Happy 2021

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.

We are on the verge of a brand new year.

While we have all experienced many challenges in 2020, my hope for you is that you will have HOPE in 2021.

Your thoughts are critical!

As readers of this blog, you know that it is not the events that we encounter that determine what we experience. These events are filtered through our perceptions and how we choose to interpret these events determines what we experience and the emotions that are elicited by the event.

In other words, while “shit” happens, its impact on us is totally up to us.

If I step in dog poop, it is upsetting.  If I change my grandson’s poopy diaper, it is what it is.

So, it 2021, my hope is that you will…

  • deploy mindfulness to keep you focussed in the moment
  •  master your emotions so that you control your life and it continues to move you closer to your goals.

Your Relationships Connect You!

How you interact with others can have a critical impact on how you live your life.

The Basic Relationship Rule is your guide to better relationships: Everyone in every situation does the best they can given their Model of the World and their Skill Sets.

So, it 2021, my hope is that you will…

  • deploy the Basic Relationship Rule so that your relationships with others continue to grow and bring you pleasure.

Be safe and Happy New Year to you and yours.

Looking at The Corona Virus through the lens of relationships with others.

The other day, I was in a Target Store and the sign on the door noted that facial masks were recommended.

I wondered why they were not mandatory.  But that is another issue.

As I walked around the store wearing a mask, I noticed that, while most people were masked, several people, usually young adults, had no masks.

While I did not say anything, I was a bit annoyed by their, to me, careless behavior.

Let me explain.

In many states, citizens are emerging from a total lockdown due to the contagious nature of the virus.  We are now in “Phase 2” with more places opening up and people venturing out.

People have been advised to continue to engage in  social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from others and to avoid large gatherings and non-critical travel.

Specific impacted group such as the elderly or the immune system impaired are still being advised to self-isolate until we get a better grasp of where the virus is (mass testing) and how best to deal with it.

But, let’s get back to the source of my annoyance in the Target Store.

I was annoyed because these people who were not wearing masks were thinking only of themselves.  They could be contagious, without knowing it or having symptoms, and could unwittingly be spreading the virus.

To put it another way, they were being selfish.  They did not seem to understand that there were other people in their world who could be negatively impacted by their actions.  In other words, they are, whether they know it or not in an implied relationship with those around them.

The Relationship Issue

I would like to look at our interactions with others (in the context of the virus) as a relationship issue.

The message that you hear repeated over and over when it comes to the virus is that “We are all in this together.”

While this is true, what does it really mean?

Well, there are two interrelated aspects to this message: the facts and our responsibilities.

I. The facts: the virus is easily spread between people.

The first, and most obvious, aspect of being in this together, is that we need to think of others because, given  the nature of the virus and the way that it is transmitted, we can unwittingly infect another person.

Or, they can infect us.

And, given that you can be both symptom free and contagious, your lack of being careful can end up killing your grandma or someone else whose underlying conditions leave them vulnerable.

So, if the virus is a boat, we are all in the boat—together.

Which leads us to the second aspect of “We are all in this together.”

II. Specifically: interpersonal responsibility.

Secondly, we live in an interconnected world where we impact, need, and are impacted by other people.

In other words, because we are all in the boat together and what we do impacts others, we need to think about the responsibility that exits between us and others.

This is called interpersonal responsibility.

I’d like to unpack the issue of interpersonal responsibility as it is implied in the notion that we are all in this together but is not often addressed.

There are two ways to look at the issue of our responsibility toward others.

  • On the one hand, we are responsible TO others.

and

  • On the other hand, we may be responsible FOR others.

These two aspects of interpersonal responsibility are not mutually exclusive and both can be operative at the same time.

Responsible FOR (obligation):

I’ll start with being responsible for others as it is the most common and easiest concept to understand.

If we have elderly parents or kids we are taking care of or friends with underlying conditions which make them vulnerable, the lines of responsibility are clear.

They may not be able to totally take care of themselves and need our help, support, guidance, and involvement. We know what we need to do and we do it.

Responsibility here is almost an obligation.

We take the necessary precautions including hand washing to insure that we do not transmit the virus. We parent our kids to help them get through this pandemic.

In one sense, then, we have an obligation to others not to spread the virus.

Responsible TO (do the RIGHT thing):

Being responsible to others is both less clear and often unacknowledged.

Our collective response to the Corona Virus challenges us to be responsible to others.

We do what needs to be done because they are the right things to do.

There are two elements to the concept of responsibility to:

  1. The first is that, because you are doing the right thing,  you do what needs to be done whether or not, at least initially, the other person does what they need to do.
  2. Secondly, in order to help you do this, I am suggesting that you consider “everyone” you interact with (for at least as long as the pandemic exists) as being in a relationship with you.

Note: Treating others as if you have a relationship with them will be equally as important after the pandemic but to continue to do this is up to you.

Other people as “placeholders”

We often do not think of the actions we take with others who have no meaning to us.

They are “placeholders” in that they exist and may come into contact with us but we ignore them and move past them without acknowledging them because they are, at least to us, insignificant.

Significant, or meaningful, people

Those people with whom we have a relationship have some value or meaning to us and we take the time we need to acknowledge them and choose how we can best interact with them.

In this pandemic: Every interaction is a relationship..

Having a relationship with someone means…

  1. that they are more than just a placeholder to you and
  2. that they are a person who is serving a “meaningful” purpose in your life.

The definition of “meaningful” will vary from situation to situation.

When it comes to the virus, saving your own or another’s life should fit the definition of meaningful.

Indeed, the fact is that if we don’t all act together to “reduce the curve” of infections, people may die.

A very real scenario is that hospitals could get overwhelmed with too many cases and some person who did not follow social distancing and other recommended strategies, might infect you (or someone else) and the infected person dies because the hospital is too overwhelmed to provided treatment.

If we are indeed all in this together, then each of us is meaningful to the other.  By definition, this means that we are  in a relationship with each other.

An important element of being in a relationship is that you do the right thing whether or not the other person does what they need to do.

There are two elements here.

1. The first is that, in reality, the only behavior you have direct control over is yours.  You can always choose what actions you take.  You need to do the right thing both because it is the right thing to do and because you can’t decide what someone else will do.

So,I wear a mask and I maintain social distancing.

2. Secondly, it is also true that you can influence or indirectly impact what the other person does.

In the context of the virus, your doing the right thing  can indirectly serve as a Model for other people. They see you doing the right thing and may decide that also need to do the right thing.

