4 Ways to Have an Open Relationship With Success and End Professional Jealousy for Good

06/18/2015 03:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 18, 2016


My colleague Lauren and I have similar businesses. We both speak about sexual communication and how to feel more pleasure in your body. We attend the same conferences and blog for the same sites. We could be rivals, but instead, we have a supportive and inspiring friendship. We call this having "an open relationship with success."

I recognize that it isn't always easy to subvert jealousy. The green-eyed monster can rear its ugly head at the most inconvenient of times. But by continually choosing to challenge that pesky voice, I've learned several strategies that help me nurture the kinds of professional relationships that bring me more joy (and, incidentally, more success).

Here are the four strategies I've found most useful.

1. Challenge your scarcity mindset.

In the age of social media, it can be easy to compare what you're doing to the polished posts on someone else's curated Instagram feed. It can feel like there's not enough success to go around and it can seem overwhelming. It's difficult to celebrate another's recognition when opportunities feel scarce.

Fortunately, there's another way of operating.

When you recognize and honor your own gifts and unique voice, you help undo jealousy. Even if someone is in the same niche as you, you will always have your own take on things. Sure, do the smart business thing and determine that there's enough demand for your product, but don't be afraid to step up just because "someone else is already doing that."

There are a lot of people on the planet and they're going to connect with different perspectives. There are plenty of clients to go around.

2. Examine your jealousy. It's not what it seems.

Jealousy is often a mask for deeper feelings like fear, insecurity, and vulnerability. Those big three are very familiar to most of us.

When you run a business, especially one that requires you to create content, you put yourself and your creative efforts up for judgment on a daily basis. It can take a lot of emotional energy, and it's easy for the big three to creep up without us realizing it.

Jealousy is often the first sign that those big feelings are lurking in the background. When we get jealous, we often experience it as being about the other person -- the object of our jealousy. When we reflect deeper, it's nearly always about the tender places within ourselves where we'd love to feel brave, bold, and competent.

There's no easy fix here, but recognizing jealousy for what it is -- a symptom of stuff within you - makes it easier to challenge. Just make a habit of noticing the feelings for what they are -- feelings, not facts.

3. Work on your "compersion."

One of my favorite things I've learned from my ethically non-monogamous friends is the word "compersion." Compersion is the feeling of genuine joy you have when someone else is feeling joy. In open relationships of the romantic variety, people often strive for compersion in that they nurture positive feelings toward the joy their partner feels with other partners. It's sometimes described as "the opposite of jealousy."

Ethically non-monogamous people talk about "working on their compersion." They recognize its value, actively challenge scarcity thinking, and encourage positive, compersion-inducing thoughts.

Framing this in a business context, it could be helpful to remind yourself that "there is more than enough success to go around" or that "my voice is unique and valuable." When you remind yourself of these things, giving that colleague a well-deserved fist-bump will be all the more sincere.

4. Know when you need to ask for empathy. Learn how to give empathy to others.

Empathy is one of the greatest communication superpowers. I nurture this skill in my personal life and I talk about it at length in my workshops on communication.

When we need empathy, we can be more likely to feel jealous. In other words, when we really need to be seen and heard for what we are feeling, we can sometimes feel "less than," which can make jealous feelings emerge.

Knowing when we need to refuel our empathy reserves is a key skill in making sure we can show up in the way we want in life. It can be a game changer when we can say to someone we trust, "Hey, can you give me some empathy about some stuff I've got going on?"

Giving good empathy is all about showing up for someone else's emotional experience, without trying to change or fix it. It's not about comparing stories - it's about giving them and their feelings your kind attention.

When you strengthen your empathy muscle, you get better at showing up for the folks around you. You also get better at recognizing when your own empathy reserves are getting low so that you can show up in a way that encourages others and nurtures open relationships with success.


When you build relationships on shared celebration rather than on jealousy and grasping for resources, those relationships can be life-changing. No one understands my business like my competition. By choosing an open relationship with success, I'm choosing to have support that I couldn't have any other way. I'm choosing to benefit from the lived experience of someone who gets my struggles and shares in the celebration of my victories. It's empathy over jealousy (and it's a lot more fun).

Kate McCombs and Lauren Marie Fleming both present workshops and lectures at organizations across the country. To find out more about their presentation "How to Have an Open Relationship with Success," visit us here.