You are cordially invited. . .

I was at a dinner party Saturday night (I just love saying that—it sounds so grown up and sophisticated!). The discussion around the table could have easily kept me rooted in my seat for days. Of all the profound statements I captured in the notebook I keep in my purse, the most intriguing to me was one put forth by my friend Sharon, a brilliant psychologist. We were talking about something she calls relational responsibility which has to do with both parties sharing responsibility for how a relationship occurs. She said a key to success is to ask, “When I interact with this person, who do I invite to come out?”

That falls under the category of “things that make me go hmmmm.”

Have you ever been gossiping to someone about another person who continually gets under your skin? [Aside: notice that we never gossip to someone we think will disagree with us. We fully expect the listener to say, “I know! She’s driving me nuts, too!”] Much to your surprise, your confidante says, “That’s not my experience at all. She’s very pleasant to me.”

That is the Law of Attraction in action. You attract more of what you focus on and, in this case, you can see that by focusing on another’s flaws, they intensify. Focusing on their positive attributes has a similar impact. However, what Sharon talked about Saturday night goes even further. How you choose to interact or respond to another is an invitation. The question is: who are you inviting to come out—the “driving you nuts” person or the pleasant one?

As I travel across the country working with organizations on the topic of employee relations, I hear the same lament: work could be perfect if not for those negative co-workers. How do we deal with them? What they really mean is “How can we fix
them?” A counter-question might be, “what are you doing or not doing that is inviting that negative person to come out?’

Negative Invitation 1A: To avoid confrontation, are you nodding your head as if in agreement, hoping beyond hope that they’ll just go away?

Negative Invitation 2A: When you’re the one in a bad mood, do you seek out negative co-workers knowing they’d be happy to join you in your grouchiness?

Negative Invitation 3A: Do you often ask “what’s wrong?”

One thing to remember about cynicism and negativity is that it’s an indication that someone really cares. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but no one can get that worked up unless they really care about something. Through a positive invitation, you can tap into their caring side and invite that person to come out.

Positive Invitation 1B: Ask: what do you like about that person/situation/work task? If they respond, “Nothing! There is nothing I like!” then try asking, “Well, if there WERE something, what might it be?”

Positive Invitation 2B: I’m in a really bad mood. Can you talk to me about some happy things and help me get into a better one?

Positive Invitation 3B: Ask: “What’s right?” or “What’s good about this?” or “What’s possible?”

When you set the tone of relationships that is called leadership. We tend to think of leadership as a positive attribute but, if you look around you’ll see that there are also leaders in our midst who guide us away from the light rather than toward it. Through the simple practice of relational responsibility, you will discover that you are suddenly surrounded by people you enjoy and you can take deep satisfaction from that. After all, you invited them!

Download a PDF of this column