RELATIONSHIP MAINTENANCE-STABILITY

Relationship Stability

“A stable ship can sail unstable seas…”

The Stability and Longevity Relationship

Longevity has always been synonymous with equaling success and a direct ramification of longevity is stability. If we want our relationships to last, they need a strong stable base from which to spring from. That means planning and constructing an environment meant for stability and thus longevity by design. As men, it is our gender expectation to take the leadership role with guiding, managing and fostering the relationships we desire and enter into. A critical component to this is initiating the cultural baseline within the relationship that influences those elements that contribute to a stable and healthy relationship to begin with and to make sure it stays that way (the maintenance part). In each case, we can discern a series of interaction patterns within both healthy and successful relationships, as well as un-healthy and failing relationships, where a mindfulness or lack thereof plays a critical role in determining the stability of those relationships. If you are not working toward relationship stability, you’re not working toward relationship longevity, plain and simple.

The Power of Positivity

It should come as no surprise, except for the severely dysfunctional, that thriving couples (happy and healthy) accentuate the positive in life more so than those that live in languishing relationships (unhealthy and co-dependent). We have seen before that emotions act as powerful contagions and we should be wary of accepting poor attitudes, dark emotions and negative outlooks, which are highly contagious and insulate ourselves by behavior and action from this outcome prior to it becoming a rapid adverse selection spiral from which we cannot escape. Doing so is a form of emotional boundary setting. While we can come to experience such feelings, we should not dwell there, nor permit those feelings and emotions to take root with ourselves or with our partners. Likewise we need to be vigilant and guard against negative messaging behavior, such as incessant criticism, sarcasm, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (avoidance behavior) that is the antithesis of stability, which creates fertile ground for negative attributions , distancing behavior, re-casting relationship narratives and incentivizing solutions outside of the relationship to fulfill our needs and desires (such as extra-relational fucking around). In this regard, it will take a particular man to be able to face not only the demons in his life, those of his partner, but also to face and turn away the negative beliefs, attitudes, outlooks and behaviors his partner is exhibiting or fostering, without alienating her in the process (diplomacy anyone?). In this regard it pays handsomely to have a strong masculine frame within the relationship that is able to sort out emotional trivialities, to define and interpret what is important, by taking issues into perspective, by accepting accountability for one’s emotional state, and being emotionally secure in the face of adversity… we need to be emotionally supportive of our partners, but not emotionally immersed where negativity is at root and command, least we become consumed by it and our relationship drowned by it.

Value of Openness

Couples who stay together tend to exhibit high levels of operational maintenance in making sure that the relationship is open for both parties to express their wants, needs, objections and concerns freely and have worked in advance to make sure this is the relationship climate and experience. There’s always a certain amount of inertia that must initially be overcome to start difficult communication let alone begin a conversation after a history of pent-up frustrations, fears and anxiety that have already been established, let alone in conditions where real damage has previously been sustained and our partners are nurturing grievances. In all cases we lead by example and as such we need to be open and receptive to receiving feedback and actively soliciting it from our partners, prior to our expecting them to do so. We need to have already shown and exhibited a forum and willingness to talk about issues of the day, the operations of our relationships and personal frictions long prior to when we actually have an issue to overcome. In doing so, we need to express and exemplify cooperative and optimistic behavior in our approach and dealings with problems as they arise… note the term ‘as they arise’, avoiding communicating frictions and troubling issues doesn’t just save them for another day, it is a form of management neglect that is far from benign, but quite cancerous. It formulates a situation where the issue will not be addressed until it reaches the conflict or crisis point, at which damage is already being done to the relationship. This is where having weekly one on one meetings directly with your partner to gauge their temperature, reading of their emotional state, what their emotional reserve is and the overall state of their morale, provides a natural and reoccurring opening for just such dialog between the two of you. We should be aware of what internal and external factors are driving the emotional status of the relationship and to make relational tune-ups as necessary to mitigate unnecessary wear and tear on each other and the relationship.

Importance of Reassurance and Providing Emotional Sanctuary

Anxiety is typically associated with turmoil and concerns governing future projections of fear, stress, worrying and often accompanied by an overreaction and sensitivity to a given situation. If your partner is in doubt about the nature and your future together, fully expect a high degree and measure of relationship anxiety and behavior as a consequence… By clearly communicating our intentions, our thoughts, beliefs and feelings about our partner and relationship we can clear the anxiety laden air of doubt and insecurity. Saying “you are my team”, “You are my girl”, “I am in this with you”, “I’m in”, “you are my safe place” are all very clear indicators to soliciting trust, reducing distrust and an investment of hope within your relationship, while providing a measure of emotional security that asserts that she is an essential asset and part of your life and future she has a place with you. Likewise we need to provide accurate, timely and specific recognition of those elements in which our partner is contributing to the relationship. This form of recognition, validation and acceptance is commonly seen in the form of a sincere and genuine compliment and praise, which has the effect of helping to raise your partner’s self-esteem and promote more of the same. People naturally want to know that their presence, contributions and efforts are appreciated and valued. Denying that is both foolish and ill-advised. Displaying and expressing that thankfulness, not as a reward, but as a form of showing gratitude and appreciation, is the primary means for creating a positive relationship internally. As the leader of the relationship, it is your responsibility to formulate the relationship culture of appreciation, acceptance and love… by looking for and accentuating those healthy traits we are promoting them in our partner, in our relationship and ultimately within ourselves.

