Make Business And Relationships Stronger With One Magic Phrase

Relationships need maintenance, but sometimes it’s hard to say what we need to - even moreso when mixing business and friendship. Here’s a magic phrase, and useful technique, that will help.

Stever Robbins
6-minute read
Episode #416

Bernice runs the Green Growing Things plant shop, and her husband-to-be Melvin works as the IT guy there. They have it made. They can be shmoopies at home and co-workers at the store. 

But recently, work has been following them home. Melvin has a computer problem he doesn’t want to bring up because it might make Bernice mad. Bernice doesn’t want Melvin to know about cash shortfalls, or recent canceled orders; she suspects the computer system screwed up the orders, and it might be Melvin’s fault. After all, every time she looks over at him in work, she sees him playing videogames, not testing his software. Together they snuggle in for an episode of their favorite show, but there’s something just… off. Even Buffy’s taekwondo takedown of a cemetery full of vampires isn’t quite enough to relax them.

Working with our friends and family can be a blast. But business can introduce new worries, and work tensions can hurt friendships. To keep your friendship strong, even when business problems intrude, make sure you have a way to catch and resolve problems early.

One way to do this is by checking in regularly to make sure everything is OK with the other person. If you want advice on how to ask others for feedback on your own behavior, see a previous Get-it-Done Guy article here. For giving feedback, however, there’s one magical check-in method that will keep your relationship on solid ground.

Play Mad-Libs: Complete the Magic Sentence

You could check in with each other by asking “What’s wrong?” But “What’s wrong” sets up a negative conversation. It could veer off into blame, anguish, and years of couples therapy.

Instead, check in by finishing the magical sentence, “What I’m afraid to tell you right now is…” Complete the sentence with the news you’re most afraid to share from different areas of your relationship, in a positive and constructive way.

This phrasing acknowledges how hard it is to say what we need to. And it does it in a non-accusatory way. Bernice and Melvin need to be able to bring up difficult work issues without it becoming personal. “What I’m afraid to tell you right now is…” provides a way to bring up the scary stuff while framing it as a known minefield.

Schedule a Regular Check-in

It’s one thing to know what to ask your partner to make sure things are going great. But it’s another to actually do it. Schedule a time to check in so that you both actually get around to making sure everything is hunky dorey, peachy keen, and neat-o.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.