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Principle 5. Engage to Stay Engaged

Genuine connection is a good step, but the nature and value of relationships go far beyond the act of a single meeting. A relationship, to be durable, goes through moment after moment of boundary setting, truth-telling, appreciation, and ownership. Enduring trust is built from these moments, and the deepest forms of trust develop only when there is a promise not just to connect, but to stay connected. This is especially true because all relationships involve tensions and points of potential disconnection. The greatest challenge is when people, recognizing there differences, remain strong and keep building the relationship, crossing a gulf again and again, and utilizing all the principles. It is true, that at a certain point one or the other party may say, “I can’t stay with this. The effodrt is too great.” But then there is no shame in that parting -- if people have been thorough in attempting to make the crossing, satisfying their own deepest sense of personal integrity. Partnerships cease, employment contracts fail. But there is no real failure when there has been a genuine effort and the energy has simply shifted away from the relationship in order to fulfill other potentials within the people.

Engaging to stay engaged means that we don’t drop the ball too soon or to fast, and without first having put ourselves fully into the exchange. We don’t give up easily. We learn to work at relationships and with situations that in the beginning we can’t see a way through. We live a commitment to one another for as long as we can be in a way that is congruent with our own most important values.

Case Study: Bill and Sheila, respectively head of the Engineering Department and the Marketing Department, had always had a tense relationship. In part, this was because of organizational roles. As Bill saw it, "Sheila's group makes promises to clients about what we are going to do for them; it's up to Engineering to try to come through." For many staff in Marketing, Engineering was a major impediment to the company's success. They seemed to analyze things to death and take a negative view of clients. From the engineers' perspective, Marketing made outrageous promises well beyond the capability of any company to deliver. Over the years, Bill and Sheila had had any number of "dust-ups" that caused tensions to temporarily flare inside the company, but never talked about their relationship. Finally, after a training session on communications, Sheila took the bull by the horns, asking Bill for feedback about her own department's staff. Bill laid it out, citing a number of situations where he was aware of criticism and conflict. Sheila then asked him, "And do you see the same dynamics in my own behavior? Am I part of the problem, too?" He was taken aback by Sheila's blunt but sincere question. He decided to go for it. "Yes, that's also a factor," he replied and immediately shared with Sheila how several sarcastic remarks she'd made to his staff had undermined them and himself as manager. He also found himself acknowledging and owning that he, too, had participated in some of the mutual departmental bashing. As a product of the conversation, they decided to get together for a more thorough discussion of how to build and maintain a more positive relationship on behalf of the company.

Links to the other principles:

1. Draw on inner strength

2. Step away from personal gains and losses

3. Focus on both the good and the true

4. Connect through appreciation and ownership