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Sep 02

Relationship Advice – Simple but Not Always Easy

Tag: Personal Growth,Relationship AdviceNeill Gibson @ 8:16 pm

Black and White Relationship Skills

No, I’m not talking about ethnicity, I’m talking about simplicity. Whenever I’m looking to improve the quality of a relationship, be more productive, or get through my next AFGO, Occam’s razor always seems to apply. “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”

In this case, I’m talking about the simplest way to interpret what I’m working on. So, for example let’s say, as is so often the case, I’m working on my ability to hear what other people say in ways that are more enjoyable, more accurate, and produce more of the results that we both want.

Does that sound like something you’d like?

I’ve learned that of the simplest possible ways to hear what people are saying is to figure out if they’re saying “I need” or “I’m grateful.” Put it another way, whenever I can remember, I try to hear whatever people say as either “please” or “thank you.”

Is it Please or Thank You?

Sometimes it’s easy to tell which is which: “Would you take the trash out before we leave?” “That was a great dinner!”

It’s pretty obvious which of these is please and which is thank you. It seems much more challenging if we hear someone blaming, criticizing, or excuse making, using statements like:

  • “Idiot! Don’t you know how to drive!”
  • “Why are you wasting time on that?”
  • “You never keep your promises!”
  • “It’s not my fault that …”
  • “I forgot to …”

Again, it’s obvious that these are definitely not “thank you,” so they must be “please.” Unfortunately, they are please said in a suicidal way. Suicidal because saying please in these ways is likely to kill the possibility of getting the underlying needs met.

1. Have Need …  2. Take Aim at Foot …  3. Pull Trigger!

The sad thing is, it seems the more important, urgent, or critical the need is, the more likely people will express it in these suicidal ways. Ways that are likely to trigger the heck out of the people they are actually saying please to.

Most reality TV shows are a great place to watch this in action and to practice identifying which times people are saying please and which times they are saying thank you. Whether you use a reality TV show, or your personal relationships for practice, notice how the more hurt and more angry a person is, the more likely they are to express please in the form of blame, criticism, judgment, excuses, etc.

Kind of sad isn’t it?

What’s the Point of Hearing Please or Thank You?

How does hearing please or thank you help me have conversations that are more enjoyable, more accurate, and produce more of the results that we both want? It helps me remember that any form of blame, criticism, judgment, or excuse is the other person expressing a need. And that the more hurt or angry a person sounds the more desperate they are for help, and scared that the need won’t be met.

And if I’m able to hear a person desperately wanting help with their need, I’m much less likely to be triggered by the suicidal way they’re saying please, and much more likely to find in me the compassion to hear their need and to offer my help.

And giving with joy is the most fun game I’ve found to play so far in my life.

What Happens if You Try Hearing Everything as Please or Thank You?

I’d be interested in hearing what you think about listening to people this way. Even more interested in hearing about your experience if you try it.

It occurs to me that some of you might be wondering which bucket you’d put “yes” and “no” in. You might be surprised to hear that I never hear people say “no.” But that’s a different blog post. :~)

Until then …

Committed to Your Success,

Neill Gibson

One Response to “Relationship Advice – Simple but Not Always Easy”

  1. Dr. Alex Rich says:

    My friends don’t know what to say when this stuff happens. I thought maturity came with age, but I’m learning age has nothing to do with it. This information has really made a difference for me. Thanks very much.