This 4-second mental reset will improve your relationships and business

Most people approach relationships backwards. It’s not that our intentions are bad. Our attention is just in the wrong place: on ourselves rather than the other person.

It turns out, a little empathy is all you need to fix nearly any situation. Empathy creates space for deep and relevant relationships.


You’re late for dinner with a friend because a work call went a little long. What’s the first thing you do when you meet your waiting friend?

You explain why you’re late.

In other words, you validate yourself. But what ends up coming of this?

Your friend may be nice and brush it off, but there’s still a sense of hurt. If this happens enough, you may not be friends for long.

Better Approach:

You’re late for dinner with a friend because a work call went a little long. What’s the first thing you do when you meet your waiting friend?

In his book, Four Seconds, Peter Bregman explains that it only takes four seconds to reframe your paradigm and emotions to behave optimally in a given situation.

Here’s the simple formula:

Before you meet your friend, stop and take a few deep breaths. Let go of your work, it’s behind you now.

Think about your friend. She’s been patiently waiting for you and you’re late for the expected meeting time.

That’s all you need to do.

Then, when you walk up to your friend, rather than validating your behavior, validate your friend’s emotions.

Rather than explaining your situation, empathetically explain (in few words) how sorry you are for being late, and how frustrating it must be waiting.

That’s it.

This basically sums up Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends & Influence People.


How would your relationships change if you stopped defending yourself and instead, thought more about the other person? Most people are extremely forgiving when they feel validated when they feel genuinely thought about and cared for.

How would your business change if you were more thoughtful about those you work with, and your customers?

The two most underutilized words in the English language are: I’m sorry.

That’s often all that needs to be said. Stop trying to explain yourself. No one cares. Stop thinking about yourself so much. Become “other-oriented.”

Your whole life will change.

Instead of always thinking about what you can get out of a relationship, you’ll think about what you can put into it. You’ll focus on creating value rather than your emotional state.

Your relationships will be deeper, and your business will be more relevant.

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This article first appeared on Medium.