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 Additionally individuals embracing a arch-type that is obsolete can be more detritus than not having an acceptable one, as the individual will need to let go of their false belief system first prior to learning and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.

 

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Staying Positive

Troubles seldom disappoint

As a gender men are expected to take the lead socially in almost every aspect of the courtship ritual and early developments of initiating the baseline of that relationship is established by concealed negotiations of what we except by accepting initial patterns of early behavior from our potential partner. Being cognizant and astutely observant of initial patterns of behavior or personal narrative, while dating, coming from a potential partner can help us increase the probability of establishing a healthy and productive relationship by filtering and screening those potential mates. These values should be treated and regarded as boundaries as establishing limits to what you will accept into your life and with those that you invite in. One of the most important is the ability of a couple to accentuate the positive in life more than those that choose to revel in the negative of life.

Too much EQ

Women often fall victim of cluster of personality traits and attributes that promotes excessive effusiveness, which in times of stress heightens their vulnerability, insecurity and emotional state that leaves them not only needing but desiring a strong, secure and emotionally stable figure in their lives. That figure has historically has been filled by stoic male partners, to re-establish an emotional baseline of emotional self-worth, security, and stability. The new girl order simply is creating an environment and culture in which historic masculine roles are not valued, developed and respected in men. As such, we are raising new generations of men lacking or devoid of these traits, characteristics and attributes. This is nowhere more apparent than when we look at the divorce initiation rates, between gay couples, as lesbians tend to divorce at a vastly higher rate than homosexual couples, where these skills, attributes and personality traits are typically not as developed or missing altogether individually and within the coupling. Even with the staggering high divorce rates within heterosexual couples, it pays to have a masculine male in the relationship that is able to objectively sort out emotional trivialities, as 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, which are not historically feminine traits.

Strongest frame wins

Emotional contagion is the unconscious tendency to mimic the emotions of others, (the stronger frame wins), which takes place continuously within a relationship. Without being aware or insulated from it when the behavior or emotions are negative can become a disastrous effect individually and ultimately within a relationship. Emotional detachment is the concept of insulating oneself from the emotional contagion. It is completely possible to be emotionally supportive, without being emotional immersed. Establishing that emotional boundary is critical to maintaining emotional context, stability and security, as poor attitudes, bad emotions, and negative outlooks are all contagious and detrimental to emotional health and a relationship. If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in life, you’ll find it easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that is far below what you deserve.

Bad apples

First order of business of any leader is to eliminate the negative rather than accentuate the positive, as the negative has repeatedly shown in study after study has a disproportionate impact, as compared to the power of the positive. All militaries know this and have framed their entire institutions around this concept. Businesses marketers realize this concept as well, as a bad stereotypes and reputations are easier to acquire, and harder to shed, than good ones. As the male, it will fall to you to hold a critical confrontation when the patterns of acceptable behavior, attitudes and emotions exceed healthy boundaries. This should be done in conjunction with emotional needs communication and active listening skills for best results.

Resisting reality

More often than not, one’s emotional state is a function of how one interprets events, rather than what actually happened. Our emotional state (good or bad) is generated by interpretations of events. Taking personal responsibility for your happiness involves, ultimately adopting a ‘trust mindset’ which refers to the willingness to fully and unquestioningly accept the outcomes you are dealt with in life and ‘trust’ within yourself you are capable and able to handle what comes. To do so otherwise is the hallmark for embracing misery and suffering.

Think like an optimist

People who don’t give up tend to interpret setbacks as temporary, local and changeable. The best way to immunize a partner against depression, anxiety, and giving up in the face of failure or perception of it is to teach them to think like optimists in adjusting their self talk, setting goals in small attainable steps, to mentally rehearse succeeding in their efforts and activities and to learn active stress reduction techniques to soothe their mind and bodies. These are the same psychological techniques taught and demanded of special warfare candidates going through Special Forces selection process. These techniques work and are valued and utilized by those who require success in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Behavior economics

Researchers have shown for a relationship to succeed, the positive and good interactions between a couple must outnumber the negative by a factor of 5:1. If the ratio falls below that, the relationship is likely to fail. In studies the best indicator of happiness was the frequency of eating with friends and family… If you were to choose one activity to produce an emotional upswing, start with breaking bread with those that make you smile, laugh and forget your troubles. Having a special meal together can be an immediate remedy, but often you just don’t have time to prep a meal on the fly, which is why I recommend having a nice bottle of wine always at hand. By taking time to stop the normal pattern of daily occurrences and slowing things down and making them more pleasurable, while you actively listen and provide emotional support can help offset a negative emotional occurrence. A pre-emptive solution is to enlist allies on a regular basis, by having regular shared meals with friends and family to establish a higher emotional happiness baseline long prior to any troubles.

Express gratitude…

Expressing gratitude and sharing appreciation for a partner is the primary means for creating a positive relationship internally. As a man, it will be your role to lead by example to establish the relationship culture of appreciation, acceptance and love. By looking for and accentuating the positive qualities in your partner and humbly acknowledging the difference that she has made in your life, you not only validate her contributions but attract them as well. Showing genuine appreciation for your partner is one of the most powerful ways we can empower each other in a healthy relationship. Likewise, learning to expressing gratitude during times of extreme sorrow, pain or hardship can be done to help lift the spirit, by giving thanks. Your heart doesn’t need to be smiling when doing so.