The bottom line…

The point here is that you tend to do the right thing for you care about and those with whom you have a relationship regardless of what they do.

And, in these trying times, you have a relationship with everyone you come in contact with.

Or, to put it another way: WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

I hope this has been useful to you.

 

 

How to Recover from Abuse Part 2

Because I am talking about the issue of abuse, I know that this post (like the last one) might bring up some feelings which are problematic for you.  With this in mind, let me repeat what I said earlier…..

If you are dealing with issues related to your past history of “abuse” and these issues are having a negative (however you define this) impact on your life, please seek professional help.  Therapy works.  When you need help with your car, you seek out a competent mechanic.  When you need help getting your life together, seek out a competent mental health professional.

That being said, let me continue to lay out for you how you can begin to recover from your abuse.

I ended my last post by noting that while the process of recovery may be difficult, it is important to remember that it is doable.

And, because it is doable, how difficult it may be is nice to know but is largely irrelevant.  If the outcome you desire (to be free to move on from your abuse), and you know you can do it (it is doable), all that is left is for you to do the necessary work (whatever that may involve) and the outcome is yours!

We were talking about your thoughts…..

As you think about your past, you probably tell yourself something like:

  • It isn’t right or fair
  • It never should have happened

You are, of course, right on both counts.  But, it did happen.

So, IWBNI allows you to acknowledge both that it happened and that it is behind you.  When you tell yourself that it would be nice if it had never occurred, you are acknowledging that it did take place and that it is over.

This is the first step and begins the process of moving on.  You can always, if you choose, revisit your past.

Please note that using IWBNI does not excuse, diminish or pardon the past. It only acknowledges it and begins the process of separating you in the present from your past.

I will start my next post by discussing the second “element”…the perpetrators

The perpetrator(s)

These are the bad people (sometimes male and sometimes female) who victimized you.

Most likely, what you feel toward them is anger and hate.  You might want to hurt them.

Or, equally as likely (but more difficult to comprehend), you might feel love toward them and want to defend them.

Or, you might feel some other combination of feelings.

I can’t, in this space, provide an explanation of these feelings but I do provide this information on my website (TheEmotionsDoctor.com)

The key to dealing with your abuse through the lens of your perpetrators is forgiveness.

Yes, you will need to forgive those who hurt you.  But, before you cuss me out and stop reading, let me explain that…

what you think forgiving means is very different from what I am suggesting you do.

Here is a link to an article I wrote on forgiveness.

forgiveness.

Most people think that to forgive is to exonerate someone of any responsibility for their behavior.  This is what I call a biblical understanding as when Jesus forgave someone and they were born again.

Your perpetrator did what he, she or they did and probably do not deserve to be exonerated.

But, whether they do or do not deserve exoneration is not the issue here.

When you hold on to your (totally understandable) animosity toward your perpetrator, you bind yourself to them psychologically.  Wherever you go, they go with you. This is the reason that your recovery is difficult.  You are tightly bound psychologically to those who victimized you.

Forgiveness involves separating yourself from these bad people who hurt you.

Forgiveness says, “I hope you burn in hell (emphasis added) but I am done with you.  You no longer have any power or influence over me.  What you did will never be okay but I am moving on.”

Forgiveness is an act taken for you.  It has nothing at all to do with your perpetrator!

You

The third and final element is you.

Wait a minute, you say, I’m the victim.  How am I an “element” in recovering from my abuse?

A fair question!

While it may not be the case for you, many victims often blame themselves in part or completely for their victimization.

I worked with a young woman who was raped when she took a shortcut home to her grandmother’s house. Grandma had told her not to take the short cut as it was dangerous.  She was in a hurry, took the shortcut and was raped.

She reasoned that she was responsible for the rape because she had been warned, disregarded the warning, and suffered the consequences.

While it is true that she would not have been raped if she had listened to grandma, it is not true that she is responsible for the rape.  She is “guilty” of poor judgment.  The rapist is totally responsible for the rape.

Self-blame occurs for at least two reasons:

  • The victim is trying to make sense of an unreasonable event and focuses on themselves because the actions of the perpetrator are incomprehensible.
  • The perpetrator has told the victim the abuse is their fault. “If you hadn’t done XYZ, I wouldn’t have beat you!” or “If you weren’t so attractive, I wouldn’t have…”.

The “reason” why you might blame yourself is not critical here.  What is important is that you “forgive” yourself.

Forgiveness here means that whatever actions you might have taken which appear to connect you to the event did not cause or give your perpetrator permission to commit the abuse.  You are acknowledging any action you might have done and separating it from the event.

.

I hope this has been helpful and that it starts your process of recovery and gives you a roadmap to getting the help (professional or otherwise) you require.

How to Recover from Abuse Part 1

This is the first of a two part series on how to recover from abuse.  I decided to publish this early in the new year for three reasons…

  1. I know that dealing with issues related to abuse (current or past) can be difficult.
  2. This is a subject that is difficult for people to discuss.
  3. If abuse issues are relevant to you, perhaps you will take something that I say in this article, make it a “New Year’s Resolution” and implement the suggestion in your life.

Bur before I get into it, a serious note of encouragement….

If you are dealing with issues related to your past history of “abuse” and these issues are having a negative (however you define this) impact on your life, please seek professional help.  Therapy works.  When you need help with your car, you seek out a competent mechanic.  When you need help getting your life together, seek out a competent mental health professional.

During my 30 year career as a Psychologist with the California Youth Authority, I treated young women whose history included multiple types of abuse including physical, emotional and sexual.  While some of my clients may not have been “abused” over time, many had been raped.

Let me explain that when I talk of abuse, I am referring to inappropriate interactions with parents, siblings and caretakers which occurred repeatedly and over time.  While the offense of rape may only have occurred on a single occasion, the distinction I make between abuse and rape in no way implies that one type of mistreatment is worse than or more difficult to deal with than the other as this is not the case.  Rather, I am attempting to include all victims of these abusive victimizing interactions as the way to recover from theses traumatic events is basically the same whether the abusive was perpetrated over time or occurred as a single event.

One caveat before I describe for you how you can recover from “abuse”.

While it is relatively “easy” to describe the recovery process, it is by no means easy for a victim to go through this process on her (or his) way to recovery.  The recovery process is often painful time-consuming and difficult (but not impossible) to do alone.

How past abuse keeps impacting you in the present.

Maybe, you’ve had the experience of sharing your history with someone who says to you (or you have said to yourself) something along the lines of “That (event) happened long ago.  Let it go and move on.”

