Alan, a project engineer for a large paving company in southern Oregon, told Session 6B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"A few weeks ago after I had returned home from traveling all week, my wife said the famous line, the scariest four words most men can ever hear, 'We need to talk.' She informed me that during one of my recent trips to Medford, I had called my mom and during the conversation, I said something critical about my wife. I was obviously in violation of Leadership Principle #3 – Don't Criticize, Condemn, or Complain.
Apparently the next day, my mom happened to see my mother-in-law and passed on what I had said about my wife, which of course didn't go over very well, then my mother-in-law told my wife that she needed to talk to me. Funny thing is, my mother-in-law wouldn't tell my wife what the negative comments were, and neither my mom nor I remember what I said, which is probably for the best. So then I got the opportunity to exercise Leadership Principle #11 – When You Blow It, Show It, and Leadership Principle #6 – Be An Active Listener, as my wife and I talked through how things were really going in our relationship. I must admit this was not a conversation I welcomed, and the truth is I was out of my comfort zone more than once as we
discussed the things I do and don't do that displease my wife. She asked for my input and we came up with some ideas we are both eager to employ, because we feel that they will improve our overall communication and relationship. When our conversation was concluded, I felt considerably better about our relationship than I had before it began. I have greater respect for my wife, and greater respect for myself. I think I learned how important it is for me to be very careful about what I say to mothers and mothers-in-law about our relationship. I learned that I need to be very careful to 'go direct' if and when I have feedback for my wife about any aspect of our relationship.
The most important lesson I learned from this experience is to face problems head on, listen to my wife's feelings, and that when I do this, it allows us to put troublesome issues behind us, and then we can have a fresh start, a do-over.
The action I call you to take is to never criticize, condemn, or complain. When you have feedback to share, 'go direct'. Take the time to listen, and be quick to acknowledge your own mistakes. The benefit you will gain is improved relationships with those in your world that are important to you. You will reduce your stress, as well as improve your own happiness."