This one is a bit longer than usual, but it’s well worth it. I also recorded an mp3 version so you can DOWNLOAD it to your phone and listen to it on your ride home. Please share.
Here she comes. The person who never listens. The person who can never seem to get it right. The person who has been driving you absolutely crazy. You’re at your wit’s end.
She might be a co-worker, a boss, an employee, a fellow volunteer, a spouse, or even a child or step-child.
You’ve tried EVERYTHING, but nothing seems to work. You’ve tried reasoning, you’ve tried incentivizing, you’ve tried punishing, bribing, helping, and even begging. You’ve been gentle, you’ve been firm, and one time you went all-out authoritarian-borderline-nasty. YOU’VE EVEN TRIED MAGIC WORDS! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is working.
This week I’ve been reading Angela Lee Duckworth’s instant smash bestseller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She makes the very convincing case that the determining factor of success in life isn’t talent, but grit.
That got me wondering. Is that true for interpersonal relationships as well? Is grit more important than the equivalent of talent in relationships; what we call “chemistry,” “connection,” or even love?
I’ve just completed a twelve year “scientific” study that explored this exact question. (Not exactly. I celebrated my twelfth wedding anniversary on Sunday. That counts as science, right?) Well, after twelve years, I’m here to tell you that in my experience the answer is…
Marriages certainly have their ups and downs. Feelings of love come and go (so do feelings of hate!) One thing a marriage can’t survive however, is both partners giving up. When grit fails, so does the marriage. But when grit remains, “I’ve tried everything!” becomes “Let’s try again.” In a way, grit IS love.
(A HUGE anniversary shout-out to my wife, Katie, for being the grittiest – AND the prettiest – girl in the world!)
So if grit can save troubled marriages, imagine what it can do for the other relationships in our daily lives! Let’s take a look at Duckworth’s four pillars of grit and see how to apply them to your most challenging people problems:
HUMAN CONNECTION GRIT – PILLAR ONE: INTEREST
Duckworth says that in order to be gritty and stick to an activity, it helps greatly if we’re interested in it.
The same is true for people. We must foster a sense of wonder about their thoughts, emotions, passions, and personality.
When I was a professional magician, I found that people were MOST interested in magic tricks when they didn’t know the secret. After my show, people would come up and say things like, “I figured out the first one, but how did you the trick with the BAG?!” The bag trick interested them because they couldn’t figure it out. They were forced to WONDER.
The emotion of wonder is like brain candy. If I ever made the mistake of revealing the secret, their brains would stop wondering and disappointment was inevitable. The same is true for movies, books, and television shows. If someone tells us how it ends before we experience it ourselves, then we get disappointed (and probably angry) because our brain was robbed of the opportunity to wonder.
When you catch yourself saying “I’ve tried everything,” it’s a sure sign that you’re losing interest in that person. You’re starting to expect and assume that they will let you down. You’re starting to judge their message before it’s even been delivered. Here are some more things you may say when you begin to lose interest in a person:
- I know his type all too well
- They’re all the same
- She’s hopeless
- Why bother even trying with him?
- I can’t stand her anymore!
- Whatever, John
Remember, where there is no wonder there is only disappointment. Bring the wonder back. Be interested in this person again. Change the above statements to wonder-filled questions like:
- I wonder what is going through his mind right now?
- Interesting. What made her do that?
- What does he need from me right now?
- What style of communication would work best with her?
- What would it be like to walk in his shoes for just one day?
- I wonder what her perspective of me is?
- Some people have no problem connecting with him, why can’t I?
- Is there something going on in her life that I’m unaware of?
In my TEDx talk, I discussed how we’ve given up being curious about one another because we’re too wrapped up in being interested in ourselves! Don’t let that be you. Develop a keen interest in others – even (especially) the difficult people in your life.
HUMAN CONNECTION GRIT – PILLAR TWO: DELIBERATE PRACTICE
I’ve spent my adult life studying human connection tactics. Little strategies that build bridges between people. Here’s one thing I’ve learned:
Little hinges swing big doors.
Translation: Tiny changes in your behavior can often result in major differences in how people respond to you.
