Two Fundamental Principles Which Underlie a successful Marriage Part 2

In this post, I discuss the second fundamental principle of a successful marriage.

II. What is the Basic Relationship Rule and how do you apply it to strengthen your marriage?

The Basic Relationship Rule states:

Everyone always does the best they can (in their relationships) given their Psychological State, their Model of the world and their Skill Sets.

The Basic Relationship Rule serves two purposes:

On the one hand, it  provides you with a guide to understand your partner (the focus of the first principle).

Secondly, it highlights the three  elements which underly and give rise to your partner’s (and your own) actions. Understanding and shedding light on your partner’s Psychological State, their Model of the World and their Skill sets provide you with an opportunity to better relate to them and, if the situation presents itself, help them make some changes that will benefit them, you and your marriage.

Let’s dive a bit deeper.

There are six elements to the “rule”…

  1. It applies to everyone.
  2. It is always operative.
  3. It states that our “best” is situational and based on three factors.
  4. The first factor is  our Psychological State.
  5. The second factor is our Model of the World
  6. The third factor is our Skill Sets.

Elements #1 and #2

Elements #1 and #2 emphasize that, whenever we engage in an interaction that is important us, the Basic Relationship Rule can be used to understand the actions we (and our partners) are taking.

Hence, it applies to everyone in all “critical”situations.

Element #3

Element #3 is, perhaps, the most difficult to accept.

The issue here is that it doesn’t seem reasonable that one’s inappropriate behavior is the best possible action in the situation.

WELL, IN FACT, IT ISN’T THE BEST POSSIBLE!

It is the best we can do in the situation.

Think about it for a minute.

In any important interaction, why would you do anything less than the optimum you can do to deal with the situation that you are facing.

If you are fully engaged in doing what you believe you need to do to impact  the situation in which you find yourself, then this is your best, in that situation.

The same is true for the other person in your interaction.

While, clearly what they’ve doneit is not the best possible, it is the best action available to them (or the best they can do) in that situation.

Which, then, begs the question……

If it is not the best possible, and you (or they) are motivated to do whatever is needed to deal with the situation, then something must be impacting or impeding what you are doing that makes it less than optimum.

Yes!

And this takes us to Elements #4, #5 and #6 each of which sets limits on and give rise to the actions you are taking.

Element #4

Your Psychological State refers to any strong emotions such as sadness, anxiety, or anger which might impact how you (or they) interact with others.

Your emotional state is determined by how you are interpreting the situation in which you find yourself.  The message of the emotion informs you of your interpretations. Or it informs you of how they are viewing their interaction with you.

If you are angry, you are viewing the situation as involving a threat you need to go to war to resolve.

If you are anxious, you are viewing the situation as involving a possible future threat which needs to be resolved or avoided.

If you are sad, your are viewing the situation as involving a loss from which you need to remove yourself so that you can heal.

Think of your Psychological State as a filter through which you are viewing your situation.

The issue with your Psychological State is that you may not realize that you are viewing  the World through this filter.

Element #5

Your “Model of the World” is the lens through which you are viewing, interpreting, making sense of, and deciding what to do in your current situation.

Your Model develops over time and includes (among other things):

  • your self-image
  • your past experiences with similar interactions
  • how you view your partner and interpret what they do/say
  • what you assume (or expect) to be true about the situation
  • your goals

The “rightness” or “wrongness” of your Model is not an issue here.

The extent to which your Model helps, or hinders, you in your interactions with your partner to resolve the conflict is the critical point.

If you put on a pair of reading glasses, everything you look at beyond your book is blurred. The glasses are blurring your vision. Your Model of the World can also blur (or distort) what you are looking at and the interpretations you make.

This is a link to a previous post in which I discuss the concept of one’s “Model” in more detail.

Understanding Others and Ourselves to Build (or improve) our relationships. A 4-part series. Part 3: Their Model

Element #6

One’s skill sets are the abilities each individual in the relationship brings to the situation that they can access when they need to decide what they will do to “move the relationship forward”.

These skill sets include..

