It’s not all about you!


My husband and I recently had a sharp disagreement. It was one of those recurring conversations that crops up in our relationship and usually has no satisfactory ending. I decided it was high time I tried a different approach instead of doing the same thing again and again, getting the same unconstructive results. I revisited a book by Robin Dreeke ‘It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques For Building Quick Rapport With Anyone’.

Dreeke is head of the Behavioural Analysis Program of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Counterintelligence Division and lead instructor in behavioural and interpersonal skills training. The 17-year FBI veteran has honed his communication skills through years of experience as a special agent and is considered a master in establishing rapport with anyone. He often consults with companies to help leaders communicate better with their teams and increase collaboration.

All of us need to develop our ability to connect with others. Life is about relationships. Everything we do is done for people or with people. The vast body of research shows that relationships are vital to happiness. The Grant Study which tracked the physical and emotional health of a cohort of young men from college to old age concluded that the most significant contributing factor to a prosperous life is relationships: “The capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty”.


Building relationships is essential to networking which is crucial to getting and keeping jobs, growing business and income, and building a fulfilling career. In his book ‘The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’, Malcolm Gladwell references the classic 1974 study, ‘Getting a Job’, in which sociologist Mark Granovetter interviewed several hundred professional and technical workers and discovered 56 percent had found their job through a personal connection. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) concerning turnover of 115 chief executive officers, operating officers, senior-level managers and board members found that solid relationships were critical in building a successful, stable career.

In their seminal book ‘The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen In Organisations’, business school professors James Kouzes and Barry Posner state “Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. It’s the quality of this relationship that matters most when engaged in getting extraordinary things done. A leader-constituent relationship that’s characterised by fear and distrust will never produce anything of lasting value. A relationship characterized by mutual respect and confidence will overcome the greatest adversities and leave a legacy of significance”.

Leadership is essentially about developing successful relationships. The purpose of leadership is to create positive change. Leaders achieve goals and get results, and they do this with and for other people. Leaders have to involve others in executing the strategies necessary to reach their goals. A leader’s long-term success is directly related to their ability to connect with others.


“Building relationships is one of the strongest skills sets related to leadership effectiveness. Managers with experience building relationships are seen as more effective,” asserts Jean Leslie, a researcher at CCL, commenting on a comprehensive study involving over 438,000 people in 7,500 companies. Nearly 70 percent of bosses reported that “building and maintaining relationships is a critical competency”, while in another CCL study 97 percent of 250 senior executives surveyed indicated that “collaboration is critical to success”. However, the survey revealed only 47 percent of managers believed “leaders in their organisation were highly skilled in collaboration.” The ability to build and maintain relationships ranked 10th out of 16 leadership competencies that surveyed executives performed well.

But what does all this have to do with me and my husband? The way we handle ourselves in our homes is the litmus test of our leadership. Author Michael Hyatt writes “Nothing will undermine your effectiveness as a leader faster than a bad marriage. Your marriage is a living example of what it is like to be in a close relationship with you. This is why it is so important that leaders get this right if they want to influence others”.

The Bible requires leaders to manage their own homes and be committed to and respected by their own family before being entrusted with greater responsibility. Our true colours are most visible to those closest to us. Family can help knock the rough edges off our characters – if we humble ourselves.

And Dreeke’s cornerstone advice certainly requires humility. He recommends suspending your ego and focussing entirely on the other person. Dreeke has one rule: It’s all about them. He writes “Suspending your ego is nothing more complex than putting other individuals’ wants, needs, and perceptions of reality ahead of your own. The main objective in all engagements is simple: the person you are engaging must leave the conversation and interaction feeling better for having met you.” Referring specifically to road rage Dreeke states that most disagreements “are nothing more than egos battling for supremacy without much regard for the consequences or objectives.”

In “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, Habit 5 is Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. So next time it looks as though Hubby and I are butting heads, I’ll bite my tongue and listen, and try to remember it’s not all about me. Wish me luck!

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