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Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: How to End Relationships from Above the Line

Jim Dethmer
/
March 15, 2017

Many relationships end. Conscious leaders know how to end relationships from above the line.  

One common misunderstanding is that conscious people, including people who practice the 15 commitments, live a life of non-stop relational harmony (thus the stereotype, “sit around and sing Kumbaya”). The truth is that conscious leaders end relationships. They fire people, get divorced, end friendships, and even relationships with family members. But how conscious people end relationships is very different from how unconscious people do it.

When unconscious people end relationships—from below the line—usually some or all of the following occur:

  • People blame one another for what went wrong. From below the line my belief (and I’m certain about it) is that the relationship didn’t work because of what the other person did or didn’t do.
  • People don’t fully reveal themselves to one another because the other person and the relationship no longer feel safe. They have stopped being candid and trusting each other. They withhold relevant thoughts, feelings, actions and desires.
  • People close their hearts toward one another. They stop caring, connecting and feeling. Usually when relationships end there is sadness, fear and often anger. But from below the line people don’t want to feel their authentic feelings because feeling hurts and can be messy and inefficient. Better to put a callous over my heart.
  • People don’t get all the learnings that the situation is offering them because they are more interested in being right and protecting their ego. As a result they do the same dance again in other relationships.
  • There is often collateral damage with people who surround the broken relationship. In divorce this can be children or other family members who get sucked into the drama between the couple who is ending the relationship. In organizations the collateral damage can be among colleagues who take sides or spend time gossiping about what “really” happened.
  • Energy in the form of time and money gets wasted. Lawsuits cost huge amounts of time and money as people defend why they’re right, why they’re a victim and why the other person must pay for the pain they caused.

Most of us have seen this pattern play out in our lives, likely over and over. I see it when I coach leaders who are recreating the same pattern with a new colleague that they had with the last partner they just fired. Second marriages have a much higher divorce rate than first marriages for many reasons. One is that the parties didn’t learn all the valuable lessons they could have learned from their first relationship so they rescript the same scenario with a person who is taller and has a different hair color.

Conscious leaders end relationships from above the line. Here’s how they do it:

  • They take their 100% responsibility for creating the relationship. They get curious how they created the relationship being just as it is, warts and all. What did I do or not do, say or not say that caused the relationship to fall apart? As they do this they choose to stop blaming the person or themselves.
  • They get more interested in learning than in being right. They don’t want to waste any of the learnings that this relationship is offering them. They realize that proving their right is the booby prize, not the grand prize.
  • They keep revealing all the way to the end. They risk being transparent and vulnerable. They learn to reveal in an unarguable way. From below the line we keep drama going by fighting over what is highly arguable. Arguable means that it is my story and view of reality and I need you to see reality the way I see reality for us to get along. This is a cosmic waste of time. Unarguable means that I tell you my feelings, body sensations and thoughts. That I am having my thought is unarguable. That my thought is right and true is highly arguable. Conscious leaders uncouple relationships by revealing their stories about reality and listening deeply to the other person’s stories.
  • I go a step further and choose to see that the opposite of all my stories could be as true or truer than my original stories.
  • Conscious people notice entitlement in themselves. Entitlement is what I believe I deserve. Every relationship that comes apart is filled with entitlement. Entitlement is an I.O.U. for resentment. Conscious leaders let go of entitlement and resentment, and replace them with appreciation. Specifically they learn (this is a choice and takes time) to appreciate the other person for doing exactly what they have done and being exactly who they have been. Ultimately they appreciate the other for being their teacher. A conscious leader knows that this person and this relationship is a gift to help them to wake up more fully.
  • They don’t waste time recalculating drama and they don’t dissipate energy (time and money) proving they’re right and defending their ego.

At the Conscious Leadership Group one of our passions is to show people how to end relationships from above the line rather than from below the line. We have experienced the tremendous benefits for ourselves and others by learning these practical skills.

About the Author
Jim Dethmer

Jim has been coaching leaders and supporting individuals, groups, and organizations to optimize their effectiveness. Potent and practical, he see issues clearly and communicates next steps crisply. Jim works with Fortune 200 CEOs across all industries, and co-authored the book—High Performing Investment Teams—to support his work with leading asset management organizations around the world.