  • how they handle emotions (emotional intelligence skills)
  • their level of self-control (intrapersonal skills),
  • how they interact with others (interpersonal skills)
  • how they analyze a given situation (critical thinking skills)
  • how they approach solving problems (problem solving skills)
  • how they communicate with others (communication skills)
  • how they deal with perceived risk (risk management skills)

Your skill sets are the behaviors you have learned over your life span to deal with different types of situations.  Skill sets are influenced by different environments including family, work, school, the military and so forth and become habitual over time through practice.

Understanding Others and Ourselves to Build (or improve) our relationships. A 4-part series. Part 4: Skill Sets

If your skill sets are not adequate to handle what is going on, you will do things that may be inappropriate, ineffective, or even damaging to your efforts to resolve the conflict.

Think about North Korea for a moment.  This country believes it has very few “skill sets” which allow it to interact with the rest of the world.  It does have nuclear weapons.  Consequently, everything it does is filtered through the lens of threatening nuclear annihilation.

The bottom line is this..

In working to understand, maintain, or strengthen your marriage,  start by implementing the two fundamental principles that underlie all relationships.

Once you have done this, the specific “techniques” advocated in the lists various sites offer on the internet will make more sense and become more relevant.

Oh, and by the way, these same principles apply at work, as a volunteer or dealing with “support people”.

 

 

 

Two FUNDAMENTAL Principles of a Successful Marriage Part 1

This is the first of a two part series on two fundamental principles which underlie a successful marriage.

I discuss the first principle in this post and the second principle in two weeks.

If you google successful marriage, you will find links including:

Ten Secrets to a Successful Marriage – Focus on the Family

  • If you do what you always do, you will get same result
  • Change your mind, change your marriage.
  • Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears.
  • A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over.

 Five Keys to a Successful Marriage

  • Communicate. 
  • Laugh always. Go ahead, fart in bed. …
  • Respect one another. …
  • Don’t go to bed angry. …
  • Check your ego at the door.

The Keys to a Successful Marriage University of Rochester Medical Center

  • Tell your spouse that you’re thankful for having him or her in your life
  • Make time for you two as a couple
  • Plan for some personal time
  • Understand that it’s ok to disagree
  • Build trust
  • Learn to forgive

All of these points are important, worthy of consideration, and, if implemented, would contribute to maintaining  a successful marriage.

Indeed, maintaining a good attitude, building trust, and practicing good communication skills, forgiveness  and mutual respect,  are critical contributors to a successful marriage.

But, I believe these lists are incomplete as there are at least two fundamental principles which underlie, provide a context for, give rise to and strengthen each item on these lists.

The two Principles…

I. Steven Covey’s 5th habit of highly successful people:

Seek first to understand and then to be understood.  

II. The Basic Relationship Rule:

 Everyone always does the best they can (in their relationships) given their Psychological State, their Model of the world and their Skill Sets.

I. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND AND THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD

The critical element here is the counterintuitive suggestion that each partner, in a conflict, focus their attention on their partner before they present or defend your own needs.

This principle is counterintuitive because, when we are faced with conflict, our first reaction is to defend ourselves.

Indeed, each partner might maintain that their needs are equally as important as their partner’s and should not be ignored or subordinated (deemed less important or valuable) to those of other  partner.

And, each partner would be correct.

But, this is not what the principle is advocating.

It is important to note that I am making an assumption. In the context of a successful marriage,   both partners are committed…

  • to each other,
  • to the marriage, and
  • to themselves

So, what does Seek first to understand and then to be understood mean in the context of maintaining a successful marriage?

The principle advocates that you attempt to focus on your partner’s needs BEFORE you focus on your own.

Again, I must point out that you are neither ignoring nor demeaning your own needs in any way!

When you focus on understanding what your partner is trying to communicate, you accomplish three important goals.

  1. First if all, you communicate that you care about your partner and that he, or she, is important to you.  This, ultimately can strengthen your relationship and contribute to resolving the conflict.
  2. Secondly, you have gained important knowledge about your partner that may contribute to more open communication as your relationship grows.
  3. Thirdly, you may find that you are able to resolve the conflict with an intervention that doesn’t even involve your immediate needs.  In this case, it becomes a win-win proposition.

