Dr. Laura Bokar is the CEO of Fox Valley Institute for Growth and Wellness and the author of “We Need to Talk: 24 Simple Insights for Relationships.” Laura discusses a variety of relationship topics, and points out that home and business relationships are the same… they are human relationships. Laura discusses the nuances of difficult conversations, how relationships fail, and how they can be repaired.
Listen to this episode to learn to nurture relationships and avoid big problems.
[2:20] Laura credits her fabulous husband, Chuck, for helping her throughout her career and in building Fox Valley Institute as a “silent partner.”
[3:47] Difficult conversations create fear and anxiety for some. These conversations are on topics important to us, with high and intense emotions behind them. We have uncertainty about how the other person will respond. Laura suggests staying on track in difficult conversations by first embracing and understanding your emotions, preparing, and practicing.
[5:59] Before a difficult conversation, own your emotions, manage them, and understand them. You don’t want two emotional people coming into a room. Be clear about what is important to you to bring up and talk about. In the conversation, affirm the person and the relationship, and then let them know what you want to talk about. Be hard on the issue and soft on the person.
[7:09] Listen for content and emotions. Respond to emotions with empathy and validation. Sometimes people bring up unresolved issues from the past. These issues will keep resurfacing until they are made the topic of another necessary difficult conversation. When a person gets overwhelmed, they want to shut down and blame or shame themselves. Address what is overwhelming them.
[10:39] Can a difficult conversation be avoided? Ask yourself if it will improve the relationship and if the relationship is important enough for you to want to improve it. Knowing the answer, you can decide whether or not to have that difficult conversation. It’s an investment. Are both of you invested?
[12:53] Relationships usually don’t degrade with one big lapse but with a bunch of small paper cuts. Laura shares examples of small injuries that hurt relationships. You may not be paying attention to them but they build up and put distance between people. Justifications and excuses create distance in both personal and business relationships because you lose trust. Apologize for the small things.
[16:02] Small things may call for difficult conversations. Many things can be resolved by talking about them. It could be a reason you don’t know about, such as having a terminally ill family member. Once you know, you can understand and probably let go of it. The person would probably pivot and get back on track.
[17:53] Laura tells how to say you’re sorry in a heartfelt way when you understand how you hurt that person. Let them hear that you get it and that you empathize. If the hurt person wants an explanation you can give it; not to satisfy yourself.
[19:57] Laura explains primary and secondary emotions. The primary emotion may be sadness, hurt, shame, or loneliness. Shame is an emotion that can’t live in the light. We don’t want to share it. It’s hard to get it into the conversation. It’s probably connected to something deep in the past. If the issue is shame, recommend professional help. Bringing it to the light with a therapist will mean freedom.
[24:00] Many leaders get to know their people, notice when they have a change in performance, and have conversations with them. If there is a home problem, Laura recommends the person talk to a professional. Let them find someone they can talk to about it who is not their boss. Leaders should also have the experience of talking to a therapist; they can tell the employee they’ve done it and it is helpful.
[28:09] Be aware of changes that might signal depression and recommend the employee talk to a professional therapist if you see the signs. Depression and anxiety are invisible disorders but when they get to the point where you see behavioral changes, it’s usually pretty bad.
[29:14] Different generations manage online situations differently. If you notice a big gap between a person’s personality in person and online, talk with them about it.
[31:50] Steven Covey told his divorcing friend to “Love her” instead of divorcing his wife. Laura says that the injuries behind the divorce first have to be identified, understood, and forgiven before love will work.
[34:15] We have the Great Resignation. Laura says people needed a change, so they left jobs. Many are going back. The grass wasn’t greener on the other side. Laura suggests before leaving a position have a talk with your manager. It’s a failure in the relationship if the manager is not aware of your dissatisfaction. Invest in work relationships. There is no replacement for spending time with humans.
[36:55] Some companies attempted to give big raises to prevent people from leaving. But it wasn’t the money, it was the inadvertent slights that were the problems. Leaders have to be intentional and mindful of those small things. Many slights over a long period will add up.
[38:32] Relationships are the most important thing. We need to treasure them, and to do that, we need to spend time with them and commit to them. Understand the person. Ask questions and be curious about who they are, what they like, and what they want to do.
[39:06] The important thing about being grateful is to feel it. Laura asks the listener to remember when people were grateful for you and thanked you. Those are thoughts that will create biological change in you and bring out more emotions. Laura says, “So that’s my challenge: is to not just make the list anymore about being grateful, just remember when people were grateful for you.”
[41:38] Closing quote: “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” — Henry Winkler.