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The first chapter of 📖 How to Work with (Almost) Anyone 📖

Me. Showing you Chapter 1.

I’m counting down the days, and it’s just over a month to go. Soon it will be time to play the music, light the lights, put on makeup, dress up right, and bring How to Work with (Almost) Anyone into the world!

In the meantime, I want to thank my newsletter readers and share with you the 1st Chapter of the book. This is a *world exclusive* peek inside. I hope you like what you see.

Stop Leaving It to Chance

Your happiness and your success depend on your working relationships. The people you manage. How well you work with your boss. The way collaboration happens with colleagues and peers. How you connect with important prospects and key clients.

But the hard truth is this: most of us leave the health and fate of these relationships to chance. We say “Hi,” exchange pleasantries, hope for the best, and immediately get into the work.

No wonder. What needs doing is urgent, demanding, and right there. So, you roll up your sleeves and jump in, all the while crossing your fingers and offering up a prayer to the gods that the other person is as good as they seem… well, is half-decent… actually, you’ll take “doesn’t suck”… and to be honest, you just hope they don’t turn out to be a nightmare. (Most of us have been disappointed enough times to have significantly lowered expectations.)

Soon (sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes minutes), the first cracks appear. A misunderstanding. An expectation not met. A low-grade irritation. A random act of weirdness. Different ways of seeing the world or getting things done. A flare-up under stress.

In short, disappointment.

Every relationship becomes suboptimal at some point, whether it’s a good one that goes off the rails or one that was poor from the start. When suboptimal happens, most of us don’t know what to do about it. We blame them, or ourselves, or the universe (or maybe all three). We get all the feelings: sad, let down, irritated, frustrated. But mostly we are resigned to the fact that this is what happens: relationships always get a little broken, or a little stale, or a little worse. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre. Carry on.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.


Every Working Relationship Can Be Better

Imagine if you could:

  • Keep the brilliant relationships humming for as long as possible.
  •  Contain the dysfunction of the messy ones so they’re less painful and more productive.
  • Reset the solidly OK ones so that when they wobble, they more quickly get back on track.

For all of these, an essential part of the solution is the same: actively build the Best Possible Relationship (BPR). When you commit to a BPR, you commit to intentionally designing and managing the way you work with people, rather than just accepting what happens. With a BPR you create relationships that are safe, vital, and repairable. That’s the foundation for happier, more successful working partnerships.


The BPR: Safe. Vital. Repairable

Vitruvian Man is one of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic drawings: a naked man faces us, arms and legs in two different positions, within both a circle and a square. It’s meant to show ideal human proportions and is named for the Roman architect Vitruvius, who proposed that the three essential attributes of a building were firmitas (strength), utilitas (utility), and venustas (beauty).

We’re not erecting a temple to Diana here, but we do need our own principles to understand the foundation of a Best Possible Relationship. “Strength, utility, and beauty” are pretty good options, but we can do better.

Safe is about removing fear. Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson, a champion for the idea of psychological safety, codified it as this:

A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.

A robust body of research confirms that psychological safety creates individual and team success by unlocking the benefits of diversity, increasing agility with change, and expanding the capacity to innovate.

Not only the risks of speaking up make people “less than” at work. Too many fear even showing up. A study from Deloitte in 2013 talked about “coverage,” a sociological term for the way people with stigmatized identities downplayed that identity, hiding it as much as possible. The study found that almost two-thirds of employees play down parts of their identity. The Google research initiative on management, Project Oxygen, recently added the ability to “create an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being” as a necessary characteristic of a great manager.

Vital is about amplifying the good. I’ve chosen the word for its dual meanings: both essential and enlivening. Vital acknowledges “safe” as table stakes, and then asks: What’s the game, and what are we playing for? It encapsulates the Dan Pink trinity from Drive: people’s motivation comes from a sense of purpose, autonomy, and mastery. Vital means constructing a working relationship with the right combination of support and challenge, one where you each have the best chance to do work that matters, take responsibility for and make your own choices, and learn and grow.

Repairable speaks to the reality that all relationships have some degree of fragility and will have moments of being both cracked (damaged from within) and dented (damaged from without). “Safe” and “vital” are all well and good, but if they crumble at the slightest injury, then the relationship lacks resilience. “Best possible relationship” doesn’t mean there are never difficult moments, but rather there’s commitment and capacity to fix damage and carry on. This stops harm from escalating and ossifying and allows a relationship to reset and, often, to continue more strongly than before.

The impacts of safe, vital, and repairable relationships are felt at the individual and organizational levels. Better work being done. Better retention of essential people. Better mental health. More flourishing and engagement. And fewer required HR interventions, from arbitrating through to firing.


From How to Work with (Almost) Anyone: Five Questions for Building the Best Possible Relationships by Michael Bungay Stanier. © Michael Bungay Stanier.

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.