 

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Relationship Maintenance Management

Like a boss

“Big problems start from little ones”

Maintenance Objective

The purpose of relationship maintenance management is to generate an atmosphere conducive to regenerating and increasing emotional energy committed to the preservation of invested relationship capital between two parties; that is between you and her. Just as with any other goal or objective, if you know where you want to end up, you are vastly more likely to get there. With relationship maintenance management we want to sustain and reinvest those initial feelings, energies and beliefs we have of our partner back into the relationship, in order for it to increase our overall feelings and satisfaction associated with emotional connectedness, intimacy and love, to minimize wear and tear on the relationship and ultimately to preserve it.

A man’s responsibility

Despite incredible transformations regarding gender equity within our cultural make-up, women on a whole still expect and desire men to take the leadership role and be accountable for the health, direction and vitality of the relationship they are in. It is simply your gender assigned role, biologically and culturally expressed and as men we are defined by it- boys just don’t take on these roles. While many women would openly deny this, or profess a measure of egalitarianism towards responsibilities and accountability(what they say), what women actually do is quite revealing…(don’t trust what people say, trust what they do), as indicated by the most cited reason for instigating a dissolvement of a marriage (women instigating divorce 70% of the time), was the wife’s unhappiness within the marriage; that she just wasn’t happy, validated or fulfilled, i.e., not for actual cause or violation of marriage covenants, but an inferred responsibility of the man’s inability to manage and maintain her satisfaction within it. That responsibility falls to you; she says so, society say so and the family court system too.

***I make no bones about it, choosing to be in a relationship vastly increases a man’s obligations three-fold; first mastering himself, second fostering relationship competency within his partner and third in stewarding accountability of the overall relationship. It is little wonder why in this culture with removed incentives towards relationships, that many men are opting out of relationships altogether for a whole host of legitimate reasons, the least of which are the honest complexities and accountability involved in establishing, managing and maintaining a healthy, vibrant relationship.

Dominance associated maintenance

Repeated studies have demonstrated and reaffirmed the common observation of the consistent erotic appeal of male dominance, as sexual cues of attraction and desirability for women in pre-relationship partner selection. Similarly, dominance associated attraction plays out within relationships when men maintain and enforce relationship structures (male leadership-accountability coupled with responsibility in meeting men’s gender expectations culturally and biologically), regulate patterns of behavior acceptability (boundary setting) and are disciplined in the care and adherence of behavioral actions protecting the health and vitality of the relationship (relationship maintenance). These acts of dominance have proven to have considerable impact to not only a man’s desirability sexually within relationships, but as importantly to a woman’s measured satisfaction within that relationship, which is the proven hallmark of relationship longevity, as a slew of studies and surveys consistently prove. Thus the unapologetic masculine trait of male dominance plays a significant role in providing a maintenance response to a woman’s natural hypergamic inclination (see hypergamy) of social and status dimorphism expressed by her partner within a relationship.  If that wasn’t enough, the simple function of dominance in nature is to reduce unnecessary energy expenditure; emotional, psychological and physical stress (ego depletion severely limits an individual’s and a groups efficiency) and the risk of injury between all parties.  When leadership is clearly established, behavioral codes enforced and the health and vitality of the group protected stress between individuals is greatly reduced, individual anxiety diminishes and the overall measure of satisfaction increases.  Women may cringe at the thought of the value of masculine dominance in leadership roles, but the alternative being proffered by feminism leads directly to loss of sexual attraction, relational and marital strife, divorce, single-motherhood, broken families and children raised with first hand understanding that marriage doesn’t work (there’s a -14% risk reduction in marriage if both partners parents are still married.)  Ladies, if you children truly mean the world to you, you’d be wise not just to let your man, be the man, but make sure that he is.  Make sure that he knows his role, obligations and duties and take ownership and accountability for those roles.  I have no doubt you’ll like the results far better than the current alternative.    

Technical competence

The most effective leaders, lead by example. They exemplify themselves as models for other to follow, which means a never-ending process of self-study, reflection, education, training and experience gathering through responsibility and accountability seeking. To be a competent leader, your technical skill sets have to be sufficient enough to supervise and as already explained, you are expected to lead and thus supervise your partner. In relationships, that means your relationship skills, management and maintenance abilities need to be mastered or you will be found to be a deficient leader and thus partner. You simply must understand and be proficient in the dynamics involved in relationship maintenance (see future blog post on relationship maintenance), if not you need to take corrective action to rectify that.

Education pay gap

I believe that this biological and cultural tendency of women to shirk leadership, accountability and responsibility roles even within relationships, plays directly out in the mythical ‘pay gap’ between men and women, when viewed that males tend to take on jobs and careers that require higher and more specialized education, training, experience, responsibility and accountability associated with those jobs, not to mention the health and occupation risks and overall nastiness of the nature of the jobs or careers that they take. As such, it would benefit men highly to recognize this fact, in developing similar highly specialized education, training and experience when it comes to relationships, i.e., that what we do for our careers and jobs, we should equally do for our relationships and as a consequence our lives would likely be enriched and rewarded just as effectively.