Okay, maybe they were a little more caring than that.  But the idea that something that took place so long ago continues to impact you is often difficult to comprehend.

The reason that your past continues to bug you (and may even feel as if it happened yesterday) has to do with the relationship between your past and your present.

The best way to understand this was offered by Albert Ellis in his description of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

I explained REBT to my clients this way using the “formula”  E-T=>F.  In this formula, E stands for the event(s) you experienced, T stands for your Thoughts about the event(s) and F stands for the feelings which follow from those thoughts. This is a simplification of REBT but it works to understand Dr. Ellis’s approach.

By the way, just about everything you ever wanted to know about feelings can be learned by visiting my blog (TheEmotionsDoctor.com).

Dr. Ellis was one of the first psychologists to emphasize the connection between your thoughts and your feelings.  It is your feelings in the here and now about the event which keep that event current in your life.  When someone says that the event was in the past, they are correct about the actual physical event (or events). And, it is factually the case that the past can’t physically impact the present.  However, the actual facts are not important here as we are talking about your psychological reality wherein your feelings about the past are in the present and they can (and do) significantly impact you in the here and now.

The important insight offered by REBT (which, by the way is one type of cognitive therapy) is that your feelings are elicited by your thoughts. The good news here is that you can change your thoughts.

And, when you change your thoughts, you change your feelings.  Changing your feelings allows you to move beyond your past and recover from your abuse.

Your Problematic Thoughts

There are three “elements” which define your abuse.

  1. The abusive event (or events): What you actually experienced and your perception of what took place.
  2. Your perpetrator: That person or people who victimized you.
  3. You: How you view yourself through the lens of your abuse, what you think about your “involvement” in your abuse, and your view of yourself post-event.

Now, I need to point out that while these three elements are, indeed, separate, psychologically, they may be experienced as interconnected in the same way that a red, a blue and a white strand of rope, while initially separate, become intertwined when we braid them together.  Ultimately, you can learn to separate these elements, as I will discuss them below, so you can change your thoughts about each and move on.

The event(s)

What happened to you is burned into your brain. Your “recollection” of these events may be very vivid (like it happened yesterday), detailed, or fuzzy.  What you remember may be accurate (in the details) or may not match a video (if one existed).

None of the above matters!

The reason for this is that your thoughts (memories) are real to you and combine to create the feelings which are problematic and which negatively impact your life.

I am assuming that some sort of victimizing event or events occurred and, as we are dealing with the “court” of your psychology and not a Court of Law, the “facts” are not critical.

The way to move beyond your past can be summarized in the acronym IWBNI which stands for (I) It   (W) Would (B) Be (N) Nice (I) If.

Here is a link to an article I wrote on IWBNI_s IWBNI’.

Again, let me emphasize that the process I am laying out is easy to describe but challenging to complete.

To put it another way….IT MAY BE DIFFICULT, BUT IT IS DOABLE!

 

The darker side of the Holidays: A four part series of posts.

November marks the beginning of the Holiday Season starting with Thanksgiving and moving through Christmas and New Years.

The holidays are times when families get together and celebrate.

Hopefully, the Holidays and the celebrations are happy times for you. 

Sometimes, however, there is a darker side to the Holidays.

In some families, Holiday gatherings might involve disagreements over politics or other topics.

And, when people are stressed while shopping, driving, or standing in line, emotions can get out of hand and result in rage.

While I hope that none of these posts apply to you, my intent is to raise your awareness in the next four  posts and provide you with some useful information to help you weather any challenges which may arise.

Part 1: You Cannot NOT Communicate

Part 2: Emotions as Tools- Seven Top Conflict Resolution Tips Using Emotions as Tools.

Part 3: The Benefits of “Gratitude”. Happy Thanksgiving.

Part 4: Holiday rage: Where does it come from and what you can do about it.

I hope theses posts are useful.

You Cannot NOT Communicate

Today’s post is a reprint from September 2016 and addresses the idea that you are always communicating eventhough you may not be saying anything. 

In other words..”You cannot not communicate.” 

Your non-verbal language is always “on” and sending messages to others.  In the same way, those people with whom you interact are always communicating to you. 

And, if you, or they, don’t like these non-verbal messages, conflict can result.

The title of this post may look like I added an extra word.

I assure you, (no pun intended) that I did not..

The point I am making, and that most people miss when they interact with others, is that we are always communicating something whether we intend to or not.

Most people believe that communication is a fairly simple process. This is an unfortunate myth.

The process of communication, while I admittedly am simplifying the process, can be illustrated with two examples.

Example #1: Think back to the days of the telegraph.  If you wanted to send a message, you had to write out the message, the telegraph operator had to convert it to Morse Code, the wires had to be in place between you and the place to which you were sending the message, the receiving  operator had to get the signal, decode the message, and write it down so that your target person could receive your message.

The first example illustrates the verbal communication process.  Most of us can easily encode an idea into words, deliver the words, and expect the receiver to accurately decode the message and understand what we mean and intended to say.  And, in most cases, when it is factual information we are communicating, this process works.

There are some underlying assumptions here.

  • Both of the participants speak the same language and can understand the words being used.  Words can be thought of as one “filter” through which ideas are processed. (One way to understand the idea of a filter is to think about what happens when you take a black and white picture with your camera or smart phone. The filter takes out the color.) Words can have a multitude of meanings and, therefore, can be thought of as a filter in that you choose the words you eventually use based on what you want to convey.
  • The message is clear, does not involve emotional issues in either party, and is not easily misinterpreted. (Emotions are another “filter” through which ideas are processed.)
  • Both participants are paying attention to each other, are not distracted by “noise” in the environment (think about having a conversation in a loud lounge), and are “actively” listening with the goal of receiving and understanding the message.  They are not  “passively” listening while engaged in some other activity such as texting or planning tomorrow’s schedule.

If we are dealing with issues involving emotions (or complex issues), the process becomes more complicated.

Example #2: Think about the last time you sent a text or an email thinking that you were being very clear only to have the person to whom you sent this electronic message get upset because they misinterpreted the message they received.

The second example illustrates a situation in which the message has several different “layers” but the only layer of information that is “available” is what is “written” down.

There are several possible complications here:

  • The message may contain implied emotional overtones. For example, you are upset with the person and have not directly expressed your feeling.
  • You may have directly expressed your feelings but the meaning of the emotional words you have used were misinterpreted when “decoded” by the recipient of the text.
  • You tried to use humor in your text or an emoji.
  • And so forth.