It is also important to note that you have not lost anything.  You still have the option of returning to your needs and working to insure that what is important to you gets the validation that is needed.

I discuss the second principle in my next post on April 6.

 

A New Podcast-Different Topics

These are links to my recent podcast on PositiveTalkRadio. In this interview, I discuss topics which were not addressed in the podcast I noted in my last post.

I’ve included these podcasts because some of you may prefer to get your information in a video or audio format rather than reading it.  If this is your preference, click on the Contact Me button above and leave me a message.

Audio only...

https://www.positivetalkradio.net/ed-daube-the-emotion-doctor/

Video

https://www.positivetalkradio.net/videos/ptr-ed-daube-phd-the-emotions-doctor/

Here are some specific issues which might interest you:

11:47 The problem with asking “why” questions and how “what” may be better.                                                                                                                                          19:10 The value of apologizing                                                                                          20:28 Personal responsibility and the challenge of believing that emotions control us.                                                                                                                                                 23:42 Jealousy
24:34 Hate
28:23 Fear and anxiety
32:10 Emotions gone astray and two issues… immigrants and the lady who called police on a black man walking his dog
37:34 Healthy disagreements with a spouse.

How can we bounce back after dealing with a toxic boss?

This is an expanded version of a post on LinkedIn. The original was limited to a specific number of characters and, therefore, was basically a summary.

……………

Given the description of the boss as toxic, we can assume that his (or her) actions are inappropriate, over the top, inconsistent, abusive or irrational.

Let me start by saying that there are two scenarios.

1. If you can leave the situation and find a new job, do it.

2. If you can’t leave the situation and have to “deal” with the boss, I have some suggestions.

The critical issue for me, as The Emotions Doctor, involves the emotions that the actions of a toxic boss can elicit in an employee.

In other words, how do you feel after interacting with a toxic boss?

It is important to note that the boss does not make you feel anything.  He does not create these feelings in you. 

Here is how it all works…

  • He creates a situation based on his inappropriate actions.
  • You view this situation through the lens of your experience.  This is your perception.
  • What you feel follows directly from how you perceive the situation.

Because your feelings follow from your perception and you can choose how you view the situation, you have the power to change both your perception and your feelings.

Please note that I am not blaming the employee for the feelings they experience.  The boss is always responsible for his toxic actions.  

The problem is that employees have a tendency to blame themselves.

The reason for this is that the employee may assume that the boss has a reason for acting as he does.  That reason must be the employee or what the employee has done.

If the boss’s actions are by definition toxic, the employee is not responsible for what the boss does. The employee is responsible for any action they have taken.

So, here is the solution..

Notice what you are feeling.

This could include anger, anxiety, sad, belittled, abused, mistreated, hopeless, helpless, worthless, alone, or depressed.

Take a deep breath and, when you are away from the boss, attempt to take a hard look at your situation.

Attempt to honestly assess whether you did anything wrong in your work setting.  The reason for this is that there may be a reason your boss is upset.  There is never a justification for being toxic.  If you have made a mistake, you can apologize and attempt to correct it.

Once you have decided that your boss is out of line, you need to forgive your boss.  

Forgiveness does not mean, as most people think, that you are absolving your boss of his responsibility for his actions.  Not in the least!  Forgiveness means that you are separating yourself emotionally from your boss.

Assuming that you, for now, are staying in a work setting with a toxic boss, your forgiving him frees you from being impacted by his toxicity and allows you to continue to function at your job.  Someone once said that, in situations such as this, “The bees (your boss) keep swarming but their stingers have been removed so they are no longer a threat.”

Next, you might need to forgive yourself.

“What”, you say, “I did nothing wrong.”

Correct.

But, you might have a tendency to get on your own case for letting your toxic boss get to you and disrupt your life.

When you forgive yourself, you are simply acknowledging your emotional humanity and that you were emotionally influenced by this boss.  This is very understandable.

And, by the way, while you are learning to separate yourself emotionally from your boss, you may still find that you react to him.  Relax, this will continue to happen for a while.

