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September 14, 2013 / Dale Melchin

A Primer on Managing Your Personal and Professional Relationships

Michael Hyatt in This is Your Life 62 deals with this topic as it relates specifically to your clients in business.  I suggest you listen to it if you want specialized advice how to develop a Client Acquisition Strategy.  It is great stuff!


Similarly, the principles and practices he outlines can be applied to your personal and professional relationships.  In dealing with relationships you want to always follow the law of reciprocity.  If someone does something for you do something for them in kind.


You also want to make sure you cultivate the relationship for the right motives, because if you don’t, your potential contact will pick up on it immediately.  You do want to cultivate the relationship for the relationships sake.  With that said, you must also respect the power of who.  The quality of your contacts in any arena can help or hinder your professional and personal life.


I failed to respect this principle in the past, and it has hurt me very badly.  I was thinking that I could make it professionally as well personally as the Lone Ranger.


While your personal independence as well as your persistence in your endeavors are absolutely vital, more so than your connections, you have to have the contacts if you want to get anywhere.  According to Dan Miller, more and more jobs are found through personal contacts, rather than in the papers.  He does lay out a marketing process for acquiring work.  The point is, the more things that you have in your favor the more successful you will be.


I also want to make a point about having the right people in your personal life.  The wrong people in your personal life can also cripple your progress.  If you are someone who hangs out with drinkers, smokers and carousers, you are likely to become one.  You may not drink to excess or smoke, but you may wind up wasting your valuable time in bars, staying up too late, and dulling your edge in the work place.  At least it’s my opinion.


Now there is nothing inherently with drinking or even smoking so long as it is done in moderation.  Yes,  I am aware of the Surgeon General’s warning about tobacco use.  The occasional cigar, pipe, or even cigarette isn’t going to kill you, but it is a dangerous path to walk down.


If you spend your time with entitled people, or people who are mediocre in their approach to work or life in general, it will hurt your progress personally.  Dan Miller further tells us that we become like the average of the five people that we spend the most time with.  Even if some of the people in your sphere are slackers, its not going to hurt you that much if you don’t hang out with them frequently.  You certainly aren’t going to have regular contact with them.


Drop the high maintenance people from your life


The first thing you are going to want to do remove the high maintenance people from your life.


These are emotional vampires or zombies who consume your emotional resources.  They provide little or no benefit to yourself or other people.  If you make it a point to hang around with them, you will be turned by them.  If you aren’t careful with them, they will become the defacto center of your life.  These people tend to have a lot of drama and make everything about them.  I’ll tell you a story.


Her name is Diana.  That’s not her real name, I’m changing the names to protect the guilty in this case.  I met her when I was at Liberty University my Sophomore year.  At first, she seemed nice enough.  She was a bit of a flirt, but at the time there was nothing wrong with that.  I was single and unattached and I was always looking to meet new people anyway.


Over the course of a week it become evident that she became to attached to my attention and natural charm.  She began talking about her problems back home, and of course naturally, I would try to advise her on a good solution to the problem.  There were a couple of times where she wanted to spend time with me, which was fine.  What ended up happening though was I had to go to a meeting for the prayer leaders on campus.  Needless to say she was livid.  She yelled that I didn’t care about her.


That weirded me out in the extreme.  We had barely known each other a week and she was acting like a jilted girlfriend.  And of course we weren’t even dating.  As luck would have it, she managed to latch herself on to my poor roommate.  So during the ensuing days if I saw her talking to him or walking with him, I promptly hid myself from view and made sure to go the other way.


Eventually, she had made a few other friends on campus who were part of the evangelism group that I was hanging around with and I never her saw her again.  I inquired about her later and found out she had be expelled from the university for causing problems on campus.  I was relieved!  She was the best example that I could think of to fit the bill of an emotional vampire.  What would’ve happened, if the friendship had continued?  The thought is horrifying.


Now I realize that story is a bit of an extreme example.  But it tells the story quite clearly why you don’t want high maintenance people in your life.  They are at best annoying if the relationship can be managed.  At worst, they are a nightmare to deal with.  Sucking you dry of your energy and time.  These are people you want to avoid like the plague.  The only time you would spend with these people should be if you are a professional counselor or higher, or a person involved in a ministry.  That way there is some distance and you can get a break from them.  Nevertheless you don’t want to make them part of your inner circle or even your second level circle.


