Relationship Management in “The Death of Stalin”

Screenshot from “The Death of Stalin” (2017)
Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev (left) and Sylvestra Le Touzel as Nina Khrushchev (right)

I was watching the dark comedy “The Death of Stalin” the other day and noticed an interesting scene that imparted some wisdom about relationship management. Early in the movie, Nikita Khrushchev, played by Steve Buscemi, has returned home at the end of a long day with Joseph Stalin and other politicians. As he undresses for the evening, he is listing off a series of topics to his wife, who is in bed and taking notes in a book. As he lists off the topics, he comments on which topics landed well with Stalin, and which he should avoid in the future.

Setting aside the bleakness of needing to make notes on things that will keep you alive around a dictator, it was an unexpected example of good relationship management in action.

I’ve done stuff similar to this. At first, I thought it was a sleazy practice, but after overcoming those initial thoughts, I realized it’s an entirely effective way of keeping track of important details either early in a relationship (here, I mean relationship in an extended sense, not in a romantic sense), or for relationships with infrequent contact points.

If it’s worth maintaining a good relationship, then it’s beneficial to reflect on your interactions and take notes on things worth remembering. Whether you use a book as in the film, or making notes in your phone’s contact cards, it can be helpful for refreshing yourself when you interact with a person again. I’ve made notes on business hours, names of employees at a shop, the names of a person’s significant others, and even early in my relationship with my wife I would note ideas for the future.

Far from sleazy, it’s a useful way of paying attention and making others feel special because you’ve taken the time to learn and remember details about them. And, instead of relying on your memory, you can have the confidence that you’ll get the particulars right and avoid looking like a fool.

Stay Awesome,


2 thoughts on “Relationship Management in “The Death of Stalin”

  1. Interesting take on things, though I would never watch a movie that might attempt to humanize the founders of communism, as they were all complete monsters. As they say, knowledge is power and you can’t have much knowledge without information. In the business world, specifically on the sales side of things, there is a huge field of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and the systems employed to maintain information and knowledge. Far from, sleazy, it is the foundation of the entire sales industry. It is a good idea to take note of information because it helps build relationships. The entire world revolves around relationships.


  2. Ooops, forgot my suggestions. Anyway, for the business world, there are a lot of CRM tools out there, mostly internet-based software solutions requiring a subscription. They are pretty expensive and largely unnecessary if you take time to think things through and do some planning. Deciding what info to track is the big thing. Once you do that, you can create a fill-in-the-blank form for use in your word processing or spreadsheet software. The big thing with CRM software is reminders of important dates. You can do that manually or set reminders in whatever note taking software you use. Be creative; then you don’t have to spend $50 a month on CRM software.


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