The Power of Perception

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend”

Being socially competent in a relationship means recognizing that other people have emotions, desires, thoughts and beliefs, being able to properly interpret the other person’s inner state based on a multitude of observable behaviors that include body language, facial expressions, tonality, cadence of speech and word choices, while appropriately making behavioral decisions to nurture and support that relationship. The power of perception is a critical skill to develop for reading the wealth of information that is generated and communicated through body language within social interactions. This is incredibly true with intimate personal relationships, yet a common phenomena takes place; as we are exposed to greater and greater levels of shared information, personal narratives, thoughts, beliefs, dreams, fears and aspirations of our partner, we naturally tend to be less observant to the subtle social cues that we are highly vigilant of when we knew the person less. Countering this natural tendency, and actively being perceptive of our partners is an important relationship skill to develop, as it aids in communication and increases relationship bonding by validating your partner emotionally.

The power of emotional validation…

Women consistently state in social studies of being more satisfied in a relationship when their partner was attempting to be emotionally sensitive, demonstrate empathy skills, along with active listening traits to understand them and accurately judged their emotions (this is a form of preemptive emotional needs communication) . Consequently it is the second greatest factor in determining relationship longevity, the first being having an upbeat and positive attitude. (Depressed and negative partners are more than a drag, they are emotionally toxic and a direct threat to the health, wellbeing and effectiveness of the relationship. Militaries the world over recognize this and openly promote and manage morale welfare. It wouldn’t be foolish to develop a similar posture in our relationships.) What is of particular interest in these studies is that women also value the effort men make, almost as much as the outcome of the conversation. Women essentially value the emotional support given to them by their partner over any other base trait other than raw sexual attraction and security. By actively taking a leadership role and consciously monitoring our partners, being sensitive to their emotional shifts, employing active listening skills and providing simple emotional validation of our partners on a regular basis can we hugely affect the health and wellbeing of our relationships for the positive.

Poker face…

In poker, a “tell’ is a detectable change in a player’s behavior or demeanor that gives clues to that player’s assessment of their given hand. More accurately it is a change in a person’s behavior that gives clues to their emotional state or awareness. We all have them as we all have detectable changes in behavior based on our state of mind and the situation around us. This will be true of our partners as well. There is simply no substitute for practice when we are looking to spot our partners tells and thus being more aware of the emotional state, desires, drives and prejudices of our partners. A partner’s tell is obvious signal at a need for communication if we learn to look for them.

Letting light in…

Sometimes we just don’t know what the signals we see are or represent. There may be conflicting verbal statements with a myriad of body language displays that do not point directly to any one emotion or unknown issue or are out of sync and conflict with one another. The simplest way to clear up any confusion is to simply ask; ‘ Hey, babe, is everything ok, you seem upset by something?’ This simple act of opening up communication based on observable behavior may all that they are looking for or needing to get dialog flowing and coming to grips with whatever is occupying them. Other times our partners will state that they are ‘fine’ when in fact they are not. Usually this is because they have not resolved their feeling prior to engaging in communication or are resistant to bring it up for fear of any number of reasons. By asking a question, we open ourselves up to the possibility of a deflected response or a denial of an underlying issue. It is far better to take the emotional risk and demonstrate leadership traits by making a statement regarding your observation; ‘Babe, you’re walking around like an angry cat, tell me what’s going on.’ By being perceptive and actively being receptive to unclogging the lines of communication we can help do our part in getting information, understanding and connectedness to our partners to flow.

Unchecked dependency needs…

Being a competent and sensitive social partner does not mean soliciting continuous requests for verification from your partner, as to their emotional status. Monitoring your partner is not a relationship form of the Verizon phone commercial where you ask your partner over and over again “Can you hear me now?” We are looking for changes of behavior, flash signals and behavioral keys that are social signals that there is something troubling our partner, to develop and utilize the skill of perception within a relationship to trigger needed communication or connection with our partner.

