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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Managing Morale

Altimeter

“Low morale comes with a high price tag”

Relationship altitude

Relationships face a number of growing pressures over time that tax the capabilities of the individuals within them and inhibit the ability of the partners to enjoy and benefit derived from being in the relationship to begin with. These can be as simple as long-days, the day-to-day stresses of a job, endless household chores and just loosing focus or more acutely being burdened by mounting pressures and expectations found throughout life in and outside of the relationship. They can often be found in latent and unresolved issues or conflicts, or the feelings associated with invalidation when we’re taken for granted and our contributions are ignored, forgotten or unappreciated. It is important to recognize that morale is a nebulous emotional energy state, and like all energies, it is in constant flux depending upon how that energy is utilized. It can drive a relationship forward or serve as the fuel that feeds relationship discontent depending upon how those states are managed. Good leaders and managers know that morale is their responsibility and is established from the top down and that morale has both an individual and group (relationship between parties) component to this human phenomenon. That is, the leader within any organization is responsible for managing an individual’s individual morale and then managing the morale for the relationship- people first, relationship second. Simply put, sick people don’t make for healthy relationships or organizations and great leaders manage this.

Leadership first

Short-term fixes create long-term problems, because they don’t address the issue. Energizing and motivating your team has its place, but should not serve as the foundation of morale. As the leader of the relationship it is your responsibility to set the tone, nature and culture for the morale of the relationships. It is determined by your overall presence, your masculinity as a man, through your thoughts, actions and the manner in which you carry yourself. It will be represented in the manner in which you respond and meet her hypergamous nature. How you demonstrate composure, reserve and calm, through steady control of emotions and maturity. It will be displayed in your confidence in knowing your capabilities, your belief in those skills and the actions you take proving those attributes. They will be on display when you face adversity, showing resilience in a tendency to recover quickly from a set-back, shock, or adversity and in maintaining purpose and focus when stressed. Good leaders know that emotions and emotional energy are contagious; that they are contagious between people. As such, they will utilize those attributes to their favor, by leading by example, showcasing and sharing positive traits and nipping negative traits in the bud, before they spread and grow. In this regard morale is viewed as a culture, not a band-aide, as your partner will need to have leadership they can believe in, before they can have faith in the relationship.

Individual morale

The world’s best militaries recognize that they must first respond to the needs of the individual soldier before that soldier can or will attend the needs of the higher organization. They do this by assuring that the individuals physical and emotional needs are met though good supply lines, hot food, sound cover, rest, relaxation and recovery, news from home, the quality and care of the equipment they will be utilizing and the training and support they receive. They further recognize that quality of life is serious business to their organizational mission and therefore have a uniformed approach to the care of the workforce and their families. That’s why on every major military installation you will find a myriad of services and infrastructure to support, sustain and strengthen the individual and their families. Likewise in relationships, we need to care for our partners first, before we consider caring for the relationship. We must have a firm understanding of our partner’s emotional and physical needs and address those needs. In turn we must then go beyond just the basics and attend to the quality of the life of our partner, as well as their basic needs, before we can expect them to focus on the relationship and relationship goals.

Relationship morale

In actively managing a relationship and the business of it, we must make certain that the relationship sticks to its core purpose. In simple terms this is benefits management. Are you actively managing the reasons why you and your partner are in a relationship with each other? Are those reasons being met? If this was a business model, are your employees getting paid on time? Are they compensated appropriately? Are they able to take sick leave and vacations, as needed and desired, or is that benefit package in name only, due to workload and staffing constraints? Is the working culture what was promised when they interviewed? Are their contributions and work efforts recognized and rewarded? Do they feel that they make a difference? As a corporation how competitive are you? Every high-tech company offers stock options, but how many offers high morale? Is it any wonder that those that do are coveted work places, draw superior talent due to it and tend to be more successful because of it? How does your relationship brand and culture compare? It should come as no surprise that measuring relationship satisfaction is correlated to relationship longevity… just how far have you prepared your relationship to go?