Once you become emotionally free of him, you will be able to listen to what he says, NOT HOW HE SAYS IT (his toxicity) and if he says anything that is informative to you, you can use this to improve yourself until you can move on.

There isn’t room here to explain all the emotions your might be experiencing.  However, I have discussed all of these feelings in detail on this blog.  You can access all of my 200+ posts by category and title by clicking on the Index tab above

Dealing with a toxic boss will take time but it can be done. 

How to master your anger when someone lies to you.

Someone on Quora.com asked me:

How do I control my anger when someone lies to me? (emphasis added).

While my original response to this question prompted this post, my response below is more updated, more detailed and more adequately addresses the important issues.

Anger Myths and  Controlling Your Emotions

There are two operative myths regarding one’s emotions (or feeling) and the  concept of control.  Both myths have some truth to them.  They are myths because they don’t tell the whole story.

The first myth is that emotions such as anger (and others) control you.

The second myth is that it is important (even beneficial) that you control your emotions.  While the idea of controlling your emotions is probably more frequently applied to anger because of the inappropriate actions take while angry (and blame the emotion for those actions), people believe they should control any emotion that doesn’t feel “good” to them like anxiety, guilt, hurt, sadness.

Let me address both these myths in the context of the Anger Mastery Cycle (AMC).

Note: By the way, you can download a free PDF of the anger mastery cycle by clicking here  or on the tab above.

Myth #1: This myth is partly true.  It is a myth because it doesn’t take into consideration the entire AMC.

Your emotions don’t control you.  The perception of control happens because of the unconscious part of the Anger Mastery Cycle.  You are hard wired to constantly scan your surroundings for threat.  Humans have done this since we lived in caves. Our ancestors depended on their emotions to both alert them to and prepare them to deal with threats that would kill them.  This unconscious process still operates today as it did back then.  Because the process is fast and unconscious, people believe that their emotions control them.  And, at this early stage of the EMC, that is true.

The issue of control and emotions is a myth because it fails to consider that evolved humans (you and me) have developed the ability to assess our emotions and choose how we want to respond to them.  This gives us control of our situation and allows us to utilize our emotions as tools.

We don’t control our cell phones (an important tool). We learn how to. master it and make it work for us.  It is the same with all emotions (including anger). The ultimate goal in dealing with any feeling is to use the information your emotions, including anger, give you to improve your life and your relationships.  I discuss this below.

Myth #2: This myth is also partially true and it also fails to consider the whole anger mastery cycle.

The first part of the anger mastery cycle is anger management. This is the “control” issue that most people refer to when they say you should “control your anger”.

Yes, you need to lower your arousal and control your behavior to prevent yourself from reacting to the other person and possibly doing something you later regret. But, this is only a step to mastering your anger. You control your anger at this point by taking a deep breath, “forcing” yourself not to react to the person, and taking a second or two to assess the situation as described below and choosing how you want to respond.

Please note that while it is easy for me to tell you what you need to do and it is doable, it will take some practice on your part to put it into action.

Anger, lies and you.

Anger as a primary emotion is a primitive threat detector. I discuss anger as a primary emotion and a threat detector in my book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool . You can also access all of my posts on Anger by clicking on the Index  tab above and the anger category.  Access to all of my posts on anger is then one click away.

The message of anger is that you perceive the lie and, possibly the individual who lied to you, as a threat. This is where anger mastery comes in.

Mastering anger in the context of being lied to.

As I have said, anger is a tool. To master anger as a tool involves assessing the validity of the threat you have perceived.

Your anger informs you that you perceive the act of being lied to as a threat.

Well, there are several possibilities here:

  • There is no lie.  You have misunderstood what was said to you.
  • You are being lied to and that act is a threat to something that is important to you such as your goals, your trust, your values, your expectations and so forth.
  • You are being lied to but there really is no threat to you.  The lie is the problem of the lier.

Given multiple possibilities, you have to assess the nature of the threat.

Your first choice should be to clarify what you believe to be a lie.