When there isn’t a problem, but a desire…

Being stressed in a rushed world or otherwise preoccupied with the daily grind, it is terrifyingly easy to neglect a relationship, to take our partner for granted, to not be available, to miss signs that our partners emotionally want and need to feel more connected with us. Frequently our partners will have tells not only for what is bothering them, but for when they desire closeness and connection with us. These are effectively ‘bids’ for your attention, as they are in many ways competing for it from everything else that has your attention over them. As was stated earlier, happiness measured in a relationship is directly correlated to the number and degree of bids offered and accepted between a couple… in correlation to that rebuffed or ignored bids are a form of rejection, and it too is directly correlated to the degree of unhappiness and in-validation a partner feels within a relationship. Stop paying attention to your partner and it’s game over… We cannot afford to become complacent within our relationships as hypergamy doesn’t sleep. It is always at work and play. The question becomes then, do you see your partner? Do you take the time to notice them? Being perceptive of your partners tells them that you do and is the starting point for many essential relationship discussions.

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.

 

DIPLOMACY- The art of soft leadership

“A soft answer turns away wrath”

Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting communication between representatives. They are the skill sets for building relationships, developing allies and collaborating with adversaries and naysayers to promotes and advance ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Diplomacy is the cumulative effect of a number of qualities working together; insight into human nature, sympathy, self-control, influencing others, minimizing friction and patience. Exercising these wisdoms in combination with sensitivity in our communication with others often determines the wellbeing of our relationships. It is not enough to speak a truth, but to voice that truth with care and consideration. It is that sense of touch, intuitive perception and skill in dealing with people, to find the proper fit in recognizing mutual rights and expectations of what, how and the way we communicate. It is not only kindness, but kindness skillfully extended that culminates the act of diplomacy.

Employing Tact

Most people focus exclusively on content and the direct elements of influencing others in their communications, while ignoring the vital components of timing and tact. The skills of exercising patience in thinking before we speak, questioning the timing and appropriateness of if and when we respond, by actively listening to our partner and controlling our emotions when we do, are fundamental to developing tact, which is an essential element of being diplomatic. Equally as important, is controlling the tone and delivery of how we state our position utilizing empathy. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that leaves a lasting impression and shapes the future of the relationship. Knowing how to choose the appropriate words, emotional tone and non-verbal body language will insure your message is delivered appropriately and effectively. Ultimately it the speaker who is responsible for the communication, because they are the author of it.

Fostering Collaboration

It is not enough to be skillful in carefully navigating through tense discussions, delicate situations or critical confrontations. Leaders today are expected to artfully develop the atmosphere conducive to communication, foster a network of shareholders and stakeholders, while finding a consensus among the opposed and removing alienation, to progressively move ideas and ideals forward. The founding element to establishing this is making sure that your audience will be prepared to give you the time, opportunity and reception, to hear your ideas and positions when you need it. This is accomplished by effective socialization prior to any event, to make sure that time and emotional distance does not play a factor in communicating when you need to. That in effect, you have on deposit a reserve of emotional trust, respect and familiarity upon which you can draw when needed. It is critical that if we are to influence large groups that we start with individuals, to start to build any collaboration upon. The best allies are those you already know and have established relationships with and having share mutual emotional needs, not those born out of necessity.

Finding Consensus

The first element in building a consensus is to hear what the parties have to say. None is more important than to hear from your potential detractors, as they have a perspective and point of view to which they are partial to cling to and influence others from. Understanding it, where they are coming from, and what their interests are, can be critical to preemptively addressing it. By building a collective knowledge base of those around you and not laying claim to any single idea or solution, you set the ground work to discuss the merits of, rather than the position of an idea, and vastly increase the likelihood and probability that an idea or solution will be picked up and championed by those that are exposed to it or potentially against one initially.

