“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.
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.