Relationship coaching is much about understanding the cause and effect each person has on the relationships in their life. When someone comes to me with a problem they want to solve, we are on the front end of a very interesting journey. And it quickly becomes a journey the client did not expect. But isn’t that the purpose of coming to a coach? You’ve tried what you can and it has not worked. A coach can introduce a more pragmatic process that will look at the entire situation. You see, most people tend to not understand that they likely caused or significantly contributed to the problem they are trying to solve. Their is no such thing as an impartial observer. The observer influences the outcome of the event they observe. We are constantly modifying the motivations, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of other people as we interact with them. Experiments dating back to the sixties have proven this over and over again.
Most suffering in our life comes from dysfunctional, unsatisfying or failed relationships. Any part of your life where you are interacting with a person is where a relationship is occurring, and this includes with yourself. We have relationships with our colleagues, managers and bosses, customers, and neighbors - and obviously with our family and friends. We tell ourselves stories about who we are and who other people are. These stories are constructed through our lens of the world and our point of view. So when someone does not fit in this story we have created we get frustrated or wonder why they have changed. This can get us anxious, disappointed, shocked, angry or just questioning. This is a lot of energy to spend when someone has done nothing expect not follow the script we wrote for them, a script they often know nothing about.
What should you do when you find yourself in a dysfunctional relationship, or even just a tense moment with a loved one? So far in this article I have concluded that you are actually part of the problem, as much as that sucks to hear, it is true and I’ll explain why. I have also noted that much dissatisfaction will come from behavior in the other person that does not match your story. It is easy to believe that the way we are is totally unrelated to how others behave. But when you encounter a situation you make three unconscious decisions. 1) What you focus on, 2) What it means to you, and 3) What do you do to create your desired results. Let’s break this down to see how you can work through a difficult relationship challenge. This will help us to understand why attempted solutions in the past may have actually made the problem worse. Sometimes our attempted solution actually becomes bigger than the problem we want to solve.
1. The first step in changing a dysfunctional/unsatisfying relationship is to change our focus and look underneath the obvious problem and focus on the underlying need. Most often the conflict that exists is not the cause of our dissatisfaction, but the result of our needs not being met in the relationship. This is where you adjust what you are focusing on. Suppose a person in your life seems to have a short fuse and lashes out at you unexpectedly. Your focus immediately goes to this unexpected response. I’d suggest the focus should shift to understanding what need is currently not being met with that person.
2. When you get this response, you determine what it means to you. Since you are an individual, I believe you are self-determined and you are who you conceive yourself to be. As a coach I respect that, and it is a founding principle in my relationship with you. But we can loose sight of this with people with whom we are familiar with and in relationship. When that person lashes out at you, you may determine that it means they are being disrespectful and selfish. Maybe you are observing a pattern that has played to for years. And part of this pattern is your response to act on the meaning you have assigned. Do you engage and escalate, or do you shut down and leave?
3. What do you do to create your desired result? That is the third unconscious decision you are making in this interaction. Is your desired result peace? Or is it to be right and get the last word in? I would suggest that neither of these are optimal in this situation. Seeking peace by letting it slide may just delay an inevitable confrontation in the future. And getting the last word in is code for a big blow-up right now. Maybe your desired result should be just what you would want in that situation; understanding. Your desired result will be to let the other person know they are heard and understood. That is one of the top three core elements of satisfying relationship, to be understood by the other person.
In this article we used the example of someone unexpectedly lashing out at you. This is usually the result of them telling you, albeit rather poorly, that one or more of their needs are not being met. The other person may be feeling insignificant at the moment and your action or question triggered them. Or maybe they are feeling a lack of connection with you at the moment and they are crying out for more attention. Have you done something lately to make them feel this way? Every story has a beginning, middle and end. The lashing out in this story is not the beginning, but the middle. How did it begin? What role did you play in the beginning of this story. And more importantly how are you going to let it end?
By understanding and addressing the underlying need that is not being met will give you a clue into how to best respond. When you understand and meet the top needs of anyone, you will have bonded. And when you decide your top need and desired outcome is love and connection in your relationships, you will begin to see amazing results and feel incredible satisfaction in all of the relationships in your life.
If you are feeling stuck in a relationship with your self, or with someone else, please contact me. Let me help you look at it with a bit of a new perspective and see what we can do.