Dealing with Naysayers

Naysayers may feel like an obstacle and hindrance. Don’t take that bait. Your emotional control and your ability to bring them along will allow you to building better insights and better arguments and plans to move an idea forward, which is the essence of leadership. It will be important to foster rapport, respect and trust by listening fully to what they have to say and understand not only what they say, but also what they mean. It is infinitely more effective to engage a naysayer in private, where the risks are low, than to do so publicly, when there is more at stake and vested than just the issue at hand. Brining them into the process early, by asking their opinion or seeking their influence can strengthen your position by exploring, finding and jointly determining the crux of an issue and formulating a response to it. By developing an amiblicle relationships with a naysayers in advance, you are aware and can recognize when an opportunity exists to capitalize upon moments of opportunity, when the potential naysayers will be more inclined to be receptive to an idea or solution, while simultaneously removing much of the hostility and alienation that comes with conflict and open disagreement, where both parties can agree to disagree, with the naysayer being a party to and along for the ride with a solution, even while holding opposing views.

When you master the art of diplomacy you will be a better leader, agent of change and a better relationship builder and partner, by cultivating power, authority through influence and creating an atmosphere that is open and receptive to communication, without being intimidating and domineering. It is important to realize that a person convinced against their will, is a person of the same opinion still, just silenced. That silence is a poisoned well upon which you’ll surely drink eventually.

ACTIVE LISTENING SKILLS

Time without attention is worthless…

 

Listen like a shrink…

Powerful listening goes beyond hearing words and messages; it connects us emotionally with our partner. It is equally important to listen to what your partner is NOT saying, as it is important as to what they are saying, whether that be the nature of their body language or a deep core vulnerability that just isn’t being expressed openly. We need to learn to focus intently on the complete message being conveyed behind and between the words our partners use.

Throttling back the Alpha…

As a man, you will be expected to lead the relationship in developing and fostering conditions within the relationship that allow these mutual vulnerabilities to surface, which leads to meaningful and deep connection to form. These vulnerabilities are areas of our psyche where we feel raw and unprotected. We all have them. They stem from emotional injuries of our childhood and the bruising we take on the road to and through adulthood, which have left emotional scars that we carry with us, unless attended to. We can attempt to attend to these emotional wounds by conducting psychological social development self-analysis and relationship autopsies for ourselves and with our partners, but like so many issues in life it is what we do consistently that has greater influence than what we attempt acutely. We need to make acceptance and mutual understanding a regular part of your relationship, as all wounds are not old wounds. We know and can come to expect that fresh ones will and do occur, often inadvertently by our own hand. A healthy relationship is one set up and prepared for them.

The setting

The initial goal of active listening is to set a comfortable tone, to allow time and opportunity for your partner to express their thoughts and sentiments, under your undivided attention. Recognizing these moments when they occur is crucial. Conveying that you recognize your partner’s need of this more so. Take the time to be in a position, atmosphere and situation where this can be realized. If you are not, create it. Pay attention to your frame of mind, as well as your body language. Be focused on the moment and operate from a place of sincere respect, care and understanding. The message being sent here is one of care, consideration and respect.

Withhold judgment

Active listening requires an open mind and as a leader, you cannot be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities, while being judgmental and single-minded. Withholding judgment creates an atmosphere of safety where your partner has the opportunity to authentically express themselves, which develops emotional intimacy and trust through respect. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but that you allow room for them to express their sentiments and you see, feel and acknowledge their perspective prior to forming and sharing your opinion.

Reflect

Don’t assume that you initially understood your partner’s message. Paraphrase key points of understanding, intent and emotions before continuing. Don’t move the conversation forward until you do. Reflective listening is a way to indicate that you and your partner are on the same page within the discussion and that you understand not only what they are stating but the sentiments and intent driving them.

Clarify

Don’t be shy to ask questions about any issue that is ambiguous or unclear. Asking open-ended, clarifying and probing questions are important devices to draw people out and encourage them to expand their ideas. The details of a message are often defined here, and as it is stated in so many cases, divinity resides in the details.