(RE: the ‘Pay Gap’- On the whole men tend to do dirtier, nastier and more dangerous work which pays better than cleaner, nicer and safer work conditions that women naturally seem to choose. Within similar career fields, women tend to choose work environments that have more social elements to them and less of a specialized and arduous educational regimen; women tend to be nurses, while their male counterparts become doctors. Those women who do become doctors tend to be general practitioners, which requires vastly less specialized training, education and acquired skills than surgeons, which is a vastly male dominated field.)

An alternative perspective to this position is if your partner is the typical average western woman, seeped in narcissistic ala cart feminist, entitlement, prized-princess, victim cultured mentality, well versed in the ‘single and loving it’ frame of mind, holds divorce fantasy infused marriage beliefs and your relationship maintenance skills are below or at hers, well you and your relationship are doomed.

Maintenance culture

As the relationship CEO, you are responsible for developing and sustaining the maintenance climate of the relationship, for ensuring the relationship is appropriately cared for, that the standard maintenance protocols are established and followed, while providing or directing resources, responsibilities, training, counseling and mentoring within the relationship. These are your maintenance management responsibilities. As too is ensuring that appropriate time is allocated within your relationship strictly for the care and preservation of it and that these efforts are clearly communicated, received and accepted by your partner. This is simply the business end of relationship sustainability. It often tends to be dirty work no one wants or cares to do. Too often we hear the ‘communication is key in a relationship’, nowhere will that be tested more than when communication is difficult, strained and to a very real degree unwanted (nobody like negative feedback), but honesty and open communication during these times is critical. As such, this will require both yours and your partners attention, directed energy and focus upon these efforts. Lip service to these efforts should not be tolerated. Your job is to lead the maintenance efforts; it is both your responsibilities to strengthen the relationship, as a result of it. It is far better and wiser to start that culture of open, honest maintenance centered communication when it’s easy, emotional goodwill is running high and the risk low, than when it’s needed in dire straits.

Managing Conflict

AngryCouple

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional”

The Nature of Relationship Conflict

Real conflicts in relationships are more than just elements associated with let downs, frustrations, incivility or broached boundaries. They’re deeper and more powerful than arguments and disagreements would at first appear. Relationship conflicts are situations where you or your partner perceive an emotional menace, whether that menace is real or imagined. What’s worse is that they tend to repeat and don’t go away from one relationship to another—that is, these menaces will travel with you into your next relationship and with a new partner. These are highly visceral reactions to situations that rationality will not clear away unless the phantoms that are driving this behavior are identified and addressed. It is important to realize that conflicts more central to issues of attachment and commitment will evoke not only a greater threat response from you or your partner, but are more likely to be the structural fault within your relationship and will be a leading candidate for that relationship failure. That is, unresolved emotional issues have a markedly disproportional negative effect on the health and viability of your relationships and as leaders and managers of our relationships we have a responsibility to lead and manage these.

The Nature of Conflict Avoidance

Much like the real issues driving emotional conflicts, conflict avoidance hides several significant motivators to avoid conflict interactions and serves as a good analogy to the hidden emotional issues behind conflicts. Most people can relate to a very basic element of conflict avoidance just because of the very nature of conflict itself; that it is absorbing, energy-consuming and honestly we want to believe that we have better things to do… but is that truly why we avoid conflict, or are there other issues that are really motivating us from venturing there? Would it be more true to recognize that we may be lacking conflict skills and have had a history of poor utilization of those skills and almost no recognizable ability to manage conflict in a healthy and productive way? Are we too afraid, feel too vulnerable or unsure how to bring to the light of day deeply guarded emotional issues with our partner? Are we honestly too insecure about the nature and true character of our relationship to test it in the crucible of conflict and are afraid to find out the reality of where it stands? Understanding these and any other motivator you may have to avoid conflict will be the first step you take to managing conflict within any relationship.

A Lack of Social Fluency

As children we go through the process of learning and developing a large number of social skills facilitating our interactions with others. One of the most important, but seldom taught or developed is conflict skills. And like all skills, unless as adults we continue to develop, nurture and hone our abilities, we’re slaves to the maturity skill level of our abilities of when we initially learned them, regardless of our actual age. It’s why you’ll see fully grown adults resorting to acting like children, because they honestly have no real ability to do otherwise. Their skill set is limited to that of a child’s. On a fundamental level the ability to hold constructive and healthy conflict sessions is a mark of maturity and one relegated to a fully developed adult. Children need to be taught the critical skills of collaborating with others, restraining anger escalation, rejecting shutting down and emotional withdrawal as a viable conflict management strategy and avoiding or changing destructive behavioral patterns of aggression, to resolve or manage conflict. If as an adult you have not developed those, have positive experience utilizing them and have confidence in your ability to enact these abilities, it’s time you sat down with your inner-child and have a heart-to-heart about developing them.

