The first question to ask is, are relationships important? Without question, relationships are the most significant factor impacting and influencing every aspect of our lives—personal, professional, and with the planet. Like air and water, good or bad, relationships cannot be avoided, and we could not survive without them. Every relationship begins with a desire and a connection.
Whether emotional, physical, intellectual, or spiritual, we are in many relationships and connected to someone or something from the time we wake up in the morning until our heads hit the pillow to sleep! We call this Relationship immersion, the R Factor. Think of your own day today and even this week. Did you wake up to the jarring alarm, to dogs, cats, or kids jumping on your bed and ready for breakfast? Did you check the news, check your phone, respond to messages, choose your wardrobe, take a shower, grab a bite, brush your teeth and all of this before you flew out the door into your car, or public transportation to get to your first appointment? The start of your day was shared with millions of others on the planet. Whether you know all the people around you or not, we are all connected as humanity first and that’s where the bottom line begins.
Corporations know the importance of relationships! They spend approximately $67 billion annually on Customer Relationship Management systems. Global borders, the environment, technology, and human rights, are shared and fought over because of relationships!
We inherit our relationships with family, culture, our faith, and beliefs of those by whom we were raised. We also have an opportunity to choose and create new relationships from our youth into adulthood, with friends, school, business opportunities, a new house or car, vacations and more.
Maris: We are husband-and-wife and we’ve been living, loving, playing, and working side-by-side, choosing each other as partners every day for almost 20 years.…that’s being in a connected relationship. For as long as we’ve been together, people constantly ask, “How do you work together as a couple without making each other crazy and still have a… romantic personal life?” We had never looked at, or analyzed our relationship, in fact, I was afraid to for fear we might break it. You know the old saying, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. What we have cherished is that there has always been a powerful connection and rhythm to how we flow and co-create together and with our clients that brings out the best in each of us. Who could ask for more?
We got curious though and wondered if there were commonalities from our relationship that are consistent across thriving relationships at work, home, and beyond. So, we launched an expedition of discovery.
Ken: In our work globally as relationship marketers, business consultants, Relational Leadership coaches, authors, and mentors, and executive producers, we’ve just about seen it all. Working from classrooms to boardrooms with brands, celebrities, Heads of State, and heads of households, we noticed that like ours, all relationships have varied beats, and tempos, and a rhythm! Now, as a singer/songwriter since my teens I understand the power of rhythm. Sometimes relationships can be smooth like cool jazz, classical, and country, or driving like rock and rap. In our daily lives, our relationships can experience all of these rhythms. Our mindset and how we’re feeling inside shapes the rhythm that we are showing up in our relationships. We always have a choice in how we “respond” versus “react” and that can make all the difference in the outcome.
As our discovery continued, we began to see that there are indeed four relationship rhythms Respect, Responsibility, Reframing, and Resilience that have guided our lives together. When these rhythms are working in unison, each having equal importance, they form the Relationship Rhythm Circle and create a culture at work and home of connection, communication, collaboration, confidence and ultimately trust.
We also noticed a clear distinction between being in relationship TO, and being in relationship WITH someone or something. Think about it like a dance. Being in a relationship TO someone can be one sided, with limited connection, no music, no rhythm and no movement, and nowhere to go. Being in relationship WITH offers an exchange of connection, energy, belonging, movement and musical rhythmic possibilities. Words matter!
Abraham Maslow, one of the most cited psychologists of the 20th century, wrote about the “Hierarchy of Needs.” Maslow stated that after the physiological and safety needs have been met, the next human need is “belongingness, the human emotional need for interpersonal relationships!” Remember the movie Cast Away? It’s one of our favorites and filled with anecdotal life lessons. The character, played by Tom Hanks, was stranded on an island, completely alone and cut off from the world, and yet he was connected with himself and his surroundings. After he had taken care of his basic needs, water, food, shelter, rest, and safety, the character then turned to the higher level, “belongingness.” Out of loneliness he created a relationship, WITH himself and a volleyball. Remember that fateful moment when we hear him yelling…. WILSON!
