When people are having issues in their relationship with their partner, they tend to blame things that they can see and feel. Here are some examples:
- We aren’t communicating well and that makes us feel frustrated.
- We are afraid to tackle the difficult issues and because of that we can’t get on the same page
- My partner doesn’t listen to me anymore and it makes me feel unappreciated.
Although solving the issues mentioned above will be crucial to your success in business and your relationship with your partner, it may not be enough. These are all legitimate concerns but we can’t allow our analysis to simply stay at the surface. We need to be willing to delve deeply into the hearts and minds of our partner and ourselves in order to find the root cause.
Often times, these problems are the external manifestation of something deeper in the relationship. The root cause of all relationship issues is the violation of expectations. People create expectations for one another without verbalizing them.
Those expectations become promises in their minds. When somebody violates that expectation, it is seen as a broken promise and it hurts like a broken promise. What is unfortunate about the situation is that the person who allegedly broke the promise doesn’t even know that a promise was made on his or her behalf.
Let’s take the statement “my partner doesn’t listen to me and that makes me feel unappreciated” as an example. If your partner learns how to listen effectively you may still have an issue because we haven’t addressed why your partner stopped listening to you in the first place. Simply addressing the external manifestation of the problem will be ineffective because the underlying issue remains.
This is an example from an actual case I worked on last year. Two partners, Jeff and Sam, were constantly bickering and Jeff was frustrated because Sam wasn’t listening to him in crucial decision making scenarios. Sam stopped listening because he believed that decisions should be made quickly (expectation). Because of that, he would shut down in the conversation after a certain amount of time had passed. In his eyes, it was a reasonable response to the “violation” of his strict time expectation (an expectation that had never been communicated to Jeff). Jeff couldn’t play by Sam’s rules because he didn’t even know they existed.
Finding the root of the problem takes time but when it is done successfully, you both can work together to try to find a solution.
Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A. Negotiation Consultant and Negotiation/Persuasion Coach
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