Emotional Gateway

In an emotional conflict people rarely convey the needs at the heart of the problem; the words being said isn’t what your partner is trying to communicate, the issue being addressed, isn’t really the true issue, as there is often a bigger issue behind a closed emotional door, that contains a very large emotional elephant. If we really listen to our partners, not only in what they are saying to us, but in the patterns of behaviors that bring us back to this same very place, time after time, we may come to realize that they are in fact bringing us to an emotional gateway. We ourselves may not even be aware of how deeply a particular issue from our past affected us, until a situation involving conflict has occurred to uncover it. Partners that don’t trust themselves, have the ability or established an operating pattern and history to discuss pertinent, at-risk issues appropriately will often utilize inappropriate methods to advance an issue into the forefront. They will start a minor conflict to segway the discussion into a larger and more important issue, that they feel inadequate discussing, often called a lead-in. A partner who fears holding a particular discussion due to fears of evoking abandonment issues, relationship flight (you leaving her) or heightened emotional insecurities, may in fact deny the presence of hidden issues, even when directly asked (she may not actually be even aware of it herself). We should be cognizant of this possibility and book mark emotional conflicts, so that if we keep returning to them, we can realize that there truly is something else there, even if our partner is unwilling to openly address it, or the fact we can’t see it. In such a case, finding and knocking on these emotional doors may not be enough. Our partners may continue to deny their existence. In such cases, it is not our responsibility to open those doors, it is our partner’s. If they choose to keep them shut and us out, we can only identify that we were aware, willing and offering a safe environment for them to share with us, but they are ultimately accountable for not doing so. Regrettably these issues tend to be the leading cause for relationship failures, known or otherwise and that is of their making, not ours.

The Crucible- a Test of Character

Emotional conflicts within relationships test the character of the relationship itself and can tell us as much about the relationship, as it does the individuals within the conflict. Just as we can deduce an individual’s social fluency by observing their social skill mastery, we can evaluate a relationship’s strength, health and vibrancy by observing how conflict is handled, regarded and managed within the relationship. Is the conflict not only addressed in a manner which seeks resolution by both partners, but do the partners separate the individual from the issue with tact and respect and do the partners utilize the source of conflict for greater understanding and comprehension of their partner? When done so, conflict can be a tremendous opportunity to lead to deeper respect, trust and intimacy. Conflict tests relationships and individuals more rigorously than other forms of interactions and can be very frightening because of it, but by developing our and our partner’s ability to handle, manage and constructively resolve conflict can we gain honest confidence in our relationship’s true strength and character, by having navigated through it.

Conflict Cost

We must learn to manage conflict because the risks involved in not doing so are very real and very, very costly. Appropriate conflict management prevents physical and psychological aggression within intimate relationships. We are vastly less likely to lash out with physical violence, in releasing engulfed rage and anger that has built up rapidly within a spiraling and unrestrained conflict setting. We are less likely to be physically domineering and physically aggressive, in an attempt to control or manage a situation where our skill sets have failed us. We are less likely to commit emotional and psychological harm in delivering vicious and insidious personal verbal attacks in moments of lost self-regulation. We are less likely to lose relationships that we have invested heavily in emotionally, physically, sexually, socially and financially. Beyond the total sum cost of any failed relationship, the cost of not developing conflict management skills is that this lack of ability will likely be handed down from Father to child. Parents that manage conflict appropriately are less likely to neglect or abuse their children and are more than likely to pass those positive behavior skill sets down to their children. The same hand that guides the Mother will be the same hand that guides his children.

Developing Respect

japanese-garden

“Respect is a carefully tended garden”

Emotional Contagions and the Power of the Negative

Emotional contagion is the human tendency to synchronize and converge to emotional states and behavioral attitudes that are associated with those of others. Two simple observations of this are the susceptibility to catching and patterning other people’s yawns or a change of mood associated with a given venue or crowd. This observation and study goes back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, observed that “hysteria” was transferred from some women to others. Modern research and study into the subject confirms that negative emotions have a disproportionate impact to people’s emotional and behavioral states as compared to the power of the positive. In fact, negative emotions typically are four times contagious than positive emotions, which gives rise to the principal to offset a negative emotion, positive experiences have to be increased four times, just to break even to a neutral state. Research also confers indications that to change a negative to a clear positive requires eight or more incidents of positive experiences. This is one of the reasons why good managers initially remove negatives out of situations they are managing rather than trying to add a positive element and if we are attempting to foster respect with our partners we need to be clearly in a position not to damage, demean, or dismiss the respect we’ve already gain from our partners. We have the power to build respect in the manner in which we conduct our life or ruin it faster than it take to build it. Just as Hippocrates established the medical oath to first do no harm, so too shall we, in our attempts to foster respect, do no harm to the respect we’ve already been given and earned by carrying ourselves and behaving in a manner that displays our sense of self-respect, worth and dignity to others, by telling the truth, honoring our commitments and exemplifying in our actions the values we profess to hold.

Projecting Emotional Contagions

Research into the study of emotional contagions indicate that the process is a deeply rooted, primitive, automatic and unconscious behavior with the emotional trait of empathy being central to the receiver’s ability to emotional converge with the sender’s expressions. Women who tend to be more empathic are thus more likely to be susceptible to emotional contagions whether they are unconsciously delivered or consciously intended. As such there is no better case group for deliberately transferring emotional contagions to and gives rise in general to this notion of Western Karma; ‘that which you put out, will be returned’. Simply put, if we are attempting to foster respect, giving respect to others will be the initial step we take after internalizing it ourselves. Furthermore, an individual who encompasses expressive and dramatic personal qualities tend to send strong signals and if that personality is grounded in high self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect, an empathetic observer is vastly more likely to pick up and emulate those emotional displays and overt acts of respect given to them. By deliberately linking congruent subconscious actions with overt conscious actions we are creating an emotional resonance that is greater than the individual action summation with the recipient.