You start here, by the way, because if there is no lie, you avoid later complications and, if there is a lie, you still have all of your options available to you.

You do this by asking for clarification of the issue.  This involves stating your own understanding of the “facts” and giving them an opportunity to clarify as needed.

Secondly, if convinced that a lie has been told, you need to decide what is it about this particular lie from this particular person that you perceive as a threat?

This is a critical question in addressing your question for this reason. You can’t decide how you want to respond to this person (another step in the anger mastery cycle) until you decide the nature of the threat.

For example, if the “liar” is your kid, the threat you perceive might involve issues of trust, insuring that your kid understands certain values or develops a moral compass and so forth. If this is the first time he (or she) lied to you, you might choose to approach it as a teaching moment. Or, suppose that your kid lied to protect another kid from being beaten up? Again, you might have initially perceived a threat to your sense of right and wrong when you found out about the “lie” but, once you understand the reason for lie, your response to your kid could change.

If the liar is your spouse, or significant other, and this is reflective of a pattern, the threat might be not only to your sense of right and wrong but to the very foundation of your relationship.

If the liar is a co-worker, again, you would need to assess the nature of the threat.

I think you get the idea.

Thirdly, you might decide, for whatever reason, that there is no threat, you would move down one fork of the anger mastery cycle which involves:

  • choosing to do nothing
  • letting the anger dissipate, and
  • moving on.

Finally, if you decide there is indeed a threat, you move down the other fork of the cycle, which involves:

  • deciding what action you need to take (noting that you are angry, disappointed, etc and assertively questioning the person, questioning what result the individual expected to achieve by lying, seeing a counselor or a lawyer, and so forth
  • making a plan, and
  • taking action on that plan.

In order to implement some of my suggestions you may need to assertively respond to the person who lied to you.  If you are not familiar with the concept of interpersonal assertion, I suggest you Google “interpersonal assertion” (or click on the link) for more information as this topic is beyond the scope of this post.

 

Emotional Self-Defense

When I was younger my fantasy was that, if I could sufficiently master some self-defense style, I would never have to worry about getting into a fight because I would be able to block any punch that was thrown at me.  

I could always punch back if I had to but I wouldn’t have to.

If I successfully blocked all incoming attacks, my  opponent would give up in frustration and walk away.  My “victory” would be assured.

I say this was my fantasy because, while I did get into an occasional fight when I was younger, I didn’t hang around situations which would evolve into physical combat.

I have, however, been involved in some verbal altercations.  But, that is another issue.

As The Emotions Doctor, I started thinking about how emotions are viewed as contagious.  

  • An emotion gets “started” in a crowd and it escalates through the group.
  • Someone approaches you from a particular emotional “orientation” such as anger and you tend to react with anger.  The situation can easily escalate and get out of hand.
  • Have you ever become emotional in a movie?  There is no “real” situation but your emotions are very “real”.
  • The notion of an Amygdala hijack is quite real.

Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with “catching” an emotion.

What I am saying is that you, as a strategic deployer of emotions, should be prepared to master your emotions so that you are not blind-sided by the situation.

Every year at Christmas, I watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  And, every year, I cry when the community comes to Jimmy Stewart’s rescue.  

Do I want to prevent this from happening?

No.

  •  I know the cause of the emotion and I am a willing participant in it.
  •  The emotion is part of the experience of the movie.
  • I don’t catch anything. And, I am not blindsided.
  • In short, there is nothing I need to manage, control, or master.

Emotional Self-defense.

So, let’s explore what is involved in emotional self-defense.

Emotional Awareness (Mindfulness)

You will need to be consciously mindful of the situation you are in. 

Mindfulness means you are in the moment.  You are focusing your attention on yourself and the other person, or people, in the situation.

In other words, you will need to be aware of BOTH the emotional state of the other person and your own emotional state.

You

In other posts, I’ve written about how you need to be aware of your body and the physical signs it gives you that inform you that you are experiencing a particular emotion.

For you, this might involve muscles tightening, changes in body temperature, thoughts “speeding up” or “slowing down” and so forth.

