Matthew Kelly, a popular Catholic writer and speaker, speaks about the 7 levels of intimacy in relationships. I was at a meeting this morning at church and began wondering how this idea could be applied to relationships in the workplace. The 7 levels are:
1. Cliche' - this is basically the relationship in which one person says, "Hi, how are you?" and the other replies, "Good, thanks." and the conversation is over. Very basic and superficial.
2. Facts - This one goes a tiny bit further. The reply to "How are you?" will include a few more details such as, "Oh, I'm good, working hard, leaving for vacation next week." Pleasant, but still not much more than a passing comment.
3. Opinions - In this relationship a person will give their opinion and listen to the other person's opinion without really trying to understand why they feel the way they do. They may even just try to tell them why they should feel the same way they do.
4. Hopes and Dreams - There's a bit more trust in this one and the people involved will share what they want and hope for in life.
5. Feelings - Now the people in this relationship have enough trust in each other to express their real feelings about how things are between them and about other people and circumstances in their lives.
6. Legitimate Needs - Here people can express what they need and ask for it and may even care enough to ask the other person what they need from them.
7. Faults, fears and failures - This is the most vulnerable level of intimacy. It's the level that all the other levels have built up to, culminating in trust and inter-dependance.
In our meeting, the final question was, "What level have you reached with God?" Now, there's something to think about if you are so inclined. For the purpose of this blog, I'm asking you, "What level have you reached in your relationships in your practice; with your staff and with your patients? How far do you really want to go? What would reaching level 7 mean for you and your practice?
I would venture to guess that most people have at least gotten to level 3. You may even wish you'd stayed at level 2 so that you didn't have to listen to all the various opinions of your staff members. In my opinion, the problem with staying at level 3 is this, the opinions become annoying because no one cares enough to express the hopes and dreams that would help others understand where the opinions are coming from.
So, let's say you move up a level and begin sharing your hopes and dreams. That could be an awesome staff meeting in itself and would surely offer a few eye, and possibly, heart-opening surprises. It will only work if you let your staff in on the 7 levels though, so that they understand you're not just being nosy or weird. You can't just ask everyone to share their hopes and dreams and then just drop it there either, they'll feel used and end up resenting it and clamming up next time you try to do something like this. You will have to commit to moving on to level 5 and sharing and hearing their feelings. Ok, I know some of you are horrified at the thought and thinking, "Well, now she's lost it. This is too touchy-feely and I don't want to do it. It's just work, who needs it?" Well, that's fine, you can stay at level 3, but you'll be missing out. If you go through level 5, you'll begin to build a culture of trust, cooperation, and shared mission. Who would want that?
At this point, you may be as far as you want to go. Everyone is working together well, people care more, they are beginning to share your vision. Life is better. But, don't you wonder where climbing to those last two levels might just take you? Do you really want to stop short of the pinnacle? I didn't think so. Level 6 may make things a little uncomfortable. This is where people start asking for what they need. You may not like to hear that your hygienists need 10 more minutes per patient to do the job right. You may hate to hear your assistant say that one more staff member would make everything go smoother. But, here's the thing, you get to ask for what you need, too. You can ask your staff to share in your dreams for your practice. You can ask them to treat your patients the way you want them to. You can ask for dedication, willingness, and you can ask them to take responsibility for the success of the practice. You can feel the groundswell of the building commitment to a shared cause and that's what inspires and drives success.
You may wonder, if we have all that, why should we bother with level 7? Really, who wants to talk about their faults, their fears, and their failures? What purpose does it serve? It levels us. It makes us all human to each other. It connects us in a way the other levels can't. It sustains the success that was so hard-earned. It brings us back together when we fail at one of the other levels. We remember what was shared and we feel for the others when they are struggling, or causing us to struggle. It makes it all work and it makes it all real.