Recognize their Worth

In my previous post I noted that each of us have accomplished something monumental in the sheer act of coming into existence and that we should honor ourselves in acknowledgement and acceptance of that fact. I will double down with that notion and further expand it to recognizing at a grand level we are in fact the results of 4 billion years of evolutionary success and as such we should approach others in recognition and acknowledgement of that fact. On the surface we take for granted in an extreme way our acknowledgement of others. Modifying that approach in each interaction with others is an incredible step in fostering respect through validating their existence by seeing and recognizing their existence as having value to us.

Recognize their Abilities

As we explore who they are through our engagement with them, we need to become focused upon their accomplishments, contributions and achievements that have occurred and mattered in their lives and how that relates to their sense of pride of achievement and being. We need to be cognizant of not only the benchmarks or milestones of achievements, but also of their life skills and abilities, as they choose to display them. Recognizing their ability to be self-reliant, cope, exercise initiative and think their way through life’s circumstances are the low-hanging fruit of expressing respect to others in transcending their self-doubt, insecurities and defensiveness when it comes to interacting with us and fostering an emotional connection. It is through a combination of validating, empathic listening and providing praise in seeing them for who they are, what they’ve done and what they’ve learned that we show them individual respect.

Recognizing their Authentic Self

Too often our public persona is a result of external pressures and influences to conform to something and someone we’re not through a series of beliefs, obligations, servitude and social tact. It can be on a grand or minor scale, but our internalized private self tends to differ from who we are in public or who we want the public to believe us to be. In our attempts to develop and foster respect, discovering, understanding and accepting people for who they truly are, their authentic self is an immense transformational element for doing so. It is then that true and deep mutual respect can begin to arise. In relationships we will be exposed to and become aware of our partner’s authentic self. It is only within healthy relationships is this authentic self freely given and embraced. It’s called emotional intimacy. In unhealthy and emotionally toxic relationships do the public facades stay up shielding us from our partners.

Manage your Boundaries

People with a strong sense of self, their values and beliefs tend to have as a consequence strong boundaries and personal power. As a result they tend not to be victims of circumstances over which they have little or no control. They do not invite others through their own lack of behavior to take control of their choices and thus their life. They are explicit and assertive in their informing others as to how to be treated, respected and loved. It is through this display of boundary management and self leadership that others can develop a deeper sense of respect for us than just who we are and what we have to offer in return.

Showcasing Excellence as a Habit

Aristotle stated that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act, but a habit”. While we can achieve acts of excellence and garner respect in the process, we want to be an embodiment of it, therefore, our acts of excellence must be a habitual process of behavior. One of the most important ways in which we are valued and respected as men by culture, society and women are our abilities to master, command and showcase hypergamous dimorphisms. It is the basic reason why women want, need and desire to be in relationships with us. If we are to be respected, we need to do more than just the minimum in displaying and embodying these traits.

Sexual dimorphism of our physical being with the markers being fitness, physical prowess, athletic ability and our raw naked physic. We also need to take pride in the manner in which we care for, sustain and maintain our bodies. We need to learn and develop skill sets that display these characteristics and make them accessible to our partners on a regular basis.

Social dimorphism of behavioral traits associated with masculine behaviors such as assertiveness, dominance, risk-taking, self-reliance, self-confidence, to include manner of stance, body language, speech and dress. In today’s age we need to take these traits further and into the interpersonal social roles of relationship skills, management and maintenance. Blogs that focus on such areas, such as Manning Up Smart are great sources for insight and investigation of these.

Status dimorphism of cultural and societal achievement associated with social standing, wealth generation, power accumulation and fame acquisition. We need to fire up our ambition, plan and chart our way to our life’s objectives and have a legitimate manner and means of achieving them. Only then can we truly ask a woman is this a journey she’d like to take with us.

Soliciting Feedback

Soliciting Feedback image

“Houston we have a problem…”

Receiving honest feedback or better yet, soliciting honest feedback is a terribly challenging thing to do initially. Often we are afraid of the answers. We just don’t want our eyes opened to them. We’re afraid of change and the emotional and physical toll on our psyche in accomplishing them. Lastly I feel that we’re also very much afraid of being accountable and taking responsibility for our actions and behaviors in how they affect others and how they affect our relationships. It’s just simply easier to stay comfortable in not knowing, not addressing and not being accountable.

Mind the Sting…

Don’t react to the initial sting of negative feedback, by becoming defensive or guarded. The sting is there to get your attention and to call upon your focus. Learn to recognize it as such. Critical events are confidence-testing junctures and almost always opportunities for learning even though they are moments in which you are managing conflict. With receiving feedback your competence and individual performance are being addressed by your partner as she is expressing her emotional needs. If unsolicited and the more raw, insightful and direct with regards to your long-standing personal traits or behaviors, these can very much trigger self-esteem and self-image issues of the ego in adverse ways. Recognize the value of this opportunity and the information being presented, as it will likely hold value you haven’t addressed or capitalized on and is coming from a trusted source with intimate knowledge of the subject at hand.

 “Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them”

The initial shock to your system will dissipate shortly, if you have the appropriate frame of mind and stay positive by living in the moment. You’re a man. This is the time to display those qualities associated with stoic calm, self-control and fortitude of mind. This is your chance to showcase leadership through example and action that you are able to overcome immediate destructive emotions that will limit communication, reduce trust, marginalize respect and deter potential for personal growth. The qualities of being open, receptive and supporting of personal accountability to your behavior and how you make others experience being around and with you, is central to high emotional quotient leadership and diplomacy, which is essential to being successful in our world today.