By the way, the above process is why we are frequently advised, and warn our kids, to be very careful about what they send in an email or a text.

There is a quote from the Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) literature that says: “The meaning of a communication (to the receiver) is the response that you (the sender) get regardless of what you intended to say.”

The receiver’s (upset) response clearly suggests that he (or she) viewed the message as “threatening”. This is the “real” meaning of the message to him.

If the communication process is to be successful, you will need to determine where the “disconnect” is. Perhaps, the misunderstanding occurred because the message contained implied emotional overtones that were included in the message (either intentionally or unintentionally) or the receiver read emotional overtones into the message that were not there.

When you are involved in a face to face conversation, there are additional complications that can take place because of the nature of non-verbal signals.

  • Non-verbal signals comprise a significant (perhaps, major) portion of the communication process and involve your tone of voice, the expression on your face, the way you are standing and so forth.
  • An important part of the emotional process is the constant scanning of our surroundings that our senses engage in, our Amygdala monitors, and our bodies unconsciously react to if there is a threat.
  • Our primitive brain is programmed to “read” non-verbal signals because they are often a more accurate (though not always so) indicator of possible threat. This is because humans are not very good at modifying their non-verbal signals (unless they are trained to do so).

Consequently, you are always communicating non-verbally and your listener is always tuned into your non-verbals.  Hence, the title of this blog: You cannot NOT communicate.

An example of this potential conflict is  the saying “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.”

Communication problems can arise for at least two reasons:

  1. The meaning of non-verbal signals is not always clear and can easily be misunderstood.
  2. The non-verbal signals you are communicating with your tone of voice or body language are not consistent with the verbal message.

You master your emotions (and the emotions of others) when you are aware of and utilize the nature of non-verbal (and verbal) signals.

  • In your own communications, take extra care to insure that the message you are conveying non-verbally is consistent with the words you are using.
  • Be aware of the non-verbal signals your receiver sends to you, the emotions indicated by those signals, and the message those emotions tell you about how he or she has interpreted your communication. Using this information, you can seek clarification if what you see in their response is different from what you expected and you can clear up any misunderstanding.

Part 2 will publish in 2 weeks.

Relationship Primer: Tips 3 and 4 for Getting the Most out of a Relationship

In the last post, I discussed relationship tips #1 and #2.

Tip #1: Master your emotions.

Tip #2:Master their emotions.                ______________________________________

In this post, I will start with Tip #3.

Tip #3: Remember and apply the Basic Relationship Rule

Remember and apply the Basic Relationship Rule

The Basic Relationship Rule is a lens through which we can take a closer look at, and begin to understand, what is going on in our relationships.

This basic rule, or formula, applies to all relationships.

Mastering the Basic Relationship Rule can help you both gain insight into and understand what motivates others and how you can positively impact the actions of other participants in the relationship.

What is the Basic Relationship Rule?

                Everyone always does the best they can given their model of the world and their skill sets.

  • Everyone: Every participant in the relationship including you and the other person.
  • Always: The assumption is that, if the action is personally meaningful, each person will default to an action that will be maximally productive in the situation.
  • Best: The best they can do in the moment. Not the best possible.
  • Model: Their personal perception of the current event.
  • Skill sets: The behaviors they can use to deal with the situation.

The basic relationship rule sets a standard for how you view the actions of another individual within the context of your relationship with that person. 

The basic relationship rule is intended to help you avoid judging the actions of another participant in the relationship so that you can validate and understand the behavior you are observing. It does not require that you condone or accept the other person’s behavior as appropriate.

  • judging: labeling the behavior in such a way that eliminates further understanding and can exacerbate any problems which might exist in the relationship. Judging the behavior of another person in a relationship can effectively end any further constructive interactions. 
  • validate: accept as their best, at the moment, NOT the best possible.
  • understand: gain some insight into the behavior you are observing.
  • condone, accept and appropriate: imply a set of standards that can, if necessary, be applied later to the behavior

Validating  helps you maintain the relationship, if this is your choice, while you devise a plan to intervene and facilitate any changes which might improve the relationship.

Validating also allows you to continue to accept the other person while you might not accept their behavior.

Understanding can provide some direction in choosing an intervention.

How do you apply the Basic Relationship Rule?

Something is perceived to be “wrong” in a relationship when the person with whom we are interacting either does something that doesn’t seem right or fails to do something we think they “should” be doing.

In other words, you believe that a rule or an expectation has been violated.

It is important to point out that when a relationship isn’t working, the issue could involve the behavior of one or both participants.  Therefore, as you continue reading, please keep in mind that the basic relationship rule might have to be applied to either your behavior, the actions of another person, or both.

Violating an explicit rule.

If the rule that you believe is being violated is explicit, you may have an “absolute” (published in some form such as a policy or agreement) standard to which you can refer.

But not always.

There can be a difference of opinion regarding how the rule is applied. As an example, one person may see an action that is taken such as asking a colleague “out for a drink” as complying with policy while the colleague may see it as a boundary violation.

Violating an implicit rule.

If the rule is implicit, the issue is more complex as the perceived violation could be due to ignorance (vs ignoring) the rule. 

Whatever is happening, we conclude that something is wrong and we want to correct it.  

The Basic Relationship Rule gives you some guidelines to help you understand what is going on in the relationship and what changes you might begin to explore making.

Let’s unpack the Basic Relationship Rule.

best–what they believe will enable them to effectively handle the situation they are facing.  It isn’t the best possible but the best they can do in the moment. Their choice of what to do involves the context, their model of the world and their skill sets. 

The assumption here is that each participant wants a particular result from the relationship and is, therefore, motivated to use the most effective (or best) approach they have to accomplish the desired result. 

If there was a better approach, about which they were aware, they would use it.

model of the world — encompasses their understanding of the rules that apply to the relationship including what is “okay”, what will “work”, what they can “get away with”, and/or the way things “should be”.

skill sets –this is the behavior that the individual brings to the situation and includes how they handle emotions and their level of self-control (intrapersonal skills), how they interact with others (interpersonal skills), any training one has had such as assertion training, and what has(or has not) been productive in the past.

Applying the basic relationship rule:

Model of the world:

Looking into how others perceive their relationship with you gives you an opportunity to look at how they perceive you and the situation.  Perhaps, their actions reflect a misunderstanding of something you have done or said, how they perceive themselves relative to you, or how they understand what is “appropriate” within the context of the current relationship.  If this is the case, helping them change their perceptions may alleviate the challenge to the relationship.

