Paradigms of Interdependence
There can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity -- Samuel Johnso * * Before moving into the area of Public Victory, we should remember that effective interdependence can only be built on a foundation of true independence. Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Algebra comes before calculus. As we look back and survey the terrain to determine where we've been and where we are in relationship to where we're going, we clearly see that we could not have gotten where we are without coming the way we came. There aren't any other roads; there aren't any shortcuts. There's no way to parachute into this terrain. The landscape ahead is covered with the fragments of broken relationships of people who have tried. They've tried to jump into effective relationships without the maturity, the strength of character, to maintain them. But you just can't do it; you simply have to travel the road. You can't be successful with other people if you haven't paid the price of success with yourself. A few years ago when I was giving a seminar on the Oregon coast, a man came up to me and said, "You know, Stephen, I really don't enjoy coming to these seminars." He had my attention. "Look at everyone else here," he continued. "Look at this beautiful coastline and the sea out there and all that's happening. All I can do is sit and worry about the grilling I'm going to get from my wife tonight on the phone. "She gives me the third degree every time I'm away. Where did I eat breakfast? Who else was there? Was I in meetings all morning? When did we stop for lunch? What did I do during lunch? How did I spend the afternoon? What did I do for entertainment in the evening? Who was with me? What did we talk about? "And what she really wants to know, but never quite asks, is who she can call to verify everything I tell her. She just nags me and questions everything I do whenever I'm away. It's taken the bloom out of this whole experience. I really don't enjoy it at all." He did look pretty miserable. We talked for a while, and then he made a very interesting comment. "I guess she knows all the questions to ask," he said a little sheepishly. "It was at a seminar like this that I met her when I was married to someone else!" I considered the implications of his comment and then said, "You're kind of into 'quick fix,' aren't you?" "What do you mean?" he replied. 113 "Well, you'd like to take a screwdriver and just open up your wife's head and rewire that attitude of hers really fast, wouldn't you?" "Sure, I'd like her to change," he exclaimed. "I don't think it's right for her to constantly grill me like she does." "My friend," I said, "you can't talk your way out of problems you behave yourself into." We're dealing with a very dramatic and very fundamental Paradigm Shift here. You may try to lubricate your social interactions with personality techniques and skills, but in the process, you may truncate the vital character base. You can't have the fruits without the roots. It's the principle of sequencing: Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Selfmastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others. Some people say that you have to like yourself before you can like others. I think that idea has merit, but if you don't know yourself, if you don't control yourself, if you don't have mastery over yourself, it's very hard to like yourself, except in some short-term, psych-up, superficial way. Real self-respect comes from dominion over self, from true independence. And that's the focus of Habits 1, 2, and 3. Independence is an achievement. Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make. Unless we are willing to achieve real independence, it's foolish to try to develop human-relations skills. We might try. We might even have some degree of success when the sun is shining. But when the difficult times come -- and they will -- we won't have the foundation to keep things together. The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are. And if our words and our actions come from superficial humanrelations techniques (the personality ethic) rather than from our own inner core (the character ethic), others will sense that duplicity. We simply won't be able to create and sustain the foundation necessary for effective interdependence. The techniques and skills that really make a difference in human interaction are the ones that almost naturally flow from a truly independent character. So the place to begin building any relationship is inside ourselves, inside our Circle of Influence, our own character. As we become independent -- proactive, centered in correct principles, value driven and able to organize and execute around the priorities in our life with integrity -- we then can choose to become interdependent -- capable of building rich, enduring, highly productive relationships with other people. As we look at the terrain ahead, we see that we're entering a whole new dimension. Interdependence opens up worlds of possibilities for deep, rich, meaningful associations, for geometrically increased productivity, for serving, for contributing, for learning, for growing. But it is also where we feel the greatest pain, the greatest frustration, the greatest roadblocks to happiness and success. And we're very aware of that pain because it is acute. We can often live for years with the chronic pain of our lack of vision, leadership or management in our personal lives. We feel vaguely uneasy and uncomfortable and occasionally take steps to ease the pain, at least for a time. But the pain is chronic, we get used to it, we learn to live with it. But when we have problems in our interactions with other people, we're very aware of acute pain -- it's often intense, and we want it to go away. 114 That's when we try to treat the symptoms with quick fixes and techniques -- the bandaids of the personality ethic. We don't understand that the acute pain is an outgrowth of the deeper, chronic problem. And until we stop treating the symptoms and start treating