A Credo for My Relationships

In my last post I introduced four principles for creating positive relationships: empathy, honesty, responsibility and shared vision. I consider them the four cornerstones of a good healthy relationship, whether it be marriage, parent-child, boss-employee and so on. My goal is to grow in my ability to live these qualities in each of my relationships. As I do so, I grow personally and my relationships become stronger, more mature and fulfilling.

What I didn’t share with you, in my last post, is the connection between these four principles and concept of “The Hero’s Choice.” If you’ve read my book, you know that I define a hero as someone who makes choices consistent with his or her highest vision, what he/she really wants in the long-run, particularly in challenging situations, when emotions are strong and it would be easy to react in weakening or harmful ways.

Making good choices, in these situations, requires great awareness, self-honesty, humility, accountability and courage. I have long considered it “heroic” to make such choices. Hal, gradually and haltingly, learned to do so throughout the course of the book, which eventually resulted in his growth into abundance and love.

More recently I had further insight into the meaning of this word “hero.” I got excited about my new discovery and so wrote an “Epilogue” to The Hero’s Choice. My purpose is to share just a portion of this with you today. I hope you enjoy it.

Some four months after the conclusion of the book, Hal, at Charlie White’s invitation, is visiting him in his office:

“I’ve realized that there are four core principles required to develop and maintain powerful relationships, whether at home or on the job.” Hal pulled a sheet of paper out of his shirt pocket and began unfolding it.

Charlie laughed. “You carry it right there in your front pocket?”

“Yep.” Hal grinned. “Of course, lest you think I’m completely backward, I also have electronic copies on my I-Phone and computer.”

“Just wondering,” smiled Charlie.

Hal placed the sheet of paper in front of Charlie. “As you can see, there are four parts, honesty, empathy, responsibility, and our shared vision. I think of it as a “Credo for my Relationships.” I carry it with me so I can refer to it frequently. It’s a reminder of how I want to be in each of my relationships.”

“Does anyone else know about it?” Charlie asked.

“Kathy. I shared it with her when I started working on it. In fact, I’d say we co-wrote it. We’ve talked at length about the principles and how to apply them to our relationship. In fact, that’s the value.” Hal looked down and then back at Charlie. “You can’t just read through them quickly and expect they’ll make a difference. It’s when two people can really talk about what it means and then mutually commit to live by the principles that the relationship becomes empowering to both parties.”

“Or to a team,” ventured Charlie.

Hal smiled and nodded. “Yes, to a team.” He was thrilled to know of Charlie’s commitment to change old patterns and make new choices in his relationships. Charlie influences so many people, Hal thought. What a difference he could make.

Hal turned the paper so Charlie could read it.


Our relationship matters. We depend on each other for our success and fulfillment. What we accomplish, we accomplish together.

Furthermore, I recognize that I can participate in our relationship in ways that are harmful or helpful, unite or divide, build up or tear down. I choose to act and communicate in ways that strengthen, and pledge to live in harmony with the following principles:

Honesty:  I’m self-aware and have the humility to be who I am, without pretense. I’m direct in asking for what I want and need and have the courage and compassion to tell you the truth about my perceptions and feelings.

Empathy: I care about you and respect your thoughts, feelings, and needs and the right to make your own choices. I suspend judgment and create safe and trusting conditions in which you can be open and tell me your truth. I actively support you in achieving your goals and living your vision.

Responsibility: I accept responsibility for myself, my attitudes, communication, and behavior. I am accountable for my choices and the results of my life.  When things go wrong, I make strengthening choices to correct the problem rather than making excuses or blaming.

Our Shared Vision: I recognize our common interests and commit to interacting in ways that are strengthening for both of us. I work cooperatively with you to define and achieve our shared vision.  As differences, conflict, or grievances arise, I commit to work with you to arrive at a solution that is the best for each of us.

Through my commitment to this credo, you and I can forge a powerful relationship that enables us to achieve personal integrity, mutual respect, trust, and outstanding results.


As soon as Charlie saw the document, he barked a laugh. “The letters of the words spell HERO. What’s the significance?”

Hal anticipated the question. “The myth of the hero is a bigger than life person who accomplishes some incredible feat, usually on their own. It’s all about them. We’ve even planted that notion in the leaders of organizations. You have to be some extraordinary person who comes to the rescue, saves the day, and, of course, gets all the credit.”

He studied Charlie’s reaction before continuing. “But the real heroes are everyday people who choose to live from a higher place, from thought-out principles. They make good, even courageous choices in difficult key moments. No public accolades. They do what they know is right even when it would be so easy to do otherwise. The first letters of these words spell HERO because it is not easy living this way. It takes honesty, empathy, responsibility and a commitment to our shared vision. But it is what is right and for the good of all. It’s the means by which we collaborate and empower others, not just ourselves, to make a difference.”

