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Published:July 17th, 2007 10:02 EST
Interpersonal Neglect and it's Dangers

Interpersonal Neglect and it's Dangers

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

We were seated in the Horizon Court of the Grand Princess, while the ship was anchored off the coast of Olden, Norway. As we gazed at the cloud covered, snowcapped peaks and the cascading waterfalls, anticipation ran very high. Sherry and I had just begun a beautiful 12-day cruise of the North and Norwegian Seas; and Iceland, Ireland and England were yet to be visited.

With thoughts of upcoming speeches and landscapes, I sat quietly with Sherry while we sipped hot tea and coffee. Suddenly she said, "Either that ship out there is drifting toward us or we are drifting toward it, because it’s getting closer." Sure enough, off our starboard side the much smaller vessel at anchor appeared closer than the last time we noticed. As we watched for a while, I began thinking, “There must be a Barber-osophy in this somewhere.” So, we’ll see where this goes.

My initial response to Sherry was, "Maybe we should move before it runs into us." Yet, I really couldn’t tell which ship was drifting. Perhaps like a Norwegian glacier falling on a sand dune our “city” of 2600 passengers was going to drift into the much smaller vessel. Surely not! The other ship had to be the one drifting.

Then I began thinking of a parallel to human relations matters. Isn’t it often the case that when there's a relationship issue at home, in the office or socially it's because the other person "drifted" or collided into us? Surely we're not the ones who were careless with our attitudes or habits.

Sadly, regardless of who has actually been thoughtless in the relationship the fact is, somewhat like a ship adrift, such can harm others and affect our credibility. In other words, whether in marriage or on the job, when we drift into no longer delivering the self we initially sold, relationally we become a shipwreck waiting to happen.

But, something else came to mind while watching the ships. I was reminded that, though we might drift disastrously into others, in the process we also drift away from things of lasting value - never to them. Through neglectful drifting we can slowly abandon principles of leadership, team-building, integrity and commitment.

Yet, none of this is preplanned. I’ve never know anyone to say, “I’ve recently decided to just to drift along carelessly in interactions with others, and just see what happens.” Yet, it’s obvious by observing certain situations that, minus the preplanned part, people nonetheless chose to drift.

Consider that in much the same way that no one deliberately chooses to be a failure, no rational person would intentionally neglect good attitudes and winning habits. However, whether in failure or in attitudes, whether deliberately or by carelessly drifting - it is ALL a choice over which we individually have control. Perhaps this would strongly suggest the need for ongoing self- improvement, frequent self-evaluation, and occasional suggestions from objective friends and family members.

By the way, in case you were wondering, both ships were safe. Can we say the same for all our business and interpersonal relationships?

BARBER-OSOPHY: To stay the course in successfully dealing with others, avoid carelessly drifting away from effective people skills.

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