the problem, our efforts will only bring counterproductive results. We will only be successful at obscuring the chronic pain even more. Now, as we think of effective interaction with others, let's go back to our earlier definition of effectiveness. We've said it's the P/PC Balance, the fundamental concept in the story of the Goose and the Golden Egg. In an interdependent situation, the golden eggs are the effectiveness, the wonderful synergy, the results created by open communication and positive interaction with others. And to get those eggs on a regular basis, we need to take care of the goose. We need to create and care for the relationships that make those results realities. So before we descend from our point of reconnaissance and get into Habits 4, 5, and 6, I would like to introduce what I believe to be a very powerful metaphor in describing relationships and in defining the P/PC Balance in an interdependent reality. The Emotional Bank Account TM We all know what a financial bank account is. We make deposits into it and build up a reserve from which we can make withdrawals when we need to. An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that's been built up in a relationship. It's the feeling of safeness you have with another human being. If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it. My communication may not be clear, but you'll get my meaning anyway. You won't make me "an offender for a word." When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective. But if I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying your trust, threatening you, or playing little tin god in your life, eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn. The trust level gets very low. Then what flexibility do I have? None. I'm walking on mine fields. I have to be very careful of everything I say. I measure every word. It's tension city, memo heaven. It's protecting my backside, politicking. And many organizations are filled with it. Many families are filled with it. Many marriages are filled with it. If a large reserve of trust is not sustained by continuing deposits, a marriage will deteriorate. Instead of rich, spontaneous understanding and communication, the situation becomes one of accommodation, where two people simply attempt to live independent life-styles in a fairly respectful and tolerant way. The relationship may further deteriorate to one of hostility and defensiveness. The "fight or flight" response creates verbal battles, slammed doors, refusal to talk, emotional withdrawal and self-pity. It may end up in a cold war at home, sustained only by children, sex, and social pressure, or image protection. Or it may end up in open warfare in the courts, where bitter egodecimating legal battles can be carried on for years as people endlessly confess the sins of a former spouse. 115 And this is in the most intimate, the most potentially rich, joyful, satisfying and productive relationship possible between two people on this earth. The P/PC lighthouse is there; we can either break ourselves against it or we can use it as a guiding light. Our most constant relationships, like marriage, require our most constant deposits. With continuing expectations, old deposits evaporate. If you suddenly run into an old high school friend you haven't seen for years, you can pick up right where you left off because the earlier deposits are still there. But your accounts with the people you interact with on a regular basis require more constant investment. There are sometimes automatic withdrawals in your daily interactions or in their perception of you that you don't even know about. This is especially true with teenagers in the home. Suppose you have a teenage son and your normal conversation is something like, "Clean your room. Button your shirt. Turn down the radio. Go get a haircut. And don't forget to take out the garbage!" Over a period of time, the withdrawals far exceed the deposits. Now, suppose this son is in the process of making some important decisions that will affect the rest of his life. But the trust level is so low and the communication process so closed, mechanical, and unsatisfying that he simply will not be open to your counsel. You may have the wisdom and the knowledge to help him, but because your account is so overdrawn, he will end up making his decisions from a short-range emotional perspective, which may well result in many negative long-range consequences. You need a positive balance to communicate on these tender issues. What do you do? What would happen if you started making deposits into the relationship? Maybe the opportunity comes up to do him a little kindness -- to bring home a magazine on skateboarding, if that's his interest, or just to walk up to him when he's working on a project and offer help. Perhaps you could invite him to go to a movie with you or take him out for some ice cream. Probably the most important deposit you could make would be just to listen, without judging or preaching or reading your own autobiography into what he says. Just listen and seek to understand. Let him feel your concern for him, your acceptance of him as a person. He may not respond at first. He may even be suspicious. "What's Dad up to now? What technique is Mom trying on me this time?" But as those genuine deposits keep coming, they begin to add up. That overdrawn balance is shrinking. Remember that quick fix is a mirage. Building and repairing relationships takes time. If you become impatient with this apparent lack of response of his seeming ingratitude, you may make huge withdrawals and undo all the good you've done. "After all we've done for you, the sacrifices we've made, how can you be so ungrateful? We try to be nice and you act like this. I can't believe it! It's hard not to get impatient. It takes character to be proactive, to focus on your Circle of Influence, to nurture growing things, and not to "pull up the flowers to see how the roots are coming." But there really is no quick fix. Building and repairing relationships are long-term investments.