The first of these four relationship rhythms is RESPECT. In the Rhythm of Respect, we show up and we’re present, we listen, we build trust, and lead with compassion and authenticity. When we show Respect, our relationships are collaborative and empowered! Ask yourself when I communicate with someone at work or home am I present to what they are saying, am I really listening, are they being heard? Or only half-listening and more concerned with what I will say next?
Back in the 18th century, philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that “all people are owed equal respect by virtue of their shared humanity irrespective of achievements, abilities, and qualities.” No matter where we are born, or the culture we grew up in, respect is a birthright. Respecting ourselves is the first step.
RESPONSIBILITY is the second relationship rhythm in the circle! In the Rhythm of Responsibility, we are intentional, we are committed, we communicate clearly, and we stand accountable for our actions! When we are Responsible, expectations are aligned, and our relationships are full of possibilities. We can often get into trouble around expectations if both parties are not clear. Communication is key! Expectations without agreement create premeditated resentment every time. Ask yourself who is responsible for ensuring that your communication is shared and landing at home, with friends and with your team or colleagues?
Maris: I had an opportunity early in my career to spend a weekend working with the iconic chef, Julia Child. You may remember her. One morning at breakfast she was asking me about a meaningful relationship that I was in at the time. Julia’s question changed the trajectory of my life, “As much as you travel for work, when you are out of town and you wake up in the morning in a hotel, is HE your first thought?” My immediate response stunned even me as I heard myself answer “no” to which she quickly replied in that iconic voice, “get rid of him.” I was sure the entire restaurant heard her. What was surprising to me, and yet so clear to someone I barely knew, was that my relationship had faltered, and it was no longer in sync or connected. I was hanging on for dear life even though deep down in my gut I knew it was time to be accountable and to stand up and address what was not working and how I was showing up. Six months later I filed for divorce.
The third relationship rhythm is REFRAMING. In the Rhythm of Reframing we lead with gratitude, we accept the traumas of our past without letting them limit us, we meet people where they are, and we honor their feedback as neutral. Science tells us that gratitude, even in the most stressful moments, can decrease heart rate and improve cardiovascular health by affecting the nervous system. It can strengthen the emotion-related activity of the brain and help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. When we begin and end our day with a gratitude attitude we tune in to our brain and body with what’s working in our lives, and it sets the tone for a grounded day and restful night. When we Reframe, a new perspective emerges, and a shift happens!
Ken: Years ago, I had a powerful conversation with our long-time friend Apollo 17 astronaut, Captain Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon. He shared that from his vantage point, looking back at earth from the surface of the moon, two-hundred-fifty-thousand miles-away, that he saw no divisions between people, he said, “I saw a world without any borders.” His reframing also compels us to remember that we are all connected on this planet we call home! To this day, that statement is a cornerstone in our work. Imagine when we choose to take the walls down around us greater connections are built where walls once stood.
The last of the four relationship rhythms in the circle is RESILIENCE! Relationships along the way, experience challenges, trauma, and drama. In the Rhythm of Resilience, we stand up and step forward with consistent action, we seek and accept support to courageously F.A.C.E. and navigate inevitable change. Once we freely acknowledge current emotions (F.A.C.E.), our resilience in those moments often includes learning something new and stepping outside of our comfort zone and as uncomfortable as we may be, we’re better for it. When we are Resilient our relationships are inspired and renewed!
And when we think about where to begin in mastering our relationships personally and professionally, the first place, of course, is by noticing our relationship with ourselves. Think about it…. It’s an inside out job! How you’re feeling inside is how you are showing up outside. Relationships may be the unsung determiner of every accomplishment on the planet, and the predictor of healthy living.
Recognizing our connection with everyone, and every living part of our planet, is at a tipping point! We invite you to take a look at your relationships, personal, professional, and with the planet. Ask yourself; am I living in relationship TO, or am I choosing to be in relationship WITH my life and those in it? Am I living in-sync and in tune with the Relationship Rhythm Circle and choosing to build an R Factor culture at work and home of, Respect, Responsibility, Reframing, and Resilience? Our choices today determine our future.