This is Part 2 of my 4 part series on Relationships.
The four parts are:
- Part 1: Overview
- Part 2: Assume Doing the best and psychological state
- Part 3: Understand their Model
- Part 4: Look at their skill sets and summary
In Part 1, I discussed what constitutes a relationship and introduced you to the Basic Relationship Rule (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.
- applies to both the actions of another person and you
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 second part of the BRR which asserts that everyone ALWAYS does THEIR BEST.
This is the part of the BRR that most people find problematic.
It is also, I would say, the most important part of the BRR.
The concept of Best is problematic.
I’m sure you can give numerous examples of things people have done which you viewed as:
- and so forth
Given the behavior you observed (or displayed), these descriptions were probably very fitting. And, because the behavior was so egregious, it is very difficult to accept that the behavior in question is the Best the person could do in the moment.
Possible versus Available
The reason most people find it difficult to accept that what they or others have done is their best is that they fail to consider the difference between the best possible with the best available behavior.
Problems arise because people assume that what they observe should be the best possible. And, since what you observe isn’t the best possible, the other person isn’t trying to do the right thing.
Another way to look at this issue from the point of view of the individual is the difference between capabilities and abilities.
Capabilities vs abilities…
Your “capabilities” are the behaviors that you can exhibit under ideal conditions. These are, indeed, your absolute best actions.
Your “abilities” are the best behaviors you can exhibit in any given situation.
Situational characteristics which can impact what one does include being stressed or anxious, feeling physically sick or impaired in some way, being distracted, and so forth.
In previous posts, I noted that what you do in a given interaction is the based on how you view what is going on (you Model) and the extent to which your psychological state impacts or impairs what you do. Given these “constraints”, what you choose to do stems from what you are capable of doing (your skill sets) but reflects what you are able to do in the situation.
The individual’s actions are the best available to them in the moment.
There are at least three elements which impact how an individual responds in any situation…
- Their psychological state
- Their Model (or perception) of the situation
- Their skill sets.
When you try to understand the behavior of another person (or yourself), the BRR notes that we always do the Best given our Model of the World and our skill sets.
Let me dig a little deeper.
The situation in which you find yourself with another person whose behavior you view as inappropriate given their relationship with you involves an interaction between you and them.
The characteristics of that situation include their (and your) assessment of what is going on and what is needed to move the situation forward. Moving the situation forward is the task at hand (or, as noted above, the job).
The only assumption I am making here is that it is important to the other person to “move the situation forward” which might involve:
- resolving an interpersonal conflict
- upholding some rule
- accomplishing the task at hand
Given their goal to move the situation forward, they will assess what is happening and choose the best available response that they believe will enable them to effectively handle the situation they are facing.
I noted above that the idea that this is their best behavior in the moment was the most important part of the BRR. This is true because making this assumption is the the only way we can begin to understand the behavior of the other person. Clearly what they have done is not the best possible.
To put it another way, of all the options available to the person in that situation, the behavior you observed is what they chose to exhibit in order to deal with what was going on. It was the best choice available to them at the time.
While it is possible that the other person would choose an “inferior” behavior, given the situation, this assumption won’t help you to understand the other person with the goal of improving your relationship with them.
And, think about it. Unless they, are engaging in some form of self-sabotage, they will default to doing whatever they can to deal with the situation in which they find themselves.
This is the Best action available to them. Not the best possible. So, if this is the best possible, in the moment, it is fair to consider what elements led up to the choice of the behavior that came out.
Or. to put in another way…
- How they could act in such a manner?
- What were they thinking?
- What were they trying to accomplish?
- and so forth
To be sure these are all excellent questions.
I mentioned three elements above. I will discuss element #1 psychological state below. and I will address how they view the situation (their Model) in my next post (part 3) and what they are capable of doing (their skill sets) in part 4.
Element #1: Their psychological state.
The other day, I had to make a phone call in which I had to give some unwanted information to another person.
I clearly understood the situation (my Model was accurate) and I clearly had the interpersonal skills (my skill sets) were more than adequate.
The conversation did not go as planned!
I got nervous and my stress negatively impacted my actions.
Stress is a psychological state. Another word for stress is anxiety.
I have written about both stress, per se, and anxiety, specifically in other posts including:
- Mastering Stress (December 2016)
- A Three Part Series on Anxiety (February and March 2020)
By the way, you can access ALL of my posts by category, title and date by clicking on the Index tab in the upper right hand corner of the home page.
When you are impacted by stress or anxiety, you are nervous and it is difficult to think straight. Under these conditions, your decision making and your choices for how to act can be impaired.
This is what happened to me.
The point here is this:
In the process of understanding the behavior you observe (in others) or exhibit (in your own case) and moving the relationship along, it may benefit you to assess, as best you can, the psychological state of the person you are interacting with.
Do they appear to be stressed, sad, anxious, or angry? If so, you might consider disengaging if you can or minimizing how you engage with them.
A prior post:
You Are The Target of Someone’s Anger A Three Part series. (February and March 2017)
Remember that nothing I say is designed to excuse the behavior you observe (or exhibit). I am attempting in these posts to give you some guidelines for understanding the behavior in question.
Part 3 will appear in 2 weeks and will cover the concept of one’s Model