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365 Ways to Start Over: Day #38 – Separate the Person from the Mistake

Let’s start with a story. Elizabeth is a loving and kind person who has become guarded when it comes to love relationships. Her marriage was riddled with emotional neglect and hurt that left her feeling isolated and alone. She very much wants to be in a loving relationship but is conscious of the barrier she has built around her heart. She has dated several men since the divorce and has found that when she opened the tenderness of her heart, it was again singed with pain. As time has gone on she has noticed that she meets nice men but ultimately finds reasons why they are not right for her, leaving her feeling as if she will never find a fulfilling relationship – a terribly dismal place to exist.

Elizabeth’s story of a woman seeking love can be translated into many different scenarios: men seeking love; girls seeking friends, office mates seeking alignment from colleagues; neighbors seeking friendships; business people trying to sell a product. The problem boils down to the fact that we build barriers around our sensitivity in order to protect us from the pain of feeling abandoned. The problem with this is that we end up shutting off our valve of sensitivity to other people and aspects of our lives. Ultimately the more comfortable we become with pushing people away, the more we do it which takes us even farther away from our ultimate goal of finding intimacy, better friendships, better consensus from our colleagues, or more business.

If you are determined to open your heart or break down barriers of the past and you are skeptical about a new person in your life, be sure to evaluate whether you are dealing with a problem with the person or a mistake they have made. Make sure to separate the person from the mistake. Most people are coachable. If this is a personal relationship and they care about you they will want to hear your perspective and adjust their behavior to accommodate you. In this instance, don’t envision the mistake as a character flaw in the person (unless the mistake is egregious enough that it is part of their character). If they don’t care about you, they will not be compromising. In this instance the problem could be the person. Hear what they are saying and adjust your own behavior in a more fulfilling direction.

At work if you are having difficulty with a colleague and you demonstrate compassion to their needs and find that they are willing to work together for a common goal then to do so will fulfill you. The difficulty may have just been a misunderstanding or a mistake. If they demonstrate that they are not willing to work with you, then working with them may continue to be a challenge. The problem may be the person. Detach from them emotionally and do not expect to win their favor. Your goal is to work with them to meet both of your objectives. They don’t need to be your friend.

Early after Elizabeth’s divorce she may have been opening her heart too easily to people which is understandable since divorce leaves people feeling rejected and in need of affirmation. Then she built up a protective wall and is having difficulty trusting her feelings because she isn’t sure how to separate a man’s character from a mistake or a misunderstanding. Separate the person form the mistake. Ask yourself which is the issue. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of Gannon Group – an executive coaching and consulting firm that produces higher individual and organizational performance through Executive Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development, Board Retreats, Visioning, and Planning. Mary Lee’s personal turnaround came as a stay-at-home mother, with four children under seven-years-old, who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where within a short time she worked up to the level of CEO. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores or at Amazon. Get her FREE ebook – “Grow Productivity – A Leader’s Toolbox” on her web site at www.StartingOverNow.com.