One example might be a co-worker who violates a “personal boundary”. This boundary might be a physical boundary, an ethical boundary, or a rule violation. The questions to ask yourself involving his model of the world include:

  • Is he being aggressive and ignoring the “rules”?
  • Has he misunderstood something you said or did?
  • Is he unfamiliar with the rules?
  • Is his model unjustified or is this a skill set issue where in he just does not know how to say what he wants?

Another example might be a police officer who is “rude”. The questions to ask yourself involving his model of the world include:

  • Have I done something which “pushed his buttons”?
  • How likely is it that his behavior is based on other experiences he has had today or in his past?
  • Regardless of the basis for his actions, what is my best course of action to take?

Skill sets:

Looking at a person’s behavior as the “best” they can do leaves you open to exploring whether the actions of another comes about because, if their model is accurate, they don’t know any other more appropriate way to handle the situation. Perhaps, they need to  acquire new skills. If this is the case, then educating them about their actions and the consequence of the choices they have made and suggesting alternatives may be all that is needed.

If you decide that the behavior you are seeing is, indeed, the best, they are capable of, then, perhaps, the relationship needs to “end”. An example might be a friend or family member who is addicted to drugs and who tends to be agitated and defensive in their interactions with you.  All your efforts to help them change have  been unsuccessful and the relationship is taking its toll on you. You might decide to continue “loving” them and to be “available” if they choose to change but to keep your distance from them.

Tip #4: Shoot for a win/win but settle for a compromise

In both this and the last post, I have attempted to offer suggestions regarding how you might intervene to improve a relationship that your emotions inform you is negatively impacted by the behavior of the other person in the relationship.If a win/win is too difficult to obtain, then work toward a compromise.

This final tip looks at your goal in deciding what actions to take to bring about the changes you might seek to facilitate.

Initially, I am suggesting that you seek a solution that is “win-win”.  This is an outcome in which you and the other person end up getting what you want out of the relationship.  If, for example, the other person is angry with you (or you with them), then the emotion suggests that one of you perceives the other as a threat.  A win-win solution would involve the resolving the perceived threat so that both of you believe that your needs in the relationship have been effectively satisfied.

While this is the optimum solution, it is often difficult to accomplish.  It is, however, often doable and should, therefore, be your initial goal.

When the needs of both participants are beyond reach, your option is then to seek, and settle for, a compromise.  Too often, it is a compromise that we seek and we miss the possibility of the more difficult to achieve “win-win”.

If a compromise is the best you can achieve, then that is what you go for.

There is, however, a caveat here.  If the behavior that is problematic in a relationship involves a core belief, then compromising might not be an option.

An example I used when I was working with incarcerated young women was this.  If a male attempted to touch them inappropriately and they indicated that a non-negotiable boundary had been violated, if the male came back and said “Okay, let’s compromise, let me touch you (there).”  The answer would still be “no” and compromise would not be a viable option.  The boundary should be defended.

Seeking a “win-win” where possible leaves open the possibility of “falling back” to a compromise.  If you initially seek a compromise, that is the best you will ever accomplish and you might miss an opportunity for a better outcome.

If you are registered with the blog, please leave a comment as I would very much like to know what you think about what I have written.

Relationship Primer: Tips 1 and 2 for Getting the Most out of a Relationship

In my earlier posts, I defined what a relationship is, listed three categories of relationships and addressed the four attributes of a relationship.

In the next two posts, I will address 4 tips which will help you apply what you have learned so far about relationships and give you some suggestions about how you might choose to intervene if you want to improve a relationship that is “working”  or change a relationship that is dysfunctional. 

The four tips are:

  1. Master Your Emotions
  2. Master Their Emotions
  3. Remember and apply the Basic Relationship Rule
  4. Shoot for a win/win but settle for a compromise

I will discuss tips 1 and 2 in this post and tips 3 and 4 in the next post.

Relationship tips 1 and 2:

Tip #1: Master Your Emotions

Because I have written several posts dealing with emotions and emotional mastery, this section will only cover mastering your emotions in the context of relationships.  As a reminder, you can access all of my previous posts by clicking the Index tab above.

There are two reasons why mastering your emotions is the first tip.  The first reason emphasizes the importance of relying on your emotions to alert you to your surroundings and the possibility that something isn’t right in your relationship.  Accurately  perceiving your interactions with others is critical to maintaining or improving the relationship that you have.

The second reason emphasizes the importance of lowering your arousal level so that you can clearly assess the nature of the possible problem and focus on an effective response. If your arousal level is too high, you are more likely to react and possibly escalate the situation than to respond and move forward.

The Anger Mastery cycle illustrates, using anger as an example, how the emotional mastery cycle works. The link, by the way, takes you to a downloadable copy of the Anger Mastery Cycle.

 We all constantly scan our surroundings for any possible threat.  When a threat is perceived, an emotion is elicited which alerts us to our initial perception of what is happening to us. Our emotions then evoke a behavioral reaction.

Your emotions, therefore, are your window on the world.  They are your “early warning system”.  Your emotions alert you to how you perceive what is going on around you and prepare you to deal with whatever you see that “isn’t right”. This alert is the function of the emotion.  The content of the alert is the message of the emotion.

Our emotions may communicate that:

  • we do not like what we see (upset, frustrated, displeased, disappointed),
  • we perceive a current threat (anger),
  • we see a possible future threat (anxiety), or
  • we are aware of a need to move away from the interaction (disgust or fear).

Or,

  • when a relationship is “working” and is relatively free of complicating issues, our emotions inform us that we want to stay in the relationship (happy, content, satisfied) and we tend to just “go with the flow”.  

This “communication” is the message of the emotion.

Emotional mastery includes: 

  • managing your emotional arousal level so that you don’t escalate an interaction and
  • validating the emotion to give it credibility
  • assessing the message of the emotion against the situation
  • using the message of the emotion to choose an effective response

Most of you have probably heard of emotional management (as in anger management.) Mastery exceeds managing an emotion and involves both understanding what the emotion tells you about how you are viewing the situation and using that information to assess your perception.  Finally, mastering an emotion involves choosing an effective response  (based on your assessment) which will lead to a better outcome (in whatever situation you find yourself).

In the context of a relationship, when you “feel” that something isn’t right, your first step is to take a deep breath.  This lowers your arousal so that you do not react to the perceived violation.

