If there is a married man or a guy with a “significant other” who has never experienced the following, I would like to secure his services as my “life coach.”

Here is the scenario: You are on your way to Lowe’s to get that essential part needed to complete the 747 you are building in your garage or heading out to the club for a round of links with some buds and your wife asks you a question that you know will require more than a “yes,” a “no” or a “we’ll talk about it later.”  Seeing the inquiry as a swirling eddy in your stream of priorities, you sigh or roll your eyes or reply with a tone that betrays your obvious irritation at this interpersonal speed bump.

No sooner does your response leave the transmitter that you realize it just turned, what could have been a friendly game of relational badminton, into an Ultimate Fighting Championship cage match. All plans evaporate like a puff of smoke, your demure wife is transformed into Godzilla breathing lightning on the outskirts of Tokyo and what would have been a 5 to 10 minute delay becomes a tsunami sweeping across the landscape of your day.

Caught In the Vortex

What’s the problem here?  It is a lesson people have struggled with since mankind was hunting caribou herds. As Stephen Covey so simply defined it, “With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.”

In relationships, if we try to go fast and get through it quickly, especially where emotions are involved or offenses are possible, it ends up costing you the price of a major repair versus a simple oil change. Fundamentally, it takes exponentially more time to resolve the relational breakdown than it does to do the routine maintenance of respecting the other person, regardless of age or position (as you’ll find this is equally true with your 6- or 16-year-old) and communicating their value by stopping what you’re doing to give your undivided attention.

Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Tipping Point and What the Dog Saw, once commented, “Innovation – the heart of the knowledge economy – is fundamentally social.”  In other words, environments that produce creativity and productivity rely on the same timeless relational principles that man has been uncovering for centuries.  The “social media revolution” – as astounding and far reaching as it is and will be – functions successfully based on values like the one sighted above.

Social Maturity versus Media Savvy

Most have come to recognize that being “social media savvy” doesn’t mean someone is “socially savvy.”  My cousin, who is an Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning film editor, told me about a conversation he had with his daughter concerning his grandson’s interpersonal development in light of his obsession with video games.  He said, “I told my daughter, my job is 50 percent artistic and technical skills; the other 50 percent is being able to relate to and communicate with some of the most eccentric people in the world. You need to develop your son’s social skills; the only thing I see him developing is the dexterity he has with his thumbs!”

Whether it is social media or a well-executed public relations campaign, people are probing for the authenticity of the illusive “Man behind the curtain.”  The more we make principles like “slow is fast” part of our personal operating system, the more we carry those principles into our broader world.  It is getting it right with the few that helps us get it right with the many. Or as the former Secretary General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold said, “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”


Eric Wright is the Managing Director and Editor of  i4 Business magazine and a monthly contributor to SpaceCoast Business magazine.