What you do with your eyebrows when you first meet someone can affect whether or not they like you. Which pronouns you say most often can turn a sale into a lost opportunity. Adding one specific word to your request can increase compliance by more than 50%. How you nod your head determines whether or not people believe you are listening to them. The list goes on and on.
Connecting with people isn’t always going to be a natural process. There are some people in this world that you’re going to have to PRACTICE connecting with.
According to Duckworth, people who practice with a deliberate purpose in mind are more likely to have grit. Practice isn’t a mundane, meaningless chore to them. It’s the path to improvement.
When you find yourself saying, “I’ve tried EVERYTHING!” use it as an cue to remind yourself to practice something new. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.
HUMAN CONNECTION GRIT – PILLAR THREE: PURPOSE
People who are gritty have a calling that is bigger than themselves. People who are motivated to press on recognize the deep meaning and purpose behind their task. When the going gets tough, the tough get going – AS LONG AS IT’S WORTH IT.
Is it worth making that extra effort for you to connect with the person that you haven’t yet been able to connect with? Why? Answer that question and you’ve got a purpose that will push you onward, even when you feel like you’ve tried everything.
In a marriage, the larger purpose might be the desire to uphold the vows that were made, it might be for the well-being of any children involved, or it might be a “family first” mindset that drives relationship grit.
In the workplace, the larger purpose might be the company’s vision and mission, it might be a commitment to selflessness and teamwork, or it might be a personal philosophy of servant-leadership that motivates you to stick it out.
Almost nothing is more motivating than fulfilling a deep, personal calling. Are you called to serve selflessly? Love unconditionally? Display unflinching loyalty? When you feel like giving up, call to mind your calling.
HUMAN CONNECTION GRIT – PILLAR FOUR: HOPE
People who are gritty always have hope. If there is no hope of success, then why persevere? If you want success with the person you’re currently struggling with, then you must start by believing that success is possible – that connection CAN be made and the situation CAN be changed.
I have good news. There IS hope.
Let’s start with the facts. You haven’t really tried everything. That would be impossible. There are far too many things to try and far too little time. The harsh truth is, you’ve only tried everything THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT.
Is it possible that there is some tactic or strategy you’ve overlooked? Something you aren’t aware of yet? Be very careful when allowing yourself to say, “I’ve tried everything.” It sounds an awful lot like saying, “Hey, I’ve done my part.” Or, “I’ve tried enough to justify giving up.”
If you are feeling hopeless, then let me share with you something that may help. I call it, the law of 100%,..
The Law of 100% States: “The quality of the results that you get is directly proportional to the quality of your communication – 100%”
Hold on. Is this really practical? Does that mean that if your student doesn’t complete an assignment properly, it’s 100% your fault for not explaining it better? If your employee isn’t motivated at work, is it 100% your fault for not creating a more motivating work environment? If a spouse cheats, is it 100% your fault for not being the absolute best spouse you could possibly be?
God, I hope so.
What’s the alternative? It’s NOT your fault, you’re a victim, and you have to wait for everyone else to change because you have no power to fix anything? Living like that will drive you crazy.
Look, I get it. I really do. It doesn’t feel good to be blamed when things go wrong. When you don’t get the results that you want from people, it’s easier to assume that they’re the ones who messed up.
But because it is 100% your fault, you now have 100% of the power to change it.
“With great power comes great responsibility” – Spiderman
“With great responsibility comes great POWER!” – Tim David
Accepting responsibility gives you hope. People who say “I’ve tried everything,” are inches away from giving up the power that the law of 100% affords them.
If you’ve read this far, then I know you have hope. The fact that you’re reading this means that you still care. You still WANT to connect. You haven’t given up on them quite yet.
So, what’s the ONE THING you should try before giving up on someone?
AGAIN. You should try again.
RECAP on developing “human connection grit”: Renew your interest in what makes other people tick, deliberately practice the skills required to connect with them, tap into a deep purpose for connecting with them in the first place, and never give up on the hope that it will all work out in the end – no matter how impossible it seems.
Is there someone in your life who never gave up on you? Comment below and give them a shout-out!