Relationship Advice – Simple but Not Always Easy

Tag: Personal Growth,Relationship AdviceNeill Gibson

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

Want Better Relationships? Unlock Your Conflict Management Toolbox

Do you avoid confrontation?

Many people do their best to avoid [tag-tec]conflict and confrontation [/tag-tec]at any cost. Do you notice yourself doing this? If so, when you know that a confrontation is possibly coming your way, you probably start to feel a great deal of tension and worry. And after a confrontation, you are left with a huge pile of bad feelings. So it seems to make perfect sense to just try and avoid all situations where conflict is possible.

Not so fast… what if there were ways to change how you handle these situations. What if you could solve conflicts and [tag-tec]deal with confrontations[/tag-tec] in a way that would leave you feeling more comfortable and less upset? If that sounds like more fun to you, read on and discover five keys that will help you unlock your personal conflict management toolbox

It is important that you understand the definition of confrontation before you can learn to effectively manage it. According to the dictionary definition, confrontation is “discord that results from clashing ideas or opinions.” Confrontation is not simply a disagreement, it occurs when the people involved are viewing it as a “clash” that cannot be resolved.

The five keys

The first key–when trying to avoid confrontations–is that you should stop trying to avoid them. This might sound a little crazy at first, but think about it, is it really possible to avoid confrontation altogether? Well maybe if you sat in a cave and never talk to anyone, but then you wouldn’t be reading this article. So if you want to dramatically reduce your anxiety about confrontation use key number one and stop trying to avoid conflict and confrontation.

The second key to [tag-tec]successful conflict management [/tag-tec]is to rethink how you define confrontation. When you begin to understand that what you’re actually trying to avoid is judgment from others, not getting your way, or possibly losing a relationship that you value, then you’ll start to realize it is the outcome that you’re avoiding, not the confrontation itself.

When you constantly see confrontation as something to be avoided, you will remain in a state of fear that will stimulate the “fight or flight” reaction–minimizing your ability to come up with ideas to manage the situation effectively.

Try this definition of confrontation on for size “to bring face to face.” Meeting someone face to face, does not need to be a confrontation. Expecting that you may have a difference of opinion will help you relax and be able to resolve any differences that arise.

Now that you’ve stopped avoiding conflict and redefined it, you can also stop getting defensive, aggressive, or just running for the hills. Start by learning some creative ways to handle confrontation when it comes your way–ones that satisfy everyone involved.

Now for key number three, when you find yourself gearing up to avoid a confrontation, use your uncomfortable feelings as a signal to yourself, a warning of sorts that you need to stop and reflect on the situation. Think about the situation as an explorer would. There is always something worthy of discovery, something that remains untapped and could provide some precious knowledge and experience.

Believe in your ability to explore new things, like handling confrontation creatively. Be an explorer, and you will be thrilled to discover your new strategies and solutions.

Commit yourself to new discoveries-develop a mindset that allows you to think using new patterns and to create results that totally line up with what you value. When everyone involved is satisfied, then you have cooperative relationships and confrontation becomes a non-issue.

The fourth important key is to learn how to focus on values. Focus on everyone’s values, not just yours. Don’t focus on another person’s complaints, but instead try to focus on what their underlying values actually are.

When you are focused on discovering new ways of interacting–when you’re playing the role of explorer and navigate through the conversation–always stay focused on uncovering satisfying solutions. When you are committed to including what’s most important to everyone in your solutions, you will find that your relationships become much more satisfying.

If you let it, any confrontation can be seen as a treasure map–one that can guide you through the sea of discovery, leading you to new experiences. When you are persistent with your exploration of confrontation, you will find that these new discoveries provide you with clarity that helps negotiate any conflict or confrontation in a way that everyone can be satisfied.

The fifth and final key is that whenever someone says or does anything that might normally lead to a confrontation; the reason they said or did it reflects their own missing values in the situation and is not consciously intended to create a conflict.

If you stop and take the time to identify what they value in the situation–what’s important to them that’s missing–they’ll not only appreciate this gesture, but will be more open to hearing what’s important to you.

Sadly, most people are not readily able to identify what they value most. Most of us were not encouraged at a young age to pay attention to what we care about most or what we needed, nor did we expect that other people would care about our needs. Learning how to unlock your new personal conflict management toolbox takes patience and plenty of practice, but it can be accomplished. Stick with it–you really can find satisfying solutions that all parties in a relationship will be happy with.

With love,
Beth and Neill