Sometimes, you may experience an emotion in a specific situation and not really know what is eliciting that feeling.  In this case, consider the idea that you are reacting to another person.

Them

For another person, you might have to infer, or “guess” what they are feeling from their actions.

  • Do they appear to be angry or sad or anxious in how they stand, gesture, distance from you or look to you?
  • Do they sound like they are experiencing a particular emotion in their words, volume, inflection, pauses and so forth?

Emotional Self-Mastery and a Mastery Mindset

As soon as you become aware of an emotion, either in yourself or in another person, you want to go into a mastery mindset.

A mastery mindset involves..

  • taking a deep breath (psychological safety)
  • taking a step back from the situation (physical safety)
  • assessing the emotion and
  • deciding how you want to respond to it.

Note: You might recognize this from the Anger Mastery Cycle       

As long as you are in response mode, and not reaction mode, you are engaging in emotional self-defense.

Your own emotions.

If you become aware of your own emotions first, you can assess the situation and determine the extent to which you are either responding to what is going on or reacting.

A response is a choice.

If I am angry with you and can identify what it is about you that I perceive as a threat, I am responding to the situation.

If I experience myself crying, getting sad, becoming angry and have not chosen this response, I am reacting. 

When this happens, I need to go into response mode.

Response mode gives me the opportunity to decide what I want to do.  It does not mean I have to do anything.

The key to emotional self-defense is choice.  The particular emotion is not the issue, per se.

Going back to my original fantasy,  I didn’t think about what kind of punch or physical aggression I might face. 

In my fantasy, it didn’t matter. 

I would block whatever you threw at me whether it was a punch or a round-house kick.

If I am mastering my emotions and yours as they impact me, the emotion is irrelevant. 

I will do whatever I have to do, in the situation, to control the situation by strategically deploying my emotions in the context of that situation.

All of the above are “blocking” strategies.  Sometimes, you want to take a more active approach to mastering the emotions of others.  This involves asking questions. 

I have addressed this approach and other relevant issues in previous posts.

Click on the title and you will be redirected to the post.

 

ALL of my posts dealing with Relationships and Emotions.

My last post completed a series of four posts which explored in some detail the Basic Relationship Rule.

These posts were an in-depth exploration of the idea that relationships and emotions are interconnected.

Over the years , I have written several posts on relationships and emotions as well as other topics.

Below, I have listed all of my relationship posts starting with the oldest so you can explore this topic in more detail if you choose.

Relationships and Emotions                                                                                                 (conflict resolution, empathy, living in an emotional world, and more.)

Click on the title and it will take you to the post.

 

Understanding Others and Ourselves to Build (or improve) our relationships. A 4-part series. Part 4: Skill Sets

This is part 4 of my 4 part series on understanding others and ourselves in the context of our relationships with them utilizing the Basic Relationship Rule (BRR).

The BRR states:

Everyone always does the best they can in any situation given their psychological state, their model of the world and their skill sets.

Applying the BRR:

  • facilitates your understanding others and yourself and
  • is  the key to building (or improving) your relationships

The three elements in the BRR which comprise the basis for understanding another’s behavior are:

  1. Their psychological state
  2. Their Model (or perception) of the situation
  3. Their skill sets.

In this post, I will discuss element #3 … skill sets.

Skill Sets

One’s skill sets are the abilities each individual in the relationship brings to the situation that they can access when they need to decide what they will do to “move the relationship forward”.

These skill sets include..

  • how they handle emotions (emotional intelligence skills)
  • their level of self-control (intrapersonal skills),
  • how they interact with others (interpersonal skills)
  • how they analyze a given situation (critical thinking skills)
  • how they approach solving problems (problem solving skills)
  • how they communicate with others (communication skills)
  • how they deal with perceived risk (risk management skills)

Your skill sets are the behaviors you have learned over your life span to deal with different types of situations.  Skill sets are influenced by different environments including family, work, school, the military and so forth and become habitual over time through practice.

You learn how to act by…

  • watching others in different situations
  • observing the reactions of people to what others do
  • making decisions about what to do based on how others respond to you.
  • being challenged to solve  a problem
  • having someone teach you a specific skill
  • etc.

