Relationship Management For Graduate Students Starts with Reflection: Add to Your Adders

Updated: Nov 5

Relationship management is one of the least talked about topics in graduate school, but it makes a tremendous difference because the people you interact with along your doctoral journey impact your process. They can create both challenges and opportunities; they can help you to grow in ways that you could not have ever predicted, and they can slowly [or quickly] chip away and erode the potential that you possess. In this blog, I draw from a short talk I did almost a year ago connected to an E-book I published on 5 High-Impact Things Graduate Students Can Do to Make Their Second Semester even better than the first. In this talk, I discussed the need for graduate doctoral students to center relationship management beginning with the act of critical reflection. And,urged them to ultimately add to their Adders.

One of the shortest and most practical books that I've read over the last couple of years is Dr. Verna Price's little purple book. It's called the Power of People. You can read it in the afternoon if you set aside a few hours. It was super impactful for me, and I use her book to frame the considerations I propose in this blog. Essentially, she urges us to tap into our purpose and identify how our close relationships impact us deeply. And so I'm discussing the four groups of people that she says really impact us in our lives. And she says that it's important that we identify these people and identify where they're at. Dr. Price’s model is helpful for graduate students because it can help to improve relationships in academia, professionally, and personally.


The first type of person she describes in her model is an Adder. These people are positive; they push you to think outside of your thinking. They're authentic, they bring a positive influence into your life, and they do it without strings. They help you to become your best self, and they build your confidence. They encourage you to tap into your gifts. And so just like the term says, they are ‘adding to the goodness that you already possess”, but they're not just letting you sit there; they're pushing you to do as much as you can with your life.

The next group of people in her model are called Subtractors. And these people take away from others. The tricky part is they do this unconsciously or consciously. How do we know that they're doing this? Well, they break down your confidence. They deplete your joy and your resources. They question your ability to succeed, and in their core, they are intimidated. They're afraid of your gifts. They're afraid of your talents. They're afraid of what other folks have to bring. And they're often socialized right into using their power negatively at an early age. So this is a lot of our subtractors are taught from a very young age, these things and so they are they they're not just this is who we are. They grow over time, right? And they see others doing these things and they begin to mimic these things now at their core subtractors really desire to be accepted. And learning about the Subtractor was a really tough one for me because I began to consider who the actors were in my life as well as if I had been an Adder or Subtractor. I also began to think about stages in my life, who I was during life transitions and stressful situations, and how I may have been a different type of person that I intended to be.

So the next group she discusses are referred to as Dividers; they are manipulative and deceptive individuals. They're polarizing and dangerous, and they really want to separate you from your power, your purpose, and from the goals that you have set. They want to break you down; and they view you as a threat. And similar to Subtractors they are not always out right identifiable. They are tricky because they will mask what they're doing with the illusion of caring at the onset, and they create a web of actions to tear you down. Their goal is to control you.

And, finally, the last group she talks about are multipliers. These folks are so special because they bring an abundance mindset into your life. They are just like the Adders in that they give without strings. They delight to see you succeeed, and they amplify your purpose and your gifts. Dr. Verner price says that they're they often feel like they are called to you. They are critical and motivating. They're observant because they're looking to see if you are mentee-able or if you're coachable. But what sets these folks apart is that they are going to amplify you. They're not just going to add to you, they're going to amplify you. They are going to bring resources to you. They're going to bring out your gifts. When you leave them, you're going to feel not just good, you're going to feel amazing. They're going to elevate the gifts that you have. Now the kicker with these is that they can be with you for a season, or they can be with you for a while. And so they're not necessarily your lifetime folks.

What graduate students can do: considerations and questions for moving forward