Summarize

Restating that portion of the conversation again, as the conversation has proceeded, confirms and solidifies your understanding of the other person’s view and returns the conversation back to where it was prior to the reflection or clarification process. Ask them to do the same, so that you know they received your message regarding any clarification as well.

Share

Actively listening is first about understanding your partner, then being understood. As you gain a clear comprehension of your partner’s perspective can you then introduce your ideas, feelings, sentiments or opinions and be well received.

Arguably the most important trait for a leader and a man is the ability to communicate effectively and in today’s knowledge economy this requires and demands a vastly heightened sense of emotional intelligence prior to doing so. It goes beyond mastering the craft of language, but attitude and actions of effective listening, that send powerful messages for forging collaboration, team building and consensus building within any relationship structure, none more critical and important than your intimate and romantic one, your life-partner.

Emotional Needs Communication

I was not a lion, but it fell to me to give a lion’s roar.

You needs, wants and desires matter. They should matter to you. They should matter to your partner. They should matter to society. If your needs, wants and desires don’t matter, the message is you don’t matter. If that is the case, that needs to change (period) and it needs to start now!

 A modern evolutionary fitness test…

We cannot expect un-expressed needs to be accurately fulfilled, if we don’t communicate them. When important relationship emotional needs go unrecognized, are continuously ignored or devalued, emotional distress and relationship problems result, often taking the form of communication breakdowns and emotional disconnection leading to the whole calamity of relationship breakdown and failure. Not having the balls to speak up, especially to yourself about your needs, wants and desires is an evolutionary failure. You simply are not at a basic level providing for yourself… What society, woman or child can expect you to “Man-Up!” to them, your responsibilities, or promises, if you first cannot “Man-Up!” to yourself?

A lion’s roar

We must take responsibility for ensuring our needs, wants and desires are not jut communicated, but interpreted in the manner we intend.

 Be aware of your objective

Understand what it is that you’re trying to actually accomplish. What is the purpose of the communication? For example, it is foolish to focus on behavior tasks (closing of cabinet cupboards doors) if the real purpose of the communication is really about respect and consideration (a respect for your shared living environment and unmet expectations of personal behaviors while living together).

 Be honest about your own needs

If we are not clear or honest about our needs when we are communicating, the message will get lost. Much like the mail, we need to accurately address the intended destination to have our message delivered properly. Without a doubt, at times this will be very difficult emotionally to initiate, but it is incredibly important to have the personal courage, conviction and respect of yourself to enact.

 Communicate in the positive

Requests framed in the negative; e.g. “don’t do…” sets a negative tone, doesn’t inspire change, and repeated often enough it becomes debilitating to the health of the relationship. For instance, If you’re trying to get your partner to change their sexual performance, instead of saying “Baby, don’t use your teeth!”, it’s vastly better received if you state “Baby, remember to use your tongue!”. You can capitalize on this emotional momentum by showing displays of gratitude, which are appropriate rewards and powerful motivators to further promote desired change.

Speaking of displays of gratitude and powerful motivators to promote change (this is for all my female readers); random, frequent and gratuitous acts of oral sex is the male equilivant of giving a woman flowers… we can never get enough of them, it tells us we’re special to you and we love the women who do so. It cost so little, but means so much and goes so far! Do take note and let me know your results.

 Message confirmation

Often we cannot be certain how of if our message is being received. During these times, particularly if the message is critical, it is advisable to get feedback or confirmation of the message. A simple question like, “ Can you tell me what you think I meant by what I said” clarifies any ambiguity and provides valuable clues as to how your message was received and interpreted.

 Bring respect

In holding an emotional needs conversation, it is crucial to remember that this is about the relationship, as much as it is about your needs and as such we need to take into account how this newly expressed information is received by our partner. Asking a sincere and genuinely intent question, something like, “how does what I said make you feel?” goes a long way in securing the safety and emotional security bond the two of you share. Intimacy isn’t just about the fucking… where the emotions go, so too does the sexuality… preserve both by safeguarding them.