When an individual behaves inappropriately in a given situation, you can usually attribute their actions to a skill set deficit when..

  • their Model of the World (perception of what is going on between you and them) is accurate  and
  • you can account for their psychological state

How do you identify “skill set” deficits?

You get the feeling that the behavior you are observing just doesn’t “fit”.

In other words the observed behavior may be too much or too little in terms of..

  • aggressivness,
  • verbalizations (what they say or don’t say),
  • dealing with the issue at hand,
  • listening skills,
  • empathy

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 and their psychological state is not a factor, they don’t know any other more appropriate way to handle the situation.

If this is the situation in which you find yourself, you have to weigh your options.

  • 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 such as being assertive (or any of the other skill sets mentioned above) may be all that is needed.

  • Perhaps, you need to adjust how you deal with them.

A few years ago, I asked professional women what kind of responses they received when they appropriately expressed anger. I received over 2000 responses which clearly indicated that these women were demeaned, devalued, or discounted when they expressed their anger.  I suggested that they needed to use their anger to motivate their pursuing needed changes but that they needed to express their anger in a more indirect manner.

  • Perhaps, you need to get out of the relationship

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.

To review:

The BRR:

  • aids you in building a relationship with another person
  • informs you where to look if the relationship isn’t working or is having problems.  The issue might be their behavior or yours.
  • helps you navigate through a relationship which could have important negative consequences for you if not handled well
  • sets a standard for how you view the actions of another individual within the context of your relationship with that person.

Summary

In the last four posts, I have introduced you to the Basic Relationship Rule (BRR).

I have also discussed each of the elements that comprise the BRR and given some examples of how to implement the Rule to improve your relationships.

While my focus has largely been on you attempting to understand and accommodate  the actions of those you have to relate to, it is important to note that sometimes the issue may be your behavior and their attempts to deal with and understand you.  The BRR is equally relevant and powerful as a tool for critically looking at and understanding the actions you take.

So, when you are attempting to build a relationship with others or a relationship you already have isn’t working, your first step should be to apply the BRR to yourself and then apply it to others.

As Steven Covey put it..seek first to understand and then be understood.

Or, as it applies to the BRR… Seek first to assure that you are not the problematic issue and then look at the other person’s behavior as an issue.

Understanding Others and Ourselves to Build (or improve) our relationships. A 4-part series. Part 3: Their Model

This is part 3 of my 4 part series on understanding others in the context of your relationship with them utilizing the Basic Relationship Rule (BRR).

To review:

The BRR:

  • aids you in building a relationship with another person
  • informs you where to look if the relationship isn’t working or is having problems
  • helps you navigate through a relationship which could have important negative consequences for you if not handled well
  • 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 states:

Everyone always does the best they can in any situation given their psychological state, their model of the world and their skill sets.

Applying the BRR:

  • facilitates your understanding others and yourself and
  • is  the key to building (or improving) your relationships

In this post, I will discuss the part of the BRR which asserts that the behavior that is observed is based in part on one’s Model of the World.

Recall that in my last post, I noted that, in the context of a relationship, the job of both parties is to move the relationship forward.  This might involve improving the relationship or resolving conflict, completing some task at hand, etc.

Problems typically arise when one person in their attempt to complete the “job” doses something that is viewed, in the context of the relationship, as  inappropriate.

I am suggesting that the BRR gives you a starting point to begin to understand the basis for the other person’s actions.

In deciding how you want to respond to any situation, you first need to do an assessment which includes”

  • what is going on,
  • what is needed to accomplish your goal in that situation and
  • what tools are available.

The Assessment:

The lens through which we determine what is going on around us is the Model we have, in our minds, for understanding our situation.

Let me give you two examples.

1. For most of my career, I was a staff psychologist in an institution run by the Department of Corrections-Juvenile Division.  I had a collegial relationship with the other psychologists in the Institution.  We interacted well and, when I perceived that something irregular occurred, I pointed it out.