Cultivate relationships with low maintenance, high energy people


I love being around these people.  They make you feel good about yourself, what you are doing.  You leave their presence feeling full and energized.  The truth is for myself, I always want to stall the parting of ways for the evening when I’m around them.  I know its selfish, but that’s what they do to people.


One of the people I consider to be like this is Dallon Christensen.  We met originally in grade school.  He’s about 5 years ahead of me in age, and he’s light years ahead of me in terms of career and development.  In fact when we were kids, when we were leaving school for the day, I pointed to him and told my mom “I wanna be like him when I grow up!”  Well needless to say, we took divergent paths, but I can still confidently say the same thing today.


We met up at a networking event about two years ago and have been friends since.  He has inspired me in so many ways with being a local incarnation of Michael Hyatt, Dan Miller, and Dave Ramsey.  I know that sounds a lot like flattery, but if you met the man, you’d agree, so thanks again, Dallon.  He is a man who treats people with directness, but also kindness and respect, and he has a big huge vision for the future.  I could go on, but it would be just be too much.  Point being, cultivate relationships with people like this, and your quality of life will be so much better


Maintain relationships with low maintenance, low(medium) energy people in your life in the hope that they will become high energy


Now, when I say low energy I mean relative to the standard of someone who has more.  That could be yourself, or that could be someone you aspire to be like.  Perhaps medium energy might be a better work.  These are the folks that you rub elbows with daily at work.  You might go out for drinks with them after work.  You may have a strong rapport with them and they have an overall positive effect on you and vice versa.  I also want to say you should hope they become high energy with a grain of salt.  It is not your place to be the world’s police in terms of human development.  If they don’t want to go on the journey you are specifically on, that’s fine.  Keep them in your life anyway.


You can still share the road peacefully where you are and mutually benefit from the exchanges that you have.  What I mean by this is don’t close the door on them.  Being a lone ranger is hard, and these people in your circle make it easier.  Especially if you have a particularly stressful job like I have.


They can be an endless source of encouragement.  Its good to have folks to trade war stories with and play XBOX after work with or go have drinks with.  Who knows where your connection with them will lead.  You may be able to help them in some substantial way down the road, or they may help you.  We are all on a journey, and it is very important that we stay the course together.  Human potential is so great that it cannot be afford to be wasted.  That is why we maintain the relationships with the low maintenance and high energy, and low maintenance and low (medium) energy people.


Keep in mind, your potential and your energy are so important that you cannot afford to let it be eaten up by the high maintenance people.


It seems a bit selfish that I am advising you to cut out high maintenance people from your life.  Frankly it is, and I have no qualms about it, and here is why.


First and foremost, the you need you to be at your best.  You cannot accomplish your dreams if your energy is being sucked up by people who are emotional vampires or are caught up in their own drama.  Even if you are dealing with a victim vampire, you cannot be as effective if you have one of those bloodsuckers at your neck all the time.  It doesn’t scale.


Secondly, your family and close friends need you.  If you are married, you know you need to invest your energy not just in your work, but also in your relationship with your spouse.  If you have kids, same deal.  I don’t have kids, but I deal with daddy guilt in a different form because I have a special needs sister whom I am guardian for.  Because she doesn’t live near us and I don’t have vacation available at this time, I don’t get to see her that often.  Yes I do call her, but I could get better at that too.  I know if I was dealing with vampires all day, I wouldn’t have the energy to invest in my wife or my sister, and the same is true for you as well.


Also, your close friends need you.  I know I’ve been harping on this, but we are all in this together.  You have to be the best you can be in order to be a good friend as well.  If you’re not it becomes all about you and that’s not good either.


Finally, the world needs you.  Yes, I said the world.  The world needs you at its best so you can contribute to net happiness and world peace. The current Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”


And this is true. Think about it.  If everyone and I mean everyone were at peace with themselves.  All war would cease.  Yes, it might seem boring, but it wouldn’t be.  We’d always be gaining new insights and making more advances in our fields.  Worry would be a thing of the past and the only thing that would motivate us would be self improvement.  If you can marshal your resources, it will eventually come back to the high maintenance people.  If you can marshal your resources in an orderly and peaceful fashion that makes you one more person in the world who can tip the balance for peace.  And it wouldn’t be a weak pacifistic peace, it would be a strong peace, and you would be contributing to it.


What would having more high energy people in your life make possible for you?  What would removing high maintenance people from your life make possible for you?


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