Leadership Lessons From World-Renowned Family Therapist’s New Book On Relationships

Bruce Springsteen has worked with Terrence Real and also wrote the foreword of Real’s new book “Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship“. Both Laurie Gottlieb and Esther Perel, world-class therapists also known for their books and podcasts, reviewed the book. Perel calls it “the book that we all need to read to create more thriving and intimate connections.” and Gottlieb adds “Chock-full of wisdom, research, and innovative teachings, Us is the book every human should read in order to truly understand not just their partners, but themselves.” And here’s what Gwyneth Paltrow thinks about Terrence Real’s book:

“This book is a road map for all of us who seek true intimacy. Real’s approach teaches us how to step outside of the culture of individualism and embrace our interconnectedness. We can use it to heal a single relationship and to shift our collective culture.”

Terrence Real is known for his work with couples and created the Relational Life Institute where he shares his experience and knowledge in different training courses. People can get certified in Relational Life Therapy, his couples counselling model.

Despite the book’s focus on relationships and couples, there are plenty of leadership lessons in it. Leadership is after all about having good relationships with your team and peer leaders.

Know yourself

Self-awareness goes way beyond knowing your values and strengths. When you are at work and interact with your team, ask yourself “Who is showing up right now?” Each of us has different sub personalities, but the question is do you show up as the Wise Adult or the Adaptive Child? These two expressions are central to Real’s book and require some more exploration.

The Wise Adult is the rational version of you. It’s when the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for rational thinking, is activated and you act from a place of reason. You are capable of taking decisions, planning and controlling your impulses.

The Adaptive Child, on the other hand, is the part of you that you developed when you were younger and had to adapt to some less pleasant circumstances. It’s related to the part of the brain that is in charge of your “fight or flight response”. In other words, it checks if you are safe or not.

Your automatic response to most situations will come from your Adaptive Child as you’ve lived with it for so long and it’s there to protect you. It brought you to where you are now and helped you survive some difficult moments.

Yet, you’re now in a different part of your life where it’s important to focus on your Wise Adult and teach your Adaptive Child that you are safe and don’t need its protection anymore.

It’s crucial to pause and ask yourself “Who’s talking right now? Is it my Wise Adult or the Adaptive Child?” If you feel that it’s the more emotional part of yourself, it’s best to take a moment, ground and center yourself. Remind yourself that you are safe and that there’s no need to defend yourself.

Show up as your Wise Adult and remind yourself of the next lesson:

You are not alone

We live in a very individualistic society where the illusion persists that you are supposed to do everything on your own, that hard work is everything and that one should always strive for more. In the workplace, this translates into a very competitive environment where it’s hard to find people you can truly trust and who genuinely support you and have your best interest in mind.

Luckily, a shift is happening and new leadership trends like “compassionate leadership” or “relational leadership” are emerging. This is exactly where Terrence Real’s book picks up, too. It is, after all, called “Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship”.

Looking at work from the perspective of “we”, “us” or “the team” puts the individual into the background and focuses on the collective. The connection between the team members (including the manager!) all of a sudden gains much more importance. As the saying goes “There’s no ‘I’ in team”.

Connection on all levels

Real goes one step further and brings up the topic of neuroscience to show that no matter what we believe, we are all connected. Our nervous systems regulate each other, and the more time we spend with each other, the more our nervous systems co-regulate one other.

So for the sake of your wellbeing and your nervous system, put on your “we glasses” and take on the collective perspective instead of spending too much time thinking about the “I”. Both your team and your partner will thank you for it.

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