I’ll take that criticism with a side of understanding, performance optimization and positive incentives, please!

Criticism is not appropriate feedback for a healthy and respectful relationship. Criticism without a better cognitive understanding of the issue being addressed, alternative task performance behaviors options and positive incentives or associations with performance objectives, creates stress and anxieties which left unchecked will fester into a negative relationship spiral of hostility and resentment, leading to deeper future tensions and conflicts. The point of feedback is not just to alert one to an issue, but to provide constructive means of developing awareness of behavioral consequences, alternative strategies, techniques or procedures to mitigate such performances, and to develop a bond between the parties of trust and respect throughout the interaction, which is the hallmark of developing empathy within a relationship.

Nagging is not your life on auto-correct!

If your partner is unaware of the importance of respectful feedback to a relationship , unfamiliar with actually providing constructive and supportive feedback, it is up to you as the leader within the relationship to maintain that boundary issue of respect, consideration and clear communication, by addressing this deficit by teaching and coaching them through the process of it. Often to have effective communication, we have to clear the channels of communication of what is hindering information navigation. Nowhere is this more important than when dealing with personal animosities and incompatibilities while trying to be emotionally supportive within an intimate relationship. We must first establish the patterns and formats of constructive communication prior to actually attempting to communicate.

Be Gracious…

What we do speaks louder than our words… When your partner is providing you sincere feedback, be gracious and extend a strong measure of gratitude by actively listening to what they have to say without distraction, without proffering excuses. Practice all the skills of an effective listener, by having open and receptive body language and posture, kind and welcoming facial expressions and actively encouraging them to continue to discussion the situation, it’s context, the specific performance tasks being addressed, with possible alternative solutions, as well as the incentives to doing so. This respectful behavior shows your partner that you care and respect them. That their concerns matter to you. That they matter to you.

“Ouch!”

Be aware of becoming defensive and that the more critical the feedback is, the more likely you are to feel defensive. It is completely alright to take a moment and acknowledge that you’re feeling vulnerable and defensive with your partner prior to continuing. Feel free to share that information openly. They likely are to relate that they are feeling the same way in addressing you and bringing it up. It’s common ground. It’s common ground you can work with. It’s common ground you both share in valuing the other. Acknowledging that can reduce the tensions, anxieties and frustrations a great deal prior to continuing.

Check the message

As you actively listen to your partner, seek out opportunities in which you can check and verify your understanding of what they are attempting to communicate to develop a solid consensus of what the real issue is. If you are unclear or unsure of their intent ask and probe for specifics to provide more clarification, until you are sure and they are aware of it. Make sure you are able to communicate back to them the context, the specific performance task in question, what it means to them, how it makes them feel and how its affects their perception of the relationship.

Seek out solutions

Compassionate leaders value others and their input in collaborative problem solving. They will seek out their input in crafting responsive solutions and smart answers to problems. They don’t believe they have and hold all the answers, nor believe that an awareness to a problem is the solution to it. Compassionate leaders have a solid belief that they can find and discover appropriate solutions in conjunction with others, and strengthen the relationship and themselves in the process. Compassionate leaders embrace the power of creativity in navigating challenges. They are able to successfully harness imagination and incentive to drive the engine of change. The power of solution seeking is about your values, confidence and connectedness with the issue and people surrounding them.

 Provide Thanks…

Never conclude a feedback session with “OK.” Much like the Olympic gymnastics, you need to stick the dismount. You need to provide and sincere ‘thank you’ and show your appreciation at their care and consideration, respect and support in voicing their concerns with you. You need to do the same in recognition of that fact. It’s not just good manners, it’s good relationship management.

It may be them, not you…

Not all feedback may be legitimate. You may actually disagree and that’s fine, as long as you clearly understand what your partner has tried to address, how it has made them feel and you’ve been respectful and open to their position and have taken all of it into consideration upon your conclusion. Other times you may not be as sure. At those junctures it would be wise to seek the insights and feedback from others you trust and respect, to gather more information and determine the reliability of the initial insights.

Follow up

While it is highly important to seek solutions to improve, make sure that your partner is prepared to assist you in recognizing when you’re making an attempt at change and to call attention to it while you are doing so in the form of praise, but to benchmark progress to review your performance over time to verify performance modification and acceptance. Doing so will help remove uncertainty which distracts from actual task performance, improve your motivation and lead to more efficient and healthy relationship.

Simple mind reading

When surveyed people were asked how happy they were in their relationship, which was remarkably accurate in predicting the longevity of the relationship over the course of the survey period. Short of mind reading our partners the best alternative is to solicit their opinions directly. Having the self-confidence, courage and integrity to seek their guidance, input and feedback during the relationship can help you mitigate facing the same issues, in a brutal fashion, when she leaves a failed relationship. Either way you’re going to get the feedback, one way or another.

Providing Feedback

“Without feedback you’re operating in a vacuum”

We live in a world and age of constant feedback, most of it subtle, others not so much. We recognize intuitively, if not rationally, that there is a direct correlation between performance and structured feedback, yet in an area as critical in our lives, such as an intimate relationship, we tend to provide little leadership and guidance to our partners, until a boundary has been breached. A strong, healthy relationship will be one in which both parties are able to grow and develop within a safe, secure and trusting environment. That growth and development will be fostered in part under an observance and guidance of well-meaning and appropriate feedback, geared towards removing conflict and improving the relationship bond.