Too often, when we believe we have been “wronged”, we want to lash out, or react. This is not recommended because, while our initial perception may be correct, we might also have misunderstood. It is, therefore, preferable to respond to the situation rather than react.

When our emotions inform us that there is a “problem” with a relationship, we start looking for ways we can “work things out”, “make things better”, “come to an understanding”, and so forth.

Mastering our emotions involves learning to stay emotionally cool while still validating the emotion, assessing the situation to see if it does, indeed, match the emotion, and then using the energy that the emotion gives us to choose how we want to respond to the violation we “feel” has occurred. 

Tip #2: Master Their Emotions

Tip #1 advised you to master your own emotions so that you can lower your arousal level, validate the message of the emotion you are experiencing and respond rather than react to a perceived threat.  That you would master your own emotions makes sense because you can directly impact what you feel.

That you would attempt to master the emotions of another person is less intuitively satisfying and doesn’t seem to make any sense. 

Until it does!

Think about it for a moment.  Your goal in a relationship is to make the relationship work.  The threat you perceive is negatively impacting your interaction with another person and eliciting (not causing) your emotion.

This is also the case for the person or people you are interacting with.

While it is true that you can’t directly impact what another person feels, knowing how the emotional process works gives you an opportunity to indirectly impact their emotions by helping them alter how they perceive you and what is going on between you.

Here are the key steps to mastering another person’s emotions…

  • The emotion you are observing in the other person, and the message that emotion communicates to you, gives you insight into how that individual perceives you and their interaction with you.
  • Understanding this perception allows you to implement the emotional mastery cycle and validate their emotion. Remember that validation does not mean acceptance.  So, you can say something like, “I can see that you are (angry, annoyed, frustrated, etc.))
  • You can then assess the nature of the perceived threat by checking out the basis for the threat by asking for clarification regarding what you might have done which led to their perception of you as (a threat, an obstacle, uncaring, rude etc).
  • You can then, if appropriate, apologize for any misunderstanding.  Be aware that you are not admitting guilt here. You are only acknowledging that something you did might have been misunderstood.
  • You can, then, choose how you will interact with them and seek a resolution by clarifying what you did, asking for additional input from the other person and so forth.

Note that when you validate their emotions, apologize, and ask for clarification,  you are facilitating their changing how they perceive you which should help them lower their own arousal and be more open to anything you might have to say.  This is the key to mastering their emotions.  You are not doing anything to directly impact what the feel and the behavior that feeling evokes but you are using the message of the emotion to help them change their perceptions.

Once you have implemented tip #1 and  both lowered your own arousal level and understood your perception of what is going on in the relationship and you have implemented tip #2 to help the other person lower their arousal level so that they are more open to interacting with you, you can begin to gain some additional understanding into their actions by implementing tip #3.

The next post discusses tip #3 and tip #4.

 

 

 

Saying “I’m Sorry” in a business setting. My take!

My last two posts looked at what constitutes a relationship and what attributes are associated with a relationship.

In this post, I discuss an example which touches upon relationships (and other) issues in a business scenario. Additional elaboration on these issues will be reserved for later posts.

Have you ever done something at work you wished you hadn’t such as being late to a meeting?

Or, failed to do something you wish you had done such as completing a report that was due?

And, when you attempted to rectify the “undesirable” action by saying “I’m sorry (plus an explanation for the “perceived failure”), your boss, or the person to whom the apology was directed looked at you with disdain, displeasure, or disgust.

Even if this scenario hasn’t happened to you, you might still be able to identify with it.

So, what happened?

Well, let’s assume that your “explanation” was, indeed, an attempt to explain the underlying basis for the action that did occur (being late) or the action that did not take place (the absent report) rather than an attempt to simply justify or, in some way, excuse your actions.

In other words, your intent was not to deny, minimize, or avoid responsibility for your actions. Rather, it was an attempt to provide a context for what you did.

The reaction of your boss, however, suggested that he viewed your “I’m sorry” as an excuse and assumed that you were not taking responsibility for your actions.

So, is saying “I’m sorry.” in a business context appropriate?

Well, let’s explore this question from an emotional mastery (basically an emotional intelligence) perspective in the context of building (or maintaining) a relationship.

Basic Concepts:

  • emotional mastery:

The basis of emotional mastery is the idea that emotions are tools which, when mastered like any other tool such as a cell phone, allow you to interact more effectively with your environment and make better inter- and intra-personal decisions.

  • mastering your own emotions:

You master your emotions when you accept your initial emotional reaction as informative, understand the meaning of each emotion (the message), assess your surroundings to see if your initial perception was accurate, and use the assessment to choose how you want to respond to what is going on.

  • relationship:

A relationship is any interaction with another person that has value, is personally meaningful, or personally significant, and which, if not handled appropriately can result in unwanted consequences.

  • mastering the emotions of another person:

You master the emotions of someone else by observing their actions and attempting to understand the emotion they are experiencing. Then, by using this knowledge to address any problematic issues they might have with you, you attempt to facilitate a mutually beneficial change in their behavior by changing their perceptions of their interactions with you.

  • Retrospective mastery:

Managing the emotions of another retrospectively involves assessing the emotion that is displayed and working backward to understand and change the emotion.

  • Prospective mastery:

Determining how you want to be perceived and acting accordingly.

  • Manipulation vs Mastery:

When you opt to facilitate change in another person solely for your own benefit, you are manipulating the other person.  If you are detected, your relationship with that person will deteriorate.

When you opt to master the emotions of another so as to improve the relationship with that person in such a way that the change is mutually beneficial, you are mastering the emotion.

Mastery is productive. Manipulation is counter-productive.

“I‘m sorry”.

By itself, the meaning of this phrase is ambiguous.

For example:

  1. “I’m sorry I didn’t attend the meeting. I was held up in traffic.”
  2. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
  3. “Sorry about that.”

#1 is perceived as an excuse or attempted justification.

#2 is perceived as an expression of condolence and sympathy

3# is perceived as an expression of indifference.

The phrase “I’m sorry.” takes on meaning from:

  • the context in which it is said,
  • the “modifiers” that follow it (the information provided regarding what one is sorry for or about), and
  • the perception of the person receiving the “apology” in terms of the relationship with the “apologizer”, the perceived intent of the “apologizer”, and other factors

The perception of the “receiver” is impacted by many factors including:

  • relationship with the “apologizer”
  • past experiences with, and opinions about, “I’m sorry”
  • how one views any “failure to live up to expectations”
  • and so forth.

