Disempowering Withdrawals and How They Impact Our Relationships by Cynthia Greenawalt

Disempowering Withdrawals and How They Impact Our Relationships

{5:33 minutes to read}  Just as there are a variety of deposits we can make into a relationship for it to flourish, there are also various types of withdrawals we need to be aware of to manage the health of a networking partnership. There are “premature withdrawals” (which I discussed in an earlier blog) and these can be a hindrance to the relationship-building process because they are out of sync with the stage of the relationship that we’re in with the other person. Then there are “empowering withdrawals,” which are warranted because the relationship has reached the “Trust You” stage, and the other person is honored to yield the “dividend” of support to us and to our business. It is the nature of a human being to serve — it just flows best when we take a withdrawal after reaching the fruit-bearing, dividend-yielding stage.

While an empowering withdrawal has a positive impact on the relationship, “disempowering withdrawals” have a negative effect on the development of the relationship.

The challenge: disempowering withdrawals are subtle and live in the blind spot. These happen when we do certain things that diminish a relationship, such as referring someone who is not expecting to be contacted, or worse, isn’t even in the market for the other person’s services (i.e., a “bogus referral”). Other examples include promising to attend a networking colleague’s event and either cancelling or no-showing. And it includes having a coffee or tea scheduled to explore or expand synergies with someone, and then bowing out last minute — no matter how valid the reason for cancelling.

The key here is that the bulk of the disempowerment happens in the way the cancellation is handled.

For example, there was a week recently where I had two coffee meetings scheduled and both fell through. For the first one, I’d set my whole day up so I would be in the part of town where the meeting was to be held. When I got a text from the person I was supposed to meet that said, I overslept and can’t make it, I noticed there was no personal apology; no mention of the impact her cancellation had on me and how my day was organized. I noticed that the lack of owning up literally took the wind out of the sails of this relationship, since I was left feeling she didn’t seem to respect my time or care about the impact of her breakdown on me. And it had me concerned about her reliability should I opt to refer someone to her.

We all have breakdowns, and I’m not immune. The key is how we clean up and own up to the messes (and disappointments) that our breakdowns create with others.

Two days later, I received a text from the person I was scheduled to meet for the second coffee meeting that week. His text was completely different from the note of the previous person who cancelled. The first part of the text was about a crisis at work that this person had to handle. Just as I was feeling disappointed and annoyed by the repercussions of this last-minute change, the second part of his text came through — containing the most amazing words: Cyn, I’d like to acknowledge the impact my cancelling has on you and your schedule. Your time is valuable and I want to make it up to you! 

His acknowledging the impact of the “disempowering withdrawal” of cancelling last minute turned this moment into an empowering experience: it deepened my respect for him as a true professional and as a compassionate human being that seemed aware, awake, and in tune with how his actions affected me. It made me think, wow, if I refer someone to him, he will be an in-tune, conscious, present human being with my referral. And that is precious.

Yes, I’m human and I’ve had days that fall apart with scheduling mishaps. Here’s an example of where I had the opportunity to turn a negative withdrawal around:

A last-minute client emergency came up and I needed to cancel an afternoon coffee with a networking colleague. I told her that I was aware that cancelling on such short notice created a breakdown for her, because I know she arranged her day and set up childcare to come into the city to see me. So I looked at what I needed to do to turn this disempowering withdrawal into something positive: I owned up to the impact on her. I told her I’d like to pay for the babysitter she arranged, and would make our rescheduled coffee for a time and place convenient for her. Her response made it all worth it: “I’ve never had anyone offer to cover the cost of childcare with all the meetings people have cancelled on me. I won’t accept the money but that you offered it has blown my mind. What a classy move!”

And one more:

I felt awful on the Saturday afternoon of a friend’s performance. We were new friends, and possible collaborators, and I was hyper aware that texting to say I couldn’t make the performance — which supported a cause very near and dear to her — would land as a disempowering withdrawal. So I reflected on how to let her know I value her and that I don’t take my word lightly. And after letting her know I was under the weather and wouldn’t be attending, I texted these words: I wanted to be there to support you. Will you please send me the link where I can make a donation to the organization?

Before cancelling an appointment, or deciding to back out on a promise to attend someone’s event, think about how you’re going to make that cancellation. Take responsibility for the inconvenience or disappointment caused for the other person, and you have the opportunity to shift the whole experience into an empowering one!

Cynthia Greenawalt

Cynthia Greenawalt

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