Tips for Working with Your Significant Other (& Other Difficult People), PART 2: Consistency

by Lauren Schneidewind on December 14, 2015

The most challenging thing I do every single day is not running a tech business as a female, it is not driving in Atlanta traffic for an hour and a half, and it is not even raising a wonderful eight month old daughter, who is teething and getting monthly ear infections. But rather, it is working with my significant other. Don’t get me wrong, operating a family run business has many benefits and can be very rewarding, but it doesn’t happen without encountering some difficulties along the way. However, by following a few ground rules, we can make it a bit easier. Following up with the boundaries that we set up last week, we move on to what allows them to work.

Consistency

Having been through doggie training on-and-off for nearly twenty years or so (clearly the issue is not the dog), I am finally starting to learn the importance of boundaries AND consistency. Most recently I took our sweet, full of life, one and half year old, sixty-five pound, pit bull puppy to obedience school. We also brought along his older and wiser sister, Sansa (who happened to earn the Best in Class award, while our puppy, Tyrion, on the other hand, earned the Most Improved award). The single most important thing I learned with this round of dog training is consistency with the rules (or boundaries) that have been established. When teaching Tyrion how to sit (or re-teaching him with boundaries), the trainer noticed he would scoot his booty about an inch each time he sat down. I did not think anything of it and I missed something very important. He was disrespecting the boundary that I had set for him. His simple action of scooting his booty that single inch was enough to create an environment of disrespect for me and my boundaries. In his mind, I wasn’t serious and he could change the boundary. (This is not so different from the long winded co-worker overstepping our 30 minute meeting by 60 minutes…). I thought this was crazy; no way could that single booty scoot (or as the coworker is concerned, five or more minutes of talking) mean so much. However, I still listened to the instructor. Low and behold, I started calling him out and made him go back that single inch. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, my dog started to act differently; he started responding faster and more intently on my directives. Holy cow, all of a sudden I had this great dog that was trainable. It was like a light bulb went on between the two of us and our relationship changed for the better (at least for me). I am no longer constantly frustrated with trying to train my dog. I believe this sudden change in behavior is due to the fact that I stopped letting him scoot his cute puppy booty that single inch. Wow!!! It seems so simple. Well, that’s because it is. So I wonder, if this strategy works so well for Tyrion, why not try it in the workplace? Makes sense, right?

The example of Tyrion taking that extra inch can be compared to other situations that I encounter every single day. As the saying goes, “If you give them an inch, they will take a mile.” Now, this is a bit more pessimistic than I would like to be, but the point is the same. We need to be consistent and adhere to the structure (boundaries) that we have set, whether that is a dog scooting or a co-worker who doesn’t pay attention to the time during meetings. We have to set, and uphold, the expectation for others around us, which will hopefully lead to an environment more conducive for mutual respect. Overall, in working with family members (or other difficult people), maintaining consistent boundaries is a solid strategy to rely on to retain one’s sanity. I know it has worked for me, especially when I am diligent in abiding by them.

Tips for Working With Your Significant Other (& Other Difficult People), Part 2 is a blog series, that I hope to build upon using my experiences in working with my spouse, as well as, several other family members, to create a plethora of stories about what to do and what not to do. It is my goal to navigate the challenges in a positive and productive way. What do you think? Would you work with your family members? Am I crazy to think I can work, commute, and live with my husband without some argument? Is this just too much togetherness? Let’s start a conversion!

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