When I promoted to Senior Psychologist, however, they reacted to me differently.  I tried not to change who I was or how I interacted with my colleagues in terms of ethics, recognizing them as individuals and so forth but they clearly viewed me differently and their interactions with me changed.  My Model of them had not changed from colleague to “boss” but their Model of me as “boss” clearly was different then their view of me as “colleague”.

2. As I write this, there are numerous stories in the news of what is viewed as excessive use of force by police.  Whether or not the force used in each situation is excessive or not is not the issue here.  That people have lost their lives in the course of an arrest clearly indicates that the actions of the police officer, in each case, stemmed from their Model of the situation and the behavior that was appropriate, in that situation, to deal with what was going on (to resolve or move the situation forward).

The implication is that the police will view you as a “citizen” if you are white and a “threat” if you are black.

In order to begin to make some sense about what explains the other person’s actions, you need to gain some insight into their Model of their world in that moment.

This model includes the assumptions they are making about:

  • the context of the interaction
  • gender issues
  • race issues
  • power issues
  • safety issues
  • task issues
  • you, as an individual, within the context of the interaction

More specifically…

  • context: work, home, business/professional, relating to a “clerk” in person, by computer, or over the phone, dealing with a service person such as tech support
  • gender: beliefs about men and women and what is “appropriate” for each gender.
  • power:  work related including a boss to a subordinate, positional related such as a police officer to a citizen or a perpetrator or a doctor to a patient
  • safety: what is the risk within the situation
  • task: what is going on that may be related to accomplishing a specific task such as working on a project at work or at home with your kids
  • you: are there some assumptions about you specifically including what type of person you are, how assertive you are, how needy you are and so forth.

Looking into how others perceive their relationship with you gives you an opportunity to look at how they perceive you and the situation and how the actions they’ve chosen to exhibit make sense to them.

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, a gender 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?

A personal example:

When I promoted to Senior Psychologist, one of my staff was “clearly”, but not egregiously, violating the rules regarding time spent doing his job.  I knew it and he knew it, but I couldn’t “prove” it, given the tools available to me at the time.  So, calling it to his attention directly wouldn’t have been beneficial.  As I was a new supervisor, I asked for some help from “headquarters”.  It was suggested that I put out a general memo about the “rules” and include, at the bottom of the memo, some general “boiler plate” disclaimers that failure to follow the rules could result in “disciplinary actions”.

After the memo went out, one of my staff barged into my office and accused me of inappropriately “threatening” her with disciplinary action especially in light of her exemplary work history.

Now, I need to add that she was not the “target” of the memo and that I had never said anything negative about her.  In fact, early on I had told her that she was a valuable asset to the department.

At first  I was confused.

When I considered her actions from the point of view of her implied Model, I realized that her actions had very little to do with me, personally, and very much to do with her view of “supervisors” and her own sense of inadequacy.

Her Model reflected her view of “reality” as…

  •  “the Man” was unfair and “out to get her”.
  • I was “the Man”
  • her relationship with me was aggressive and self-protective

Once, I explained the “boiler plate” and reestablished that she was a competent and valued staff member, she was fine.

I do need to add that, after this incident, my Model of “headquarters” changed.

Another example might involve interacting with a police officer. Keeping in mind the implied Model of the World of someone whose job involves  a risk to his/her safety and the inability to really “know” what the next person they interact with might do, if I am pulled over, I won’t do anything to raise a red flag.  As an example, when I was younger, I used to think that it was a good idea to get out of the car when stopped so the officer could see me.  When I had police officers as students in a class I was teaching, they explained that a person getting out of a car was viewed as a possible threat and advised to stay in the car with my hands on the steering wheel.

This is using their Model to insure that their interactions with me, in the context of our current relationship works out well for the both of us.

In summary, if your goal is to make the most out of your relationships with others, understanding and accommodating their behavior (when appropriate) is critical.

The first part of this understanding (discussed in my last post) was that they are doing their best.

The second part provides a context in which to interpret what they’ve done and this context involves their Model of the “World”.

Their actions reflect how they view you (their Model) and how this view impacts how they will interact with or relate to you (your relationship with them).

In my next and last post in the series, I will discuss the concept of skill sets.