I am a big fan of sports, especially team sports. I should mention that individual sports are technically team sports, too. It may look like they are doing it all by themselves, but I can guarantee you the Nadals, Williamses, McGregors, and Armstrongs of the sports world all have a team of professionals training with them. That aside, let us talk about the team sport called relationships.
This sport has two players that want to be in the team. They both contribute to the team individually. This means each teammate has different strengths, weaknesses and talents that may contribute to the team. We play this relationship sport in the arena called life. And the arena can be cruel at times. There will be supporters and there will be doubters and there will be other teams and players who feel intimidated or envious of you. What makes this game interesting is that the arena allows players to play as they see fit. The goal is to stick together. Sometimes the team doesn’t achieve the goal, the arena breaks them down and spits them out. That’s when you have your locker room talks – it’s only the first quarter, and you are one point down, how will you get better together?
It helps to think of our relationships as a team sport because we all know about teamwork. And that’s what a relationship truly comes down to. It’s a give-and-take. It means you are each other’s cheerleader in the good and bad times. It is in celebrating each other’s wins and encouraging them to try again in the losses. What do I mean by wins? Well, say your partner or spouse is more popular or earns more money than you. How does that make you feel? Are you proud of their achievements? Are their achievements beneficial to the team? See, by focusing on the team aspect, you take out the ego (There is no I in TEAM). You start focussing on how you contribute to the team and share in the wins and the losses.
In every team, there is a sound foundation of sportsmanship, goals, respect, routines, love and beliefs. Each teammate needs to know what the other expects from them, and how they feel the other can contribute more or less. Sometimes doing more is enabling your teammates’ growth, and sometimes doing too little will make your teammate feel like they doing all the heavy lifting. A good team finds the balance between all these different aspects. And you find balance by taking ownership and responsibility for your role in that team. Here are some tools I can offer you to find team balance.
Tool #1 is to have clear, open, honest communication. This does not mean blame time. This means time to assess how each player feels, and how the other player can support them. Blaming, resentment, shaming, guilt trips, and manipulation to get what you want are not being a team player. You are thinking of your ego and not the team. Yes, sometimes honest communication can hurt, but why does it hurt? This leads to my second tool.
Tool #2 Take a step inward and question your feelings. Is what you are feeling true? Well, you are feeling it, that’s not up for debate, but why are you feeling it? What are you telling yourself that fuels that emotion? Do dirty dishes make you feel disrespected? Why? Is it because you have made it part of your role in the team to do the dishes without discussing it, and now, by doing more, your enabled teammate assumes it’s what you do? Or maybe it’s that you feel that your teammate doesn’t care? Is that true? Did your teammate not do all that was expected from them today? If they are doing teamwork, shouldn’t that mean that they care about the team and you? So what are you telling yourself that you are not telling your teammate? Maybe it’s time to have a locker room discussion. “I feel so overwhelmed, and I want to feel that you care. I make these assumptions that you don’t care and that I am not worth caring about and now even the dirty dishes are presented as evidence of these thoughts. Can we maybe schedule a time-out in our routine, so we can just check in with each other?”
Tool #3 Don’t underestimate the time-out. A time-out is when you and your teammate sit together with no distractions, fully present and aware, with the intention to have whiteboard sessions on how to be the best teammate and the best team in the arena. A time-out inspires and motivates the team. It’s where the love for the team grows.
The arena changes daily, and so do the team members. Finding the balance between communication, questioning our emotions and making time for each other – well that’s the secret ingredient for a kick-ass team. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Remember you are worthy, you matter, and you are loved.