Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Relationship Values

Once you have established a relationship that you value, why would you ignore it allowing it to dissolve? Most of us wouldn't. On the other hand, most of us haven't looked at what it takes to maintain a relationship in the first place.

First, let's look at what it takes to build the relationship since that is what we hope to maintain, in fact build upon. Imagine a couple, they see each other and they notice a wide range of things: activities, goals, personal awareness as well as other awareness. We like all those things. They apparently feel the same way about you. Fact is, both of you spend a great deal of time together and find out about one another. Put another way, each allows the other to build a representation of themselves in their mind. This is the person that they will carry with themselves over their lifetime. Of course it will need to be updated and revised since each of us is a work in progress and subject to constant change.

Second, there is never a time when you aren't building a “you” in their mind. (You cannot, not communicate.) Since the building process is time and energy consuming you are either building a stronger and better relationship or their “image of you” is fading (dying). If it took time and energy to build the relationship you will have to spend time and energy to continue the process. Somehow, we have come to believe that once established it is like a sturdy building and will be there forever. That will eventually lead to fights, affairs, diverging interests and divorce.

So what is the most likely answers to this problem? 1) Recognition that life and relationships are processes and the process is only finished when one of you dies. 2) If you hope to build on similar interests and goals you will have to spend the time and energy necessary to pursue interests together, try new and different things together, and continue to repeat the shared interests that brought you two together in the first place. 3) If you are spending more time with a professional colleague than you are with your significant other, then it is very likely that the person and environment that you're building in your mind will be in conflict with the world you built with your significant other. It just may be true that “When you're away from the one you love, you love the one you're near.”

An excellent reason for early and continual discussions about personal and professional goals and how they should, or should not be pursued. An excellent reason for selecting a profession that will allow you to maintain what you have so painstakingly created over an extended period of time. An excellent reason to recognize that it may not really be possible to do anything to which you set your mind.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


“How many times do I have to tell you that I love you?” One of the things we should examine is, “Why is this person asking over and over again do you love me?” There are several possible reasons.

Instead of letting your frustration burst out, think about what they are saying or at least what you think they are saying. They may be saying that, “If you really loved me you would be around more often and longer.” They could also be saying, “I hear what you say to me, but I don’t hear an adequate explanation why you can love me.” Probably the first of these two explanations is the most important.

The reason is simple: time. Time and your use of it says a huge amount about who you are and what you value. People spend most of their time doing what they prefer to do. When they aren’t spending time the way they want to, they usually complain loud and long. If you love someone and you don’t choose to spend time with them, then they have a right to wonder about your real feelings.

In our society there are several things that attempt to make demands on our time: work/professional, pursuit of pleasures, use of available time if there is any. The first use of time is important in our middle American culture. There is a fairly strong temptation for us to think that work and professional lives are important. In fact, in many cases, the work loads of many Americans makes their interpersonal relationships difficult. This may force us to make ethical decisions about how we want to live our lives. Is it about your career or is it about you family/significant other?

In the pursuit of pleasures we may be abusive to those we think we love the most. Even if non-professional time should pop up, do we seek to spend it with those we love, or do we pursue pleasures that may be self-centered. Think about time and how you use it. It is an extremely important device for saying things to people around. Make certain that you are saying what you intend to say by your use of time.

Keep in mind that nonverbal is more believable than verbal. Both are necessary.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Words Well Chosen

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” That thought passed on to us by Mark Twain tells us something we’ve told ourselves a thousand times: “Next time, think before you open your mouth.”

We often confuse the brief pause that should precede a thoughtful response with ignorance rather than intelligence. The first thing we need to do is put our childhood competition to be fastest at everything behind us and adopt a different pattern—think before you speak. Several things will then be possible.

1) Who are they?
2) What did they say?
3) What are the most likely possibilities they are talking about?
4) Why are they talking about that now?
5) Why are they talking to me about that?
6) What are the possible things I could say?
7) What would be the best way to say them to this person?

Your brain with a bit of practice can handle all of that very quickly. Then when you open your mouth, it is less likely that you will simply insert your foot. You need to persuade your brain that brief pauses are not indications of stupidity. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. That pause should you the opportunity to decide what needs to be said and give you a pretty good idea of how best to say it.

One last question could/should be added to the list above. Ask appropriate questions before you respond. Be certain that you know what is being discussed. Remember, your brain may still be in the mode if was just moments before this new situation came up. It could be that your brain will interpret what is being said in light of what you have been thinking rather than the new context. Relax . . .take your time and avoid putting your foot in your mouth as often.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Reframing Is Good

If something in your background doesn’t make you pause and then at times withdraw, you are the exception. These seemingly small events in our lives can reshape it if we’re not aware and careful. One of the tools for moving past thes “unfortunate experiences” is useful. To reframe an experience may save you a great deal of grief.

In the book Communication: Principles of a Lifetime, by Beebe, Beebe and Ivy, the authors remind us that what it means to reframe. “Try to look at experiences and events, especially those that can cause you to lose self-esteem, from a different point of view. Keep the larger picture in mind, rather than focusing on one isolated, negative incident.”

For example, someone asked you to speak at an event and for one reason or another you feel to this day that the event was terrible and damaging to you. It makes no difference that you were only 14 years old and that probably nobody remembers what happened but you. You’re not about to put yourself into a position where you could cause yourself that much pain again.

Reframe—think about your life. Have there been positive changes in the way you live and think? Have you done things that other folk admire and wish that they could do as well? What have your friends said about the event and the progress you have made in life? Review the things you’ve learned. What did you wish you had done? Have you attempted even when alone in the shower to do the things of which you’ve thought? Do you believe that given the same circumstance as you had before you could now do it better than you did?

Are you willing now to think about what you wish you had done and then practice. What you will find is that you end up giving yourself a break (and who deserves one any more than you do) and you’ve made progress toward broadening your abilities. At least you should be able to reframe the situation so that you can see that you do indeed have the ability necessary and that you are much better prepared now to handle this type of situation.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Two-Way Street

Communication is a two-way street and our goal should be to make maximum use of communication. When we feel better (increased self-esteem) because of something said to us we need to be ready to help those around us with how they feel (increased self-esteem). As we must admit, we find out about who we are from those we travel with. That is the reason we should change our friends as soon as we realize that those “friends” are not committed to positively building you into what you can be.

It is only reasonable that we in turn search for and take advantage of every opportunity to build our friends up. Not to be confused with saying things that aren’t true in an effort to build them in the direction we would like. It has got to be a really evil person about which you can find nothing good to say. Travel with good people and make them better because they are traveling with you. You will be building a relationship that should last a lifetime. You will be better than you could have been without them and so will they.

Relationships are ever so much more than “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It is very likely the most important work you will do during your life.