Charlie sat motionless. “Hmm,” he said. “I’ve played the hero. I’ve loved riding in on my white stallion and saving the day, making decisions, telling people what to do. Kind of an ego-thing, now I think about it.” He looked away from Hal. “But I’m also seeing the cost to others. It sucks the motivation right out of them … huh.”

Charlie studied the Credo for quite some time. Finally, he sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “A lot to think about here.” He was silent again.

“You’re telling me that you believe these four principles,” he closed his eyes to test his recollection of them, ”’Honesty, Empathy, Responsibility, and Our Shared Vision,’ are the essence of any productive relationship?”

“I didn’t say productive,” said Hal. “If you define productive as getting results, you can accomplish that through sheer intimidation and power.”

“Yes, I see,” answered Charlie.

“But it doesn’t last, does it?” Charlie answered his own question. “You have to have the external source of power to get things done, which is why I leave so many meetings only to come back later and wonder why in heaven’s name, more has not been accomplished.” He paused. “These principles shift the motivation from outside to inside, from ‘have to’ to ‘choose to.’”

“Yes,” said Hal, excitedly.

Charlie was quiet. “I think I’m starting to get it. I’m thinking about those conversations, after you’d spent time with what’s-his-name in the mountains.”


“Yes, your friend Donald.” He gazed out the window. “That last board meeting, the day you came to my house, even the day in the courtroom … I’m seeing it. You were so honest that it was disarming.” He looked at Hal. “You weren’t dumping. It wasn’t vengeful. No intent to harm others, just the truth … A lot of it owning up to your own mistakes.” He laughed. “Some of it pointing out my controlling behavior.”

Charlie looked around the room as he continued to think through the application of the four principles in Hal’s communication. “And you showed empathy. You asked us what we thought and then listened without interrupting, defending, or arguing … Even when the comments coming back were very critical … You really wanted to understand our thoughts and feelings … But there was something more.”

Hal had no idea what Charlie was getting at.

“Ahhh,” exclaimed Charlie, animatedly wagging a finger in the air. “I’ve got it. You wanted to make it safe for us to say whatever we needed to say. You had been honest with us. You were saying ‘And I want you to know that you can be honest with me’ … huh.”

Hal was quiet but chuckling on the inside as Charlie tried to make sense of his behavior, in light of the four principles. He, himself, had not analyzed his behavior so deeply. His presence and attitude with his partners had come from deep within, once he’d taken full responsibility for himself.

“Let’s see, responsibility,” said Charlie. He paused. “There was no blame on your part … As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. You owned up to your decisions and mistakes. I have to tell you I thought you were nuts, exposing yourself like that … But somehow, the fact that you took so much responsibility for your decisions and behavior kind of took the wind out of your partner’s sails.” Charlie leaned forward and lowered his voice, as though letting Hal in on a secret. “It was like someone pricked a pinhole in the balloon of animosity and their desire for vengeance.”

“Wow,” said Hal. “I had no idea.”

“Well that’s right. I had to keep stoking the embers. They were ready to drop the lawsuit that night. They were still suspicious and not sure what to make of your behavior, but the hostility was gone.”

Hal thought back to the night of the board meeting. That had been his hope. And how disappointed he was the next night when the lawsuit was delivered to his door. The blow of the suit and Kathy’s reaction were a couple of successive key moments that temporarily brought him to his knees.

But by then he knew too much. He knew he was responsible. Not only did he create the mess he was in, but he knew, deep in his heart, that he always had choices. Besides, the biggest win was not “out there.” His win in the board meeting was not about how his partners responded. It was “in here.” He lived, that night, his new way of being, a way of being which Charlie, of all people, was now helping him understand.

“Our shared vision,” Charlie was saying.

Hal interrupted him, a new insight emerging. “For years, it was not our shared vision. It was my vision.” He shook his head. “I even recall some of the statements I made the night I was fired. “I put the deals together. I made you all rich. I built this company.” Hal closed his eyes and hung his head. “No wonder, Charlie. No wonder my partners turned against me.”

He looked up. “Maybe that’s been the hardest lesson for me … I have a little of that mythical hero instinct in me, too. I want the credit. I want to be the hero.” Hal confessed, “It’s tough to give up this hero complex.”

Charlie was sitting back, eyes closed, his hands resting on his lap. “You know, Hal,” he began. “We’re interdependent.” He smiled, shaking his head from side to side. “I know, I know. It’s so obvious that the statement sounds trite. But I’ve been thinking a lot and I realize that no one works in isolation. We accomplish our work together.” He stood and walked towards the large window with a view to the south and west of the city. “Even the most powerful person in an organization would accomplish little if not for other people.”

Charlie stroked his chin. “Together we’re better, we’re smarter, we can get more done.” He pursed his lips and nodded his head. “But it has to be us.”





  2. MerlinJenson`

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughtful insights.


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