By Ed Daube, PHD, Special for The Times USA
If I were to ask you to list your relationships, you would probably think only of the obvious ones such as your spouse, your kids, important family members or neighbors and so forth.
You probably would not think about your co-workers (or boss), the clerk at the store, the TSA guy at the airport, or the cop who pulls you over.
I am suggesting that any interpersonal interaction that is either meaningful or consequential should be considered a “relationship”. You will view as more valuable (and work a little harder to improve) any interaction with another person if you define that interaction as a “relationship” than if you view it as casual, random, insignificant, or irrelevant.
A relationship is any interaction with another person that:
- has value
- is personally meaningful,
- or which, if not handled “appropriately”, can result in unwanted consequences.
Three Categories of relationships
Note: The first two are obvious. The third is less obvious but no less significant.
- Personal– family, marriage, kids, in-laws, friends or significant acquaintances.
- Business-your boss or co-workers or customers you may have to interact with.
- Unrecognized: These are interactions you do not recognize as “relationships” but which can impact your life. They may help you get your needs met or improve your ability to achieve outcomes you desire. Think about getting an upgrade on an airline ticket, getting effective tech support, or avoiding a traffic ticket.
Four relationship tips:
As long as a relationship is going “well” (however, you define that), no changes or “improvements” are needed. However, when a relationship is “problematic” and you want to “get it back on track”, “make it better”, “improve” it, or “save your butt”, here are 4 tips to help you do that:
- Remember the Basic Relationship Rule
Everyone always does the best they can given their model of the world and their skill sets.
- 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.
This rule sets a standard for how you view the actions of another individual. It is designed to help you avoid judging their actions. When you judge another, you lose your objectivity and your ability to improve that relationship is markedly diminished.
I am not saying that you are accepting what they do as correct or even appropriate. This can be discussed at a later date. The basic rule is designed to validate and understand their behavior as they see it. Understanding can lead to change in perceptions (model) or skills
The basic rule also applies to your actions.
- Master Your Emotions
Emotional mastery includes managing your emotional arousal level so that you don’t escalate an interaction. Mastery exceeds managing an emotion such as anger and involves understanding what the emotion tells you about how you are viewing the situation and using that information to assess your perception and choose an effective response which will lead to a better outcome.
III. Master Their Emotions
When you understand the meaning of an emotion, you gain insight into how the other person perceives what is going on between you and them and the underlying perception that is driving the behavior you are observing. Using this information, you can choose how you will interact with them and help them change (or moderate) their emotions so that they (and you) can more effectively interact.
- Shoot for a win/win but settle for a compromise
In attempting to improve a relationship, your goal should be for both you and the other person to feel that the interaction has met both of your needs. This is a win/win. If a win/win is too difficult to obtain, then work toward a compromise.
Some examples include a superior at work who “demeans” you, a cop who pulls you over, a spouse or kid with a different world model than yours, or a co-worker with poor interpersonal skills.
I am Ed Daube, Ph.D., The Emotions Doctor. Twice a month I post an informative article on my blog (TheEmotionsDoctor.com) discussing how to gain control over your life by mastering emotions, understanding relationships and so forth. If you have questions about emotions or want me to address a general issue in a blog post, please contact me by email. My address is TheEmotionsDoctor (at) gmail.com