During her 2018 Interactive Keynote, acclaimed psychotherapist Esther Perel unpacked the complex system of relationships concluding that the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. Returning to SXSW 2019, Perel expounds upon this truth by examining relationships in the workplace in order to help us master the art of modern leadership.
"It's the quality of our relationships that determines the quality of our lives – but it's equally so that the quality of relationships at work determines the actually quality of our work and our overall ability to succeed."
Once discouraged, emotions are now being brought into the workplace and the languages of "work" and "love" have begun to mirror each other's vocabulary. Perel emphasizes how creating a strong work environment for your company is linked to success and that communication is tethered to creativity and collaboration. But how much time are we actually investing in our relationship skills at work? Companies continue to pitch the next big thing with cutting-edge ideas for the future of everything expect the future of relationships.
Historically considered a "soft skill" in the workplace, "relational intelligence is now one of the top currencies of business success," says Perel. By not addressing this, companies risk failure that cannot be saved by disingenuous initiatives or freebies. "No amount of money or purpose or even free food can compensate for a poisonous relationship at work," adds Perel. She then calls for a reevaluation of where we invest our time and our resources in the workplace providing the example that "65% of startups fail because the relationship between the cofounders busts."
"The golden rule is this: If you want to change the other, start by changing yourself. Relationships are actual feedback loops in which we make the other and the other defines us – back and forth."
From navigating gender roles to the permutations of toxic work culture, Perel explores how we deal with disagreement and breaches of trust in the workplace. Looking at the parallel between two relationship revolutions – at home and at work – Perel highlights three aspects of these changes: the rise of expectations; the role of emotions; and how we have shifted from a production economy to a service economy.
Watch the entire Featured Session, What Business Leaders Can Learn About Workplace Dynamics from Couples Therapy, and then scan your own relational resume.
To take a deeper dive, tune into Perel's podcast Where Should We Begin which explores the intricacies of intimate relationships – Season 3 is now available. Perel also recently announced an upcoming, new podcast about relationships in the workplace. Get a sneak "listen" to the untitled podcast during Perel's SXSW talk above which includes audio clips from a workplace session. Learn more about these podcasts and even submit an application for the opportunity to be a part of it.
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Photo by Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW