Have you ever had a 404 error with a friend, a colleague, or a spouse? You know, a moment where you think everything is going well and then all of a sudden for no reason you feel stonewalled, disconnected from the other person and you have no idea what went so wrong? Like a page of your story, your relationship is missing and you are the only one who can’t seem to find it. I have had a few 404 moments in my life, one quite recently, and unfortunately, unlike the internet – in life we don’t get a big screen that flashes “404, page not found”, giving us a heads up there has been a disconnect. Instead, most of us get confused, hurt, or frustrated making assumptions of what that page could have been, or may have been, that went missing.
Renny Gleeson in his TED talk “404, the story of a page not found” (4:08) highlights how these frustrating 404 moments can be turned into opportunities and how every error is really a chance to build a better relationship – “Little things, done right, matter.” Gleeson describes a 404 page as “a feeling of a broken relationship”, one we would add that leaves us feeling badly, blamed and like we have done something wrong. So, in real life when you feel a 404 page in your relationships with friends, colleagues, or family – whether you are sending it or receiving it, how can you use that moment and turn it into an opportunity? What can you learn from it? And how can you use it to build your relationships?
As Gleeson says “A simple mistake can tell me of what you aren’t. Or remind me of why I love you”.
How to switch a ‘404 error’ moment into an opportunity:
ASK QUESTIONS: If you feel a ‘404 error’ moment and there is a disconnect in your relationship, stop and ask yourself some questions: What is this about? Who is this about? What would you like to see as different? Take the time with the person you are feeling disconnected to (or from) and ask some questions to gain clarity around what took place. It will allow you to bring some understanding to your relationship, message respect to the other person, and you will learn something new. It will also allow you both to build a new page of your story – one that will make your relationship stronger and more collaborative. As Gleeson says “little things, done right, matter”.
TEST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS: What assumptions are you making about this 404 error? And what role are you playing in how it’s all unfolding? We all have a set of beliefs that guide us, and can at times not serve us well. Take the time to test your assumptions (more often than not we are wrong) and discover where your beliefs stem from – it’s amazing what we can learn about ourselves, and others.
REFRAME: How can you turn this into an opportunity? Think about what you have learned about yourself and the other that can be applied in the future of your relationship or relationships with others? Sometimes what we think of as our biggest mistakes can actually be our biggest opportunities.
What 404 moments have you had? How did it affect your relationship?