Checking your relationship altitude

To perverse goodwill and not risk alienating our partner, structured feedback should only occur if there is truly a constructive purpose for it and you have a surplus reserve of emotional goodwill in supply. (There is a major difference between providing your partner feedback and becoming her parent.) You should be well versed in the 4:1 praise-criticism ratio where this is the baseline between respondents stating that they feel “OK” in their relationships and not being “OK”. Going below this ratio level and we are at risk of alienating our partner and ultimately bankrupting the relationship. This simple form of social diplomacy should be a basic guide and indicator of how much emotional reserve is available and potentially how well received your feedback will be, prior to deciding to initiate any structured feedback with your partner. If need be, build your relationship and partner up prior to putting any additional pressures on them or the relationship. Note: this does not mean metering our praise like a ‘yes, ladder’ just prior to going for your ‘sale’ of providing feedback.

A.S.A.R.

Providing feedback in real-time may not be to everyone’s, nor the relationship’s best interests or option. Even though any incident or concern may be fresh in everyone’s mind, discretion is the better part of valor. Rather than focus on a general policy of ASAP in addressing an issue, a better and more appropriate approach of ‘As Soon As Reasonably Ready’ (ASAR) should be considered. This gives you enough time to collect your thoughts, prepare them and to initiate the discussion in a calm and reasonable manner, aka ‘like a man’.

Value Follows Energy

How you approach a critical conversation, how you initiate it, the tone and attitude of your words and the nature of your body language matters more than what you say to your partner. The first few seconds of the interaction sets the tone for everything that follows, whether your partner feels under attack or is being guided and received by a loving and caring hand. It is important to remember that value follows energy. Where is your emotional state when addressing your partner? Is it loving? Is it controlling? Is it angry? Is it upset? Is it condescending? Learning to control the emotional state of the conversation will do more for helping to direct the consequences of your conversation, than your words ever will.

A Spoon Full of Sugar

Un-prepare content is rarely palatable. In conveying your thoughts make sure to infuse and express appreciation for your partner. Doing so not only takes off the rough edges of the topic but adds fuel and incentive for initiating change. It is also important to express concern regarding the nature of relationship, as this discussion is about avoiding breaching potential boundaries or failed expectations, which will have a much greater damaging effect to the relationship if left un-addressed. You must be sincere in this regard. It communicates that you care and have respect for your partner. Without it you’re unlikely to foster and empower change.

The Power of “I”

Before launching into the specifics of your concerns it is vital that you place it in context. This is about how you feel. This is about what you have observed. This is what you are noticing. These concerns are about your perceptions. Make sure your partner understands that, by addressing your concerns with “I” statements. Once you have done so, then you are free to address your specific concern, while focusing on the behavior or actions in question. It is important to never make this about your partner, but upon specific behavior or issues. No where during this is it appropriate to bring in snarky comments, sarcasm or character attacks. Lead the relationship by example.

Channel Dr. Phil

Having just communicated the issue of concern, but before actually making your request for change, elicit your partner’s input into the situation. What’s driving the behavior? Why do they feel it’s appropriate? Are they aware of how this makes you feel? In conducting any emotional needs communication it is important to be honest about your own needs, while at the same time validating your partner’s, by providing respect in understanding them by applying the techniques of active listening, prior to soliciting change or proffering specific suggestions of alternative behaviors and collaboration in doing so.

The Cornerstone

Only after your partner has been heard, understood and re-affirmed are you truly free to make room for change. Having done so, frequently people will fail to verify acceptance or understanding back from their partner in exchange. Confirming that your partner hears, understand and recognizes the importance of what you have expressed, after-all, is the cornerstone of the entire conversation. Check their understanding not only of the issue at hand, but their commitment and agreement to amending the issue.

Bring it together

In going through the conflict management points of determining the context, setting the tone, taking perspective and discussing emotions it is vital to resolve any emotional needs communication with re-affirming your belief in your partner as a person and the value you hold for the relationship in general. We started this process with an understanding of the hazardous half-minute, end with the same sensitivity, caring, affection and appreciation.

Developing Empathy Skills within Relationships

 

 

 

 

In the age of sharply increased narcissism, empathy is a dying art.

 

Bad Seeds…

True Alpha males make shitty relationship partners. Their well established brand of endless string of short-term failed relationships and prepotency for fast fused-quick to fizzle marriages are a pure testament to this, as are the baggage laden train wrecks that follow in their wake. While the alpha attraction triggers female hypergamy on many levels, it fails to transition into appropriate nurturing roles which are critically needed to sustain long-term committed relationships. Their low emotional quotient (EQ) plays out as they tend to find themselves to be constantly at odds with others, in a state of being angry, stressed and frustrated, acting out in a controlling manner, which ultimately leads people to push away and tune them out. Ask any child of an overbearing parent.

Remove the Negatives First

It will be no surprise to most to know that empathy is one of the main components of emotional intelligence and that empathic people are skilled in placing themselves inside the shoes of others and seeing the world through another person’s perspective. The problem isn’t the awareness of the skill, but their implementation that stymies people. In trying to improve almost anything it is vastly more effective to remove a detriment than add an accruement. As such we’ll discuss first behaviors that should be removed or reduced.