Think about this for a moment.  While there may be times when you are able to discern the nature of your boss’s reaction toward you (his perceived “threat”), there will also be times when you can’t know for certain what the basis of this perception is.

So, you may need to adjust your own comments to cover a range of possibilities.

“I’m sorry” plus restitution

When you said, “I’m sorry” and gave your explanation, your boss responded with a look that suggested his displeasure, some form of rebuke or censure, or even mild anger.

Emotional mastery would suggest that your boss perceives your communication as both inappropriate and as a “threat”.  This is the message of “anger”.  The threat, here, might involve:

  • his (or her) view of you as an “irresponsible” employee who wants to make himself feel better by justifying his “failure” to act appropriately (accountability),
  • his view of any “explanation” as a “justification” or “excuse” designed to manipulate him.

When you are attempting to interact with another person and “master” (or validate) their emotions within the context of the relationship you have with that person, you need to insure that you address the (possible) perceived threats that person might be reacting to.

When addressing a perceived threat, think about the concept of restitution.  Restitution is defined as the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner and usually appears in legal settings where a crime has been committed.

While it is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch to include the idea of  restitution with saying “I’m sorry.” as no crime has been committed, here is how I am viewing your apologizing to a skeptical boss.

Your actions are perceived as a violation of how things “should be”.  Your boss expects you to be responsible.  Your actions have violated this expectation and it this expectation  that constitutes the “loss” that you are restoring.

So, your “explanation” now involves your stating how you will make things right or restore equilibrium.

Put another way, your boss isn’t so much concerned about why you did what you did as much as he wants to know what you will do to make everything right now that whatever you did is already done.

Hence…

I’m sorry.” in a business setting? Yes, with caveats.

It is here that your intentions and how you interact with your boss become important. These are relationship elements.

Caveat #1:  Never just say “I’m sorry.”

The reason here is that, as I noted above, this phrase is like a verbal Rorschach card which, because of its ambiguity, is prone to be misinterpreted based on the biases of the listener. Understanding and accommodating these biases are done in the context of the relationship.

Caveat #2: Be aware of your own intent in saying “I’m sorry.” and clearly communicate that intent.  This is mastering your own emotions.

What are you feeling concerning the “mistake” for which you are apologizing?

Did you unintentionally make the mistake? (feeling guilty and responsible for making it right)

Was the mistake unintended but the result of a situation beyond your control? (feeling content but still responsible for making it right)

And, so forth.

Caveat #3:

Be cognizant of the likely perceptions of your listener.

If you know that your boss expects accountability and responsibility, follow your “I’m sorry.” with a brief delineation of what happened and a clear description about what you will do to make it right.

The “I’m sorry.” communicates your accepting responsibility for any unexpected outcomes.

Your explanation supports the acceptance of responsibility and commits to a plan of action to “make it right”.

Caveat #4: Be cognizant of your relationship with your listener.

How does your listener view you and what expectations does he (or she) have about you.

Tailor your response with these expectations in mind.  For example, how direct can you be with this person.  Do you need to acknowledge  power, gender or seniority differences in your communication?

With these caveats in mind, saying “I’m sorry.” is appropriate because it communicates accepting responsibility and is reinforced by a plan to move forward.

In my next post, I will go into greater detail than this post permitted regarding mastering your own emotions in the context of a relationship (Relationship Tip #1) and mastering the emotions of another person in the context of a relationship (Relationship Tip #2).

And, the post after that will go into greater detail of interacting with another person.  Relationship Tip #3 will address the Basic Relationship Rule and Relationship Tip #4 will look at shooting for a Win-Win but settling for a compromise.

I welcome your comments.

Relationship Primer: The Attributes of a Relationship

This is part 2 of the Relationship Primer series. In the last post, we defined what a relationship is and discussed three categories of relationships.

In part 2, I discuss the attributes of a relationship.

You can gain a better understanding of a relationship in terms of the function the relationship serves, what sustains it, what accounts for one’s actions within the relationship, or what might account for the relationship becoming unstable or problematic by taking a closer look at the attributes of the relationship.

The attributes of a relationship work across all three categories discussed in the last post.

The attributes of a relationship include:.

  • The context (including time frames) in which the relationship exists.
  • The rules (explicit or implicit) that apply to the relationship.
  • The expectations you and the other person bring to the relationship
  • Miscellaneous factors such as gender, power differences, age, and elements unique to each individual such as interpersonal skill sets and self-image.

Context

The context of a relationship is the setting in which that relationship occurs.  Some examples of context include..

official settings:

  • your work,
  • a business such as a store or an airport counter,
  • a governmental office,
  • an official phone contact including tech support, making an appointment, or placing an order
  • ordering food at a “sit-down” restaurant
  • a school,

casual settings:

  • starting a conversation with a stranger
  • a party
  • a “blind” date

Rules:

A rule is an explicit (stated or written) or implicit (implied or understood) regulation, mandate or principle governing conduct within a particular setting. 

Explicit rules include:

  • policies
  • contracts
  • codes including ethics
  • laws
  • parental “mandates” which apply to kids

Implicit rules include:

  • precedents (as in “the way things are done around here”)
  • implied guidelines (as in “this is the way you deal with that boss”)

If you don’t know the rules that exist within a given context or setting, you are more likely to “cross the line” and be perceived as acting inappropriately. This can lead to conflict.

If the rules are explicit, as in written policies, laws, mandates or ethics codes, it is reasonable to assume that others within your setting are familiar with, will understand, and will act according to those rules. Or, if their actions violate a given rule, informing them that a rule exists should be sufficient to produce a change in their behavior.

If you know the rules, you expect others to act in accordance with the rules and you “judge” or label the behavior of others as “right” or “wrong” based on whether that behavior conforms to or violates the rules. 

Expectations:

Context and rules often determine the expectations that participants have about how they and the other person in the relationship should act.

An expectation is a future prediction about what we believe will happen and, more importantly, what we believe is required to happen (based on whatever criteria are being applied).

Please note that an expectation involves…

  • our prediction regarding what will happen in the future and
  • our statement of what is required to take place. 

What makes expectations so critical is the belief, expressed as an expectation, that another person is obligated or required to act in accordance with the expectation.

So, if I expect you to do something and you do not, I perceive you as violating some norm or rule.  It is this perceived violation that elicits my anger, displeasure, criticism, or desire to punish or correct the violation.

One’s expectations are often the basis for misunderstandings and conflict in relationships!

