my life right now. From a friend anticipating the end of a work project, but feeling sad and hurt by how the manager is choosing to handle it. Another friend, starting a new job but who felt grilled and disrespected by a unorganized and lengthy hiring process. And my son, trying to navigate the complex world of elementary school relationships which are sometimes friendly and other days less so.
Research tells us that the risk of terminated employees bringing a suit against their former employer increases dramatically if the person feels that they were not treated with respect during the termination process. Our own experiences support this idea as well. Remember a time as a child and you were so excited about an achievement and then hurt when your parents brushed it off or were too busy to listen? Recall when you shared the news of a new partner, engagement or baby. You don't forget the people who opted to say things like "Really?", "Are you sure?" before they said (or instead of saying) "Congratulations!"
When we fail to give someone our full attention and consider the conversation from their perspective, we miss a big chance to build up our relationship capital with that person. Or worse, we risk damaging a relationship beyond repair.
This time of year our lives can get pretty busy. There can be a lot of demands on our time. Yet, it is often a time when we come together with people at parties, celebrations and family gatherings. Give some advance thought about how you want to be with people this year. Challenge yourself to live up to that promise by slowing down your reactions, listening without distraction to the people you're with and thinking before speaking as you connect with others. I think you will see some interesting results.