Managing Feedback, Coaching & Mentoring

Coaching-Mentoring

“A relationship is only as good as the partners in it”

 

Developmental stagnation and the cycle of failure

We have an expectation that people over time learn, develop, and grow. We formulate these thoughts and notions under the heights of our own explosive growth, as children and young adults and just assume that, that progression continues throughout life. By now, if we honestly reflect upon that notion, we know it not to be the case, that unless the individual is honestly applying themselves in the search of knowledge, seeking out new ways of thinking, acting or behaving they’re developmentally stunted, in the age in which they learned those particular skills or knowledge base. Quite often it’s decades old and from another period of their life. We also have a fond notion that people learn from their mistakes and while this ‘can’ be true, it too, normally isn’t. It’s just far too easy to accept failures, big and small, reframe, and cast blame, then to continue on having truly learned very little. It is why people who seek to succeed continue to train themselves, seek direct feedback, solicit coaching to find their blind spots and objectively guide their process, while forming mentorship to help put it all into perspective. If we’re interested in developing relationship skills, fostering management ability and establishing maintenance protocols, nowhere is this more readily available and pertinent than that of the relationship we’re in. In that regard, relationships are tremendously fertile grounds for testing one’s abilities, attributes and to learn, if we create and utilize a framework for doing so.

Nurturing a culture of development

It is important to recognize that your partner is you team and like any good team, developing trust and communication is a key element for group performance. It is incumbent upon us, as relationship leaders and managers, to establish open lines of communication within the relationship, foster and nurture the trust in the communication process, through proven experience and exercise in their utilization. Simply put, we must practice good communication and trust development prior to our having to need them in a time of crisis. Learning a new skill during a time of crisis is a horrible learning environment and piss poor planning and management. We can start this by recognizing and validating our partners in what they are already doing well and what we appreciate. We can also solicit from them the same. Not only does this foster incentive for the behavior, but also initiates a communication process regarding behavioral performance. Over time this process quickly becomes part of accepted relationship culture and develops a natural reservoir of good will, that then can progress to specific negative behavior performance remediation with less resistance. While we cannot directly control our partner’s orientation for overall receptivity and likelihood of acting on feedback, we can foster an environment of support for it, by establishing trust, respect, and interpersonal validation in early communication efforts with our partner, rewarding performances improvements and clearly communicating a strong link between value and outcome.

The (3) ranges of development management

In developing a frame-work for personal development it is important to recognize three major categories in which development takes place and need to be managed separately; much like goals they consist of a series of ranges from short, medium and long-range in nature. They are the following:

Feedback– short-range in nature, that provides explicit, factual information on performance with specific emphasis on technique and skill. These elements can be measured and appropriate goals set with associated follow-up. They are task specific.

Coaching– will require greater knowledge transfer with longer duration of involvement. It requires an establishment of a solid connection of trust and respect and communication rapport within the relationship and centers less on technique and more on process and direction of areas of developmental concern, which may not be entirely known or identified at that time.

Mentoring– is done throughout the lifespan of the relationship. It is primarily process focused, requiring strong levels of emotional ties, broad objective viewing, and developmental guidance and support for future role and relationship visioning.

Application

At any given time, in investing in our partner and our relationship, we may be called upon to utilize these management traits in concert, in series or alone. If our partner by example lacks a particular skill, it will be incumbent upon us to provide specific feedback regarding that, provide a frame-work of coaching in which that skill development can be exercised and visionary guidance in the form of mentoring.

We may become aware that our partner has a subconscious developmental issues from their past that are playing out within our current relationship and needs/desires assistance and support in discovering, analyzing and overcoming those issues.

We may also find that our partners look to us as examples, a source of strength and inspiration or simply a vision for how to live and be.

Now rather than later

It is important to develop a positive and proactive culture of giving and receiving feedback, mutual coaching and peer mentorship within a relationship, to not only continue personal growth, development, and health, but to preemptively stop conflict spirals, which have their root cause in poor feedback, an erosion of trust and respect and poor interpersonal behavioral performance. During a process of relationship conflict, which is bound to occur, it is not the time to come to terms with previous errors of judgment, revisit old sources of tension and renegotiate how to coordinate with your partner, which is often the case when we don’t. By then you’re well behind the power curve. It’s far better to start now.

 

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.