“Your history reveals you are good at getting into adversarial relationships.” – Jocko Willink
When I heard these words on Jocko’s podcast (episode 5), I cringed. Jocko was talking about a subordinate who asked him for advice. And Jocko, who could be blunt with this man knowing the words would be taken as constructive criticism, gave him the raw truth. Jocko might have been counseling a fellow SEAL, but I know that over the years these same words could be applied to me. When I go back and I read my old USAF officer performance reports, I saw that I wasn’t that way back then. I was noted for my tact as a junior officer. That means I have changed, and not for the better.
I realize that I’m not alone. I’ve come across many professionals who think this way:
Jocko, in that same podcast, made this observation to that same individual (actually prior to pointing out the individual’s history):
“Creating adversarial or antagonistic relationships never helps you reach end goals.”
He goes on to explain that at best, someone who you are in an adversarial relationship with will simply not get in your way. At worst, they will actively seek to stop you. Therefore, it doesn’t do us any good to create adversarial/antagonistic relationships. We only hurt ourselves.
Now I titled this staying out of those kinds of relationships. The best way to stay out of those kinds of relationships isn’t to avoid people with whom those types of relationships are likely to occur, whether because of them or because of you. Rather, it’s to understand that building a healthy relationship is important for personal success and act on that understanding. Part of that is to accurately assess whether you are being adversarial. Maybe you’ve changed like I did. Maybe you’ve been that way as long as you can remember. It doesn’t matter. What matters is actively seeking to build healthy relationships, not adversarial ones.