Lack of Role Models

Our exposure to multiple role models to gather and develop early behavioral traits and reference points for learning social skills is fundamental in our development as adults, as those without them will be at a severe disadvantage to learning appropriate ones, as they will be ignorant of them or exposed to poor ones. Additionally individuals embracing a arch-type that is obsolete can be more detritus than not having an acceptable one, as the individual will need to let go of their false belief system first prior to learning and developing new skill sets, which never seems to happen without a major life crisis. In this regard family structure, the quality of parenting and exposure to appropriate social culture cues largely prepare and determine one’s preliminary social skill sets, to include empathy, leadership abilities along with many others.

At a Drop of a Hat

Sadly empathy is sacrificed when we are upset, angry, disappointed or frustrated. We must not only fight this natural impulse, but to be well aware how our lack of empathy at these times tends to make the most horrific, life impacting emotional wounds when we fail to control ourselves and lash out on blind compulsion. We need to be aware of how we influence our relationships by not only what and how we say what we do, but the manner and regard for how we care for the people we are interacting with when emotions have put so much at stake. While a liberal use of diplomacy and tact is called for a clear sign that we should be on point is any time anger, frustration or disappointment first raises it head.

Double Standards

We all know the ‘Golden Rule’ of treating others the way you would want to be treated, but are we really holding ourselves to the standard we place on other’s behaviors to you? Would you find your behavior acceptable if someone else did it to you? It is all too common to leave our own behaviors unobserved, but they are precisely the behaviors in which are most visible to others and as a consequence of this human trait, leave us incredibly vulnerable to their impact on the relationship. It is important to remember that one can be empathic, validate another person’s view point and yet still disagree. An important step in doing so is developing a personal boundary of dropping any double standards that may exist.

Relating Instead of Understanding

In a misguided attempt to relate and thus foster a sense of rapport and connection with others, we will often try to relate to what they are saying in our own lives and then share that. While fine on occasion it can lead to a situation where the speaker does not feel they are being truly herd or listened to and comes across as a ‘me-too’ type of one-upmanship conversation. Left un-checked it can have negative impact on the relationship, as it is a detriment to shared understanding, as the comparison does little to foster greater insight or further the rapport with the speaker. Instead of proffering a similar comparison, ask a simple question of ‘what did that mean to them?’, ‘How did that make them feel?’ or ‘why was that important to you?’ can go a long way in fostering the connection we think we’re trying to make.

Not Being Present

The less we are being in the moment, truly utilizing the skills of actively listening, the harder it is to tune into other people’s feelings and intentions, which is critical to providing emotional support, as they are communicating them. In our rush to project ahead, to get to the bend in the conversation and to frame our response, we completely lose sight of the reason of our conversation in the first place, sharing information as a means to build, maintain and sustain the relationship.

Accentuating the Positive

Having removed many of the common obstacles to greater empathic understanding and relating with our partners, we can progress into understanding common traits that will enhance and further our empathic skills which will serve to strengthen these important emotional bonds.

Drop Your Agenda

A central part of being present is setting aside your beliefs, concerns and dropping your personal agenda in order to fully hear what your partner is saying. It is the skill of going into a conversation without expectations, without goals of fixing or resolving issues first. Our presuppositions muddy the communication and our thinking process. Our only agenda is listening to our partner’s feelings, sentiments, points of view and reference points in attempts to understand where they are coming from and what they are trying to express. We are listening to gain their perspective. Once we have listened and we’re sure they have been heard correctly can the communication progress from there.

Getting Beyond the Facts

Most of us consider listening to be made up of clearly able to understand the ‘Who, What, Where, When , Why and How’ of what is being communicated, but fail to take into true account the speakers emotional state, energy, tone and body language as they are communicating. These social clues can be imperative to developing a connection and understanding between the parties, as much as the words expressed. Frequently what being said isn’t nearly as important, as what’s not being said, but otherwise communicated. Learning to fully watch, as well as to listen to our partner strengthens the connection between the cognitive and emotional brain which leads to deep emotional rapport that is defined as empathic connection.

An Indian’s Moccasins

In actively listening to our partner we are trying to place ourselves in their shoes, to see the situation from their position, their emotional standing point and how that is affecting them. If you are unsure, it is completely reasonable and beneficial to simply ask… ask them ‘How do you feel about that?’ ‘What does that mean to you?’, ‘Do you mean that you feel…X?’ etc… learning to use open-ended questions regarding thoughts, feelings and beliefs can not only clarify an issue but bring underlying driving issues to the forefront, often these will be issues surrounding emotional needs.

Relate to their Inner-Child

In times of high contest, immense emotional fray, over-whelming pressure and expectations we are faced with a situation that has created a barrier to communication and connection that seem insurmountable. At times like these a simple and effective strategy of visualizing our partner as their vulnerable inner-child we can lower and lessen our defenses, that will then allow us to preserve the relationship and communicate in an effective way. It is by a combination of seeing through our partner’s presence for the vulnerable person that they are and defusing the emotional intensity that we can then focus on the issue at hand without being distracted by the enormity of them or the situation.

If we want our partners to appreciate what we are communicating, if we want them to respond to and work cooperatively with us, then we must consider their perspective, how they perceive us, how they perceive how they’ve been heard and how they’ve been received by what they’ve expressed . Utilizing empathy is key element within this whole process of communication, emotional needs expression and grounding and solidifying the relationship.