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The Cement of Strong Relationships

Relationships parallel houses in the way they are built. Daily, we add (or detract) from the foundation of our relationships - at work and at home. Daily, we lay bricks, reinforce walls, put up barriers, and cover open spaces. How much reflection and planning are you investing into the building of your house? It takes time to figure out how you want your house laid out but even with a great floor plan, if the foundation is weak, your house won't last long. To bind the foundation of your relationships so that they will survive all of the elements, try a mortar mixture of humor and humanity.

Humor

Humor can improve communication, break down social barriers, spark new creativity, help people deal with an ever changing world, and it can also serve as a positive reference point for when relationships strain. It can have the reverse effect if it is ill suited. Humor, as foundation mortar, should be positive, uplifting and should never be at someone else's expense. It's a free expression in finding the funny things in life and a reference point between people when things are difficult. I am luckier than most because my wife, Lara, has a fantastic sense of humor. When we were first married, I worked really close to our small apartment and would run home at lunch so we could eat lunch together and watch the "Price is Right."

One afternoon she greeted me at the door and said, "I made you some cookies!" She knows I am a sweet junkie and she is a fabulous baker so, yes, I headed straight for the kitchen. When I got to the kitchen she said they were still in the oven on the pan. I opened the oven up, took a look and there were 10 broken Archway cookies on a pan waiting for me. I looked at her confused and she busted up laughing. Anytime our house has been shaken by gale force winds, the humor mortar we have used for 20 years has kept our foundation strong. These humorous reference points allow us to laugh, connect, and deal with the storm. The same is true of the foundations we build at work - positive humor builds, binds, and cements. The second ingredient we need for a the binding of a strong foundation is humanity.

Humanity

Humanity is kindness. It is compassion for others. It's remembering the platinum rule, "Treat others the way that they want to be treated." We must meet each person where they are at if we want our mortar mixture to set properly. This, again, takes reflection. It also takes an element of risk - we must open ourselves up if we want others to open up to us.

A few years back, I was stationed with a motivated young man who tackled every task put before him with gusto and a smile. When his performance started to decline, I knew something was wrong so I approached him to find out how things were going and if there was anything I could help. He confided in me that he was having difficulties at home. His wife had been pregnant, miscarried, and they were both having trouble dealing with it. He didn't know what to do to help her through this emotional hurricane.

I opened up with him and told him that we had been through the same thing twice before we had our first child and that the best thing he could do was "be there." Be there in mind and spirit. Time passed and things seemed to get better. I would ask him periodically how he was doing and it was always answered with a positive response. A few years passed, we transferred to different places, and then I ran into him one day. As we were talking, he told me how much he appreciated me sharing my own experience with him and how much it helped. He had taken my advice and also shared our story with his wife. His wife had found comfort (and hope) in the fact that others had gone through the same thing and went on to have children with no further incidents. The foundation of our relationship had been permanently bonded through mutual kindness and compassion - through humanity.

The world of today is busy, stressful, and ever changing. These forces can shake the firmest foundation to the point of wondering if the house you are in is going to come crashing down upon you. If you have sealed your foundation with a mortar mixture of humor and humanity, your relationship house will survive the storm and you will be able to continue to build. At home or at work - keep connecting; keep laughing; and keep cementing the foundation of your relationships.

02/11/2008
About Author
Chip Lutz is a professional speaker, trainer, and retired Navy Officer with 22 years leadership experience. He speaks and trains on the power of positive leadership and the infusion of humor in the workplace to increase morale, productivity, and teamwork. He served as Commanding Officer of two separate Navy Facilities and was the Director of Security for Naval District Washington, DC during September 11th, 2001. Additionally, he is adjunct faculty for two colleges where he teaches classes in leadership, teamwork, and organizational behavior. Find our more about his work at http://www.funsquadinc.com or email him at czar@funsquadinc.com to be put on his weekly newsletter distribution.
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