Recently, I was having a conversation over dinner with Annie Cheng, owner of The Table Less Traveled. We were discussing our challenges regarding relationships in business and with family. The subject turned to the books I love. This is a collection of books about relationships with your intimate partner, your family, teams at work and managers up and down the organization.
Both at work and at home relationships can be a struggle. We all battle with balancing independence and connection in our relationships. We want to be close and connected to loved ones, but we also fear losing our independence. In some ways, each of these books address this struggle and help the reader become more aware of their own needs and patterns in this area. This is a collection I put together for Annie because each one of these books has helped me resolve a relationship challenge of my own.
Hold Me Tight – Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson. Sue compares relationship struggles to a dance! Whether the dance is positive or negative, the dance continues the same until one partner takes a different step, thereby changing the dance. The idea of the relationship dance in this book helped me change my marriage. I was able slow down and take a new step and my husband changed his steps. Our marriage dance became more fun.
Extraordinary Relationships – A New Way of Thinking about Human Interactions, by Roberta M. Gilbert, M.D. Sometimes the way we interact with our partners is intended to get them to react differently. Gilbert writes about how we pull from our experience as children to manage our ourselves in anxious situations. The over/underfunctioning pattern in a relationship is one of the most common, and the one that speaks to me. When my anxiety is high, I struggle with wanting to take over, give advice and “fix” everything. This is my overfunctioning behavior. I am learning to notice my anxiety as it builds and to slow down this automatic response.
Rising Strong – The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution,by Brene’ Brown. Although, I am a fan of all Brene’s books, this book one spoke the loudest to me. Brene’ is a master storyteller and her stories of struggle and vulnerability are inspiring. The story that strikes me is her question, “Are people doing the best they can?” When I started asking this question about the people around me, I found more compassion and empathy. I have tendency to self-criticize and over think. Asking this question of myself, helped find more compassion and empathy for myself.
Mating in Captivity – Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, by Esther Perel. This book is as fun as it sounds. Esther Perel is a couple’s therapist. She explains that the most erotic aspects of sex are uncertainty and unpredictability, and how to keep them alive in a secure relationship. I won’t be sharing my personal story on this one!
Moving to the other side of my bookshelf, I have four books that are my current favorites. My first career is in the business world and I continue to work in small business settings. Unique to small businesses is the small group of owners mixed with owners’ families and the resulting relational challenges. These books focus on your roll of leader in the group.
The Power of Presence – Unlock your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, by Kristi Hedges. I found this book by accident. I was preparing for a training and wanted to work on my presentation skills. I have done Toastmasters, and have been coached and worked on all the “rules” of speaking, but I just never felt at ease in front of an audience. I imagine my audience did not feel much better. I found a LinkedIn article by Kristi titled, “throw out all the rules of public speaking!” So, I bought the book. She writes about finding your authenticity as a leader and speaker. The exercises in the book helped me find my unique style as a speaker. As a result, I gave the training from my unique perspective and spoke from place of passion and energy.
The Anxious Organization, by Jeffrey A Miller. This is a short, easy to read narrative packed with examples of management and organizational dysfunction. Although I thought I was a different person at work than at home, I notice that some of the same patterns were occurring. The business perspective in this book made sense to me. The challenges of the teams were the perfect illustrations of systemic organizational issues. When the system is the focus, individuals in the system can change the patterns. I applied these techniques to my relationships at work and at home.
Resilient Leadership – Navigating the Hidden Chemistry of Organizations by Bob Duggan and Jim Moyer. The copy of this book on my bookshelf is in well worn. The pages are dog-eared, and there are yellow sticky notes sticking out all over. Resilient Leadership is a narrative focusing on one middle manager and his anxiety responses at work and at home. Bob and Jim’s illustration of systems thinking helped me see my role in challenging relationships with my coworkers and my boss. Although I’ve read it a couple of times, I am currently working with a group to go through it again chapter by chapter.
I am even bringing the group to Seattle for a training in October.
Resilient leadership 2.0, by Bob Duggan and Bridgette Theurer. Not quite dog-eared yet, this is a new book (2017) from the same group as above. In time, it may replace the original as my “go-to.” Bob and Bridgette discuss the concepts of systems thinking with real examples of managers struggling with dysfunction in their teams.