Sometimes, we are aware of our expectations.  For example, we expect our server at the restaurant to be polite and attentive.  If the restaurant is not busy, we expect our coffee to be refilled as frequently as needed.  If the restaurant is busy, our expectations change accordingly.  If our coffee gets cold and is “never” refilled.  Our displeasure is clear, our expectations have not been met and the tip we may leave might reflect this displeasure.

At other times, we may not be explicitly aware of our expectations but someone does something and we are surprised at what we see.  This “surprise” is an indication that an expectation has either not been met or has been exceeded.

Our expectations impact our emotions and our actions whether we are aware of them or not.

Sometimes, there can be a conflict between the expectations of the participants in a relationship. 

When I was working as a Psychologist in a juvenile correctional facility, I wrote a report in which my “recommendation” was in direct conflict with what the Institutional team was recommending.  The Superintendent called me into his office and berated me for “not being a team player”. His expectation was that I, as a team player, would go along with the team’s recommendation.  I agreed with him about, and assured him that, I was a “team player”. In this instance, however, I had a higher standard I had to meet. My psychological data led to a different conclusion and I had an “ethical” responsibility to follow my data. My personal expectation was that, when ethics trumped loyalty, I would be ethical.

Another example is when a boss might expect that he (or she) can “take advantage” of a subordinate who “expects” to be treated with respect.  The “me-to” movement is beginning to address this “injustice”.

Miscellaneous factors:

Finally, there are other (miscellaneous) factors which can impact a relationship. Miscellaneous factors may impact the “expectations” each participant brings to the relationship.

Miscellaneous factors include:

  • gender (or gender identification)
  • power differences (when one’s position involves the ability to negatively impact a subordinate and this “power” is used to exploit a subordinate)
  • each participant’s model of the world (one’s model of the world is a general view of “the way things are in the world”or “the way things should be in the world” regarding right and wrong, interpersonal relationships, honesty, values, appropriate vs inappropriate actions, and so forth)
  • skill sets (These are the abilities that each person has including assertive skills, problem solving skills, and communication skills.)
  • the self-image of each participant (This is the picture one has of oneself and includes self-confidence, one’s place in the world, how one relates to others, one’s sense of entitlement and so forth.)

In the next post, I will look at an example of an interaction which touches upon the concepts of mastering emotions and relationship issues (reacting with another person).

Relationship Tips #1 and #2 address mastering emotions and will be covered in a later post as will Tips #3 and #4 which look more specifically maximizing your interactions with another person.

If you are registered with this blog, please leave a comment.

 

 

 

Relationship Primer: What is a “relationship”?

This is the first of a series of posts on relationships.

In this series, I will help you…

  • understand what relationships are 
  • how you can appreciate the relationships you have that are “working” 
  • how you can attempt to improve the relationships that are problematic.  

In this post, I look at what actually constitutes a “relationship”.

Enjoy, and, if you are registered, please leave a comment.

What is a “relationship”?

Take a moment and think about the relationships you currently have.

You probably thought about your significant other, your kids, or perhaps someone like a family member that you used to be able to relate to but are now estranged from.

Of course, you thought of the easy, or obvious, relationships.

But, did you think of your boss, your co-workers, the clerk at the store who helped you find the perfect gift, the policeman who pulled you over on the way to work, or the tech guy you called to help you figure out how to make your phone do what it is “supposed” to do but doesn’t do for you?

Or, did you think about the person at work  you have to interact with in order to do your job but who, in reality, is a “jerk” because that individual marginalizes, demeans, or discounts you in some way?

On both counts, probably not.

What is a relationship? A working definition:

A relationship is any interaction with another person that:

  • has value, is personally meaningful,or personally significant

or

  • which, if not handled ” appropriately”, can result in unwanted consequences.

“Relationship” only indicates that there is a connection between you and another person and that you and another person are participants in the relationship.

The definition of a relationship does not, by itself, tell you anything about you, the other person, the nature of the connection, its valence (positive or negative) or how serious the connection is.

All of these elements are important and help to delineate what the particular relationship entails.

The category which you decide best describes any relationship in which you are a participant can impact the expectations you bring to that relationship.

I discuss expectations and their impact on a relationship in the next post.

Three Categories of Relationships

There are at least three categories of relationships.  The first two are obvious.

The third, while less obvious, is no less significant.

  1. Personal – family, marriage, kids, in-laws, friends, significant others
  2. Business – your boss, co-workers, or customers with whom you interact
  3. Unrecognized – the clerk at the airline ticket counter, the tech person you call about your computer, the cop who pulls you over.

Unrecognized relationships are those interactions with others  that you do not typically recognize as “relationships” but which can impact your life.  They may help you get an upgrade on your airline ticket or hotel room, help you avoid a traffic ticket, or improve your ability to achieve other “outcomes” you desire.

Years ago, I happened to be standing in line at an airport and watched a man aggressively tell the clerk that he had to get on a specific flight.  The clerk had informed him that the flight was full.  He postured, the clerk repeated what she had said, and the man left in a huff.  The next person in line approached the clerk politely, stated his need to be on the flight and, was able to get a seat.  This second customer approached the clerk as if he had a “relationship” with her.

Fluid versus concrete distinctions

The categories I have noted above and the examples I have given for each are in no way meant to be either definitive or rigid.  They can overlap.  For example, your co-worker can be a personal friend.

A suggestion: Avoid “labels” and think of all “connections” as “relationships”

As a general rule of thumb,  I try to communicate to others that I see them as a “person” and not just as a “label” such as “employee”, “cop”, “clerk” and so forth. In other words, while the connection I have with this person may not last very long, if it is “meaningful”, it is still a “relationship”.

Indeed, I am suggesting that going forward you consider all important connections that you have with other people as “relationships”.  When you do this, the importance you use as a lens through which you view that connection will have a significant impact on how you relate to the other person.

Why is this the case?

Well, there at least two reasons:

  1. When you define a connection with another person, you are viewing that connection as significant or worthy of attention.
  2. If a connection is significant, you will take some time to figure out what is going on with, how to make progress within, and how, possibly, to improve that connection.

That a connection is significant does not imply that it is positive, desirable, or healthy. As an example, that “jerk” at work may be someone whose cooperation you need to complete a project. While you might like to eliminate him (or her) from your life and consider the connection undesirable, negative, or unhealthy, it is still significant.

And, it is, therefore, a relationship.

The Attributes of a Relationship:

It is possible to gain a better understanding of the connection that constitutes the relationship by examining the various attributes which define your relationship.

I’ll discuss the attributes of a relationship in the next post.