You know it has to end. You’ve figured that out. You know what it is that must end, and you’ve determined the best time. Now it’s time to figure out how to end well.
Whether it’s a business, a business relationship, or a personal relationship, none of us want to further complicate things by having a messy, ugly ending. At the start of an ending, most of us establish a determination and intention to end relationships as amicably as possible. But, often, along the way, someone says or does something that offends, and things turn sour.
How can you do your part to end well?
The Four Agreements
In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz lays out four solid principles for leadership and life that I think apply beautifully to ending well. Here they are:
- Be impeccable with your word. This can be a tough one in endings, especially if we get feeling vindictive after a perceived slight or stab from the other party. If you have ensured that you didn’t make promises you couldn’t keep or offer to do things that compromise your boundaries, you will never regret keeping your word.
- Don’t take things personally. This one’s even tougher! When things are ending, we are already feeling sad and processing grief and other emotions. This can put us in a place where it is easier to take things personally and get offended. However, even if whatever is said or done by another party is intended personally, you don’t have to receive it personally. Take responsibility for your own words and actions and let others take responsibility for theirs. Sometimes, I go as far a to say, “That’s not mine. I don’t own that.” It really helps if you are grounded in yourself, knowing who you are and what you can own in a given situation; then it’s easier to let go of what you don’t own.
- Don’t make assumptions. Here’s how I have learned (am learning) to do this one: avoid the word “because”. When you are stating something that is a fact, it’s a fact. “This happened”. “He/she/they did this.” When you add the word “because” to that, everything after that word is an assumption… a judgment. You don’t actually know the motives and reasons behind someone’s words or conduct. And usually, when I am making “because” statements, I’m looking for an ally who can validate my offense and be offended with me. If we avoid making assumptions, we can avoid taking damaging, harmful action in reaction, which leads us to be offside on agreements Number one and two! So, ditch “because”.
- Always do your best. Have you noticed that, sometimes, people use “Well, I did my best!” as a defense or excuse? Let’s not do that. It’s always possible to say, “I am learning to do better.” You may have actually done the best at the time, based on your skill and knowledge levels, and we can always learn and grow better, too. It’s possible for both to be true at the same time. Take time to reflect, deconstruct, and learn. And, if you can say you honoured agreements number one through three, I’ll bet you have done agreement number four, too.
Head High, Conscience Clear
Endings are hard. They are emotional. Do yourself a favour and adopt the four agreements as your standards for endings. If you do, you can rest assured that you will walk away with a clear conscience, your head held high.
If you are ending a business or business relationship, let’s talk. I’d like to help you walk through it and get yourself to a place of renewal.
And, as always, stay on point!