Are you comfortable with messy relationships?


Have you ever been so angry you didn't dare open your mouth?

Oh. I see. Maybe it's just me.

The details of my story may overlap with yours since they are common enough.

I was in a meeting with a colleague where I felt I had been thrown under the bus.

I don't shock easily, but in this instance, my lips were pursed and my mouth sealed shut. I didn't trust myself to say one thing.

"Betrayed" sounds dramatic, but that's what I felt.

After the initial encounter where I contained (barely) my emotions, I decided to suck it up, skip any conversation about the incident, and let the whole episode go.

I simply didn't want to deal with my colleague. I wasn't going to engage in a awkward conversation and I created excuses reasons why talking wasn't necessary.

I told myself I would get over it.  Whatever.

I avoided the person for the better part of a week.

I know a week doesn't sound like a long time, but avoidance took work and planning.  At the end of each day, I strategically told myself to move on, but, truthfully, I had not let the problem go emotionally, relationally, intellectually, or just about any other "-ally."

In fact,the arguments and resentments lived in my head (and heart). As some sort of quasi-outlet, I found myself consistently telling my friends the story.  I came home and told Billy all about every twist and turn of the incident.

I obsessed over it.

Finally, Billy said something to me that landed squarely.  In the kindest, most patient way possible, he "bottom lined" the issue with ME and said:

If you're ever going to be an effective leader, you've got to get comfortable with "the messy" parts of relationships.


Forget about the details of my colleague's "problem"; I had a sizable issue myself.

If I wasn't comfortable working through the tension of an honest, candid conversation, I wasn't leading anyone well, beginning with myself. I didn't want to deal with the turmoil.

I just wanted it to go away.

However, as every grown-up knows, problems don't go away on their own.

They need to be talked about and worked through.

Avoidance is easier, but it isn't better.

Conversations make things messy because talking through "stuff" brings out all of the junk and forces you to look for compromises. Conflict communication forces you to make a mess in order to make the relationship better.

Some days, making a mess in the name of improvement seems counter-intuitive, but that is how it works best.  We all know home renovations bring chaos before order, surgeries hurt before healing, and workouts cause pain to bring strength.

In healthy relationships, the mess of honest, gut-level, truth-telling dialogs is what makes communication CLEAN.

How comfortable are you with messes?