Happiness advantage

For years psychologist have known that thriving couples accentuate the positive in life more so than those that languish do. They not only cope well during hardship but also celebrate the happy moments and work to build more of those into their lives. A simple behavioral tactic to boost the happiness ratio and to help strengthen emotional bonds with your partner is to actually celebrate success as they occur. The most simple is to just be consciously aware and present when your partner is discussing and sharing an achievement. Sprinkling in regular ‘high-fives’ and ‘you-go-girl’ comments often spike the happiness and focus upon a shared achievement. For bigger occasions, setting time aside from your routine to properly celebrate is in order. These needn’t be big, over the top costly extravagances, but having a bottle of champagne on hand chilled in the fridge affords one the immediate flexibility to toast, accentuate and recognize achievement or success at a moment’s notice. If those moments haven’t occurred in a while, or a natural stasis of life occurs, break the pattern and just celebrate being together. It’s a fairly simple process to plan and develop your life to regularly celebrate the living of it.

 

Conflict Management

“See the forest through the trees”

Conflict within a relationship may be frustrating, but is it really worth the incredible effort required to tackle it? Ask yourself; what is the cost of conflict avoidance or incompetent conflict resolution skills? The cost of conflict incompetence is a poisoned relationship… poisoned by anger, fear, defensiveness, negativity, hurt and embarrassment, combined with misunderstanding and distrust, which will weaken individual morale and obviously strain the relationship. This poison just doesn’t remain stagnant. It festers into a boil that mars even the most beautiful of intimacies. Lastly, what does conflict avoidance say about a man, his leadership ability, and his relationship fitness?

Men as leaders can manage conflict and improve an emotionally hostile situation, by learning to replace destructive behaviors with constructive behaviors, while seeing past the immediate issue for the impact it has on the course of the relationship. Doing so men will see a difference in how a specific conflict plays out and how conflicts generally apply within their relationships overall.

Determining the context

One of the utmost decisions you will have regarding a conflict is determining the time and place of it. Even if the conflict is thrust upon you, as a man, it is your role to determine the appropriateness and timing of it. If the context isn’t appropriate, or the emotions are getting out of control, it is essential to delay, postpone or defuse the mounting tension before carrying on. This can be as simple as calling a momentary time-out, defusing the tension by bringing the bigger picture into scope and highlighting shared emotional consideration and re-affirming emotional security by doing so, or postponing the conflict discussion until a later defined date. With regards to postponing the conflict, be sure to set a specific time frame and context in which you will discuss the conflict issue. This isn’t a dismissal, but a genuine acknowledgement that an issue needs to be addressed, but now, is not the time and place to discuss it. This is very much a form of boundary setting and needs to be treated and viewed as such. A partner unwilling to do so, is being disrespectful of you and the relationship. It is equally important for you to be seen following through on your promise to re-engage at the previously agreed upon time. Do not wait for the time to arrive and have your partner initiate the discussion. Be a man about it. Control the timing, context and the initiation of the conflict discussion, as promised. Realize that this is a form providing emotional security, for both of you, as well as the relationship.

Setting the tone

As a man and a leader you will be tasked with setting the tone of the conflict, through leading by example. Emotionally deterred leaders are poor ones. Letting emotions run-away is a sure sign of a failed leadership and a general fitness test in a man. This doesn’t mean you can’t respond emotionally when and where appropriate and justifiable, but getting pulled ‘off-sides’ with regards to emotional escalation with your partners behavior or emotions isn’t acceptable. You simply lose credibility as a man and as a competent leader while tarnishing your established image. At these moments, what are you emotionally telling your partner? What is her emotional take-away from the situation? It’s one thing to develop your brand when selling to the client, it’s another when dealing with an issue on the back-end in customer service. It’s not enough just to choose your words wisely, but you need to establish and control the tone of the conflict as well.

Taking perspective

As with any conflict there tends to be a critical mass of emotions surrounding a perceived failed expectation, and the issue at hand may only be a symptom of it, not the underlying cause or motivator for the conflict. For this reason, it is incredibly important to try to understand the other person’s point of view and more importantly where they are coming from emotionally. Focus on their words and behaviors, not your assumptions. Asking yourself, or more importantly, asking them, “why do you think that?”, can open the doors to a greater understanding of what the real issue is to them. Learning to actively listen to the other person with the intent of understanding rather than debating. It is important that your partner be fully heard, don’t interrupt, let them finish what they are saying, then summarize their points of view regarding the conflict BEFORE presenting your ideas and opinions.

Discussing emotions

There is a remarkable difference between ‘discussing emotions’ and ‘expressing emotions’. While emotions will surely be at the core of a conflict, letting emotions get away from one another and getting caught up in the moment emotionally will be severely detrimental. It is immensely better to discuss emotions in a forthright, appropriate manner, rather than have pent-up emotions expressed uncontrollably. To properly address emotions, make sure that the emotions being expressed is helpful, is specific and reflects your point of view, such as using the phrase “I feel”, “I am frustrated because” etc.. Refrain from using words or terms that project blame, condescension or judgment.

Creating solutions

Today’s man is expected to showcase leadership skills that have vastly heightened sense of emotional intelligence with regard to collaboration skills, consensus achievement, team building and forging strong personal connections throughout the conflict process, especially in this Sexual Market Place. It is for these reasons, it is best to jointly review the underpinnings of the conflict and together propose and chart changes of patterns of communication, held expectations, defining emotional promises and agreed upon behaviors associated with resolving the conflict. Woe be it to any man who relies on the age-old patriarchy leadership skill of alpha dominance to ‘resolve’ a dispute. The likely outcome will be an emotional insurgency by your partner that will ultimately be resolved when she act upon her natural hypergamy to fortify her failing sense of self-worth, self-esteem and self-respect, by spreading herself for an emotionally intelligent alpha cock who ‘gets her’. …and yes, he will, no doubt repeatedly, as sex with women tends to follow those that hold their emotions.