Monday, September 6, 2010
It's my theory that most disagreements in relationships are the result of intention vs perception, and the few close friends I've relayed this idea to seem to agree. Of course, there's conflict when one partner just does something that clearly wrongs the other, but the conflict I speak of here is the result of harmless intentions by one, perceived as reckless behavior or wrongdoing by the other.
When intention and perception don't match, it's often because of miscommunication. In many instances, when a friend or mate has pissed us off due to a miscommunication, we hear some equivalent of "I meant well" if they care enough to be apologetic. But there are some cases where ignorance is unacceptable as an excuse, and where simple neglect is the cause of the misfire.
Neglect to Inform
Neglect to inform is typically the most repeated of innocent intentions. A small omission of pertinent information often comes back to haunt us when least expected. And if we're honest, we're usually conscious of certain details that we omit. But we either believe that they'll never be brought to light, or that they simply don't warrant discussion. But when this unverbalized information finally does see the light of day, our number one excuse is some version of "I didn't think it was important." Too often, we fail to take responsibility for simply being neglectful.
Careful, as your one instance of harmless neglect may trigger an avalanche of negative emotions within your partner. You may perceive that forgettable information about you and your opposite (or same) sex best friend's romantic past as harmless, but if your partner discovers this on his/her own, a loss of trust is usually an immediate consequence, and one that is pretty difficult to rebound from. Even waiting a few months to mention this info could very well bring your trustworthiness into question. "I didn't think it was important" is a terrible excuse, both in general, and in terms of trying to comfort your partner. If you let on that you consider this sort of information unimportant, then it begs to question what else you're thoughtlessly omitting from conversations with your partner.
Give The Golden Rule a Try
I can honestly say that out of all conversations with friends, and even former partners, where they originally perceived their behavior toward their partner as innocent, when asked if they would perceive the behavior as acceptable if their partner were to do the same thing to them, the answer was often no. So give the golden rule a try. Before you do something or fail to mention something to your partner, simply ask yourself, "Would I be comfortable with this if the shoe were on the other foot?" The golden rule can be a bit difficult if a person is accustomed to only considering oneself in decision-making, but the emotional rewards can be bountiful as there is simply no substitute for thoughtfulness and the return you'll likely see on that investment from your partner.
Be Clear in Your Thoughts and Words
Too often, we are lazy in communicating what we actually mean, while assuming that our words are interpreted exactly as we intend them. Why leave room for misinterpretation? Say exactly what you mean to cut down on confusion. It's not enough to think it, and assume that your partner knows how you feel. Body language is 90% of communication, but verbal communication will always reign supreme in terms of clarity. A failure to verbally communicate negative thoughts may lead to negative feelings, which may lead to negative actions that will absolutely confuse your partner if he/she does not understand the basis for your new emotional disposition. Oftentimes, hidden negative feelings spawned from a partner's actions or comments are a result of miscommunication and can be put to rest by simple discussion
Also, it is essential to understand how what you say may affect your partner. A huge part of communication in a partnership is taking responsibility for the consequences of the way you express yourself. If you're prone to yelling, then don't be surprised when your partner is less than eager to communicate an important thought that may upset you. If you make certain statements, be aware of how they're perceived by people around you. Some people consider it a great deal of effort to consider the possible effects of their intellectual and physical output, but if you're not ready to accept responsibility for your words, thoughts, and actions (or lack thereof), then you may not be ready for a serious relationship.
Being More Conscious
The thinker always has the edge, as he/she has considered possible outcomes of statements before they are ever spoken, and has probably thought of the likely rebuttal of the recipient, based on the recipient's tendencies. Challenge yourself to be more conscious of your words, thoughts, and actions. Whether romantic or professional, understand what goals you have, what actions will help you to achieve them, and what actions will likely hinder them. Challenge yourself to think 3 steps ahead at all times. Through your intellectual and physical output, you help or hurt your goals. Through these things, you control your destiny.
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