The opposite of Bossing is Partnering. A partner asks for help when she needs it, seeks insight from others, makes room for differences in style, doesn’t make a big deal out of things that don’t really matter.
A Boss turns into a Partner when he comes to believe his way isn’t the only way. Or when he reaches the end of his rope. Or both. When there’s too much work and not enough time. When he’s sick or double-booked or overwhelmed or just plain worn out. Most Bosses hold out as long as they can. But very few can hold out forever. Life’s too complicated. Once that time comes, the biggest question is whether there’s anybody left to Partner with.
The Boss may have done so much relational damage that no one wants to help. Why put myself on the line for someone who’s going to criticize me for not being him? He’s already made it perfectly clear that I’m inadequate for the job.
On the other hand, if I love my Boss (and if it’s my parent or spouse there’s a pretty good chance I do) I may be willing to help when he really needs it.
All he has to do is ask.
Asking for help and really meaning it spells the end of Bossing. And most reformed Bosses never look back because Partnering is simply more inviting for everyone involved, more fun, more profitable, more energizing.
Partners learn to relish a few extra minutes of drive time if those minutes can be used to nurture a relationship.
Partners don’t mind not getting every plate and glass into the dishwasher if it means standing next to a child and chatting while they wash a few pots and pans together.
Simply put, Partners place more value on people than precision.
I’m not saying there’s no place for the pursuit of perfection. I want a surgeon committed to zero defects in her team. But there’s no place for perfectionism in human relationships. When we’re talking about household chores, or getting across town, if someone gets it wrong, nobody dies. What’s the big deal that’s worth alienating our children over how the dishes get washed?
Next time you realize you just freaked out over a detail that was—in the grand scheme of life—less than nothing, try being your own Collaborator. Take a moment and ask yourself:
- What just happened here? What did I say and do in front of my child? What message do I think he got from me?
- Why did I send that message? Why did that seem so important to me just then?
- How do I want to proceed from here? What do I want to communicate in the next 30 minutes? How do I want to handle myself the next time something like this comes up?
At the end of the day, Partnering is better for raising adults than Bossing. When I Partner, my kid becomes a participant, not just an observer. I want that. When I Partner, my child learns new skills that prepare her for the future. I want that too. When I Partner, I free up time to focus on other important things—like how I’m really doing in life.
Okay, I’m not sure I want that. But it’s what I need. The truth is, one reason I get Bossy about details that really matter only to me—elevating a simple task to the level of national security—is to divert myself (and everyone around me, I hope) from the reality of where I truly am compared to where it seems plain I need to be.
Now that I think of it, I really don’t care for this line of reasoning. I’ll forget about Partnering if you will.
— from Raising Adults