I am a coach and as such, have always insisted my players focus on the basics. In football, if my linemen could block and tackle well, we would win games. In hockey, skating, passing, checking and shooting were the four basic skills that allowed us to succeed. I believe the same is true of relationships. If you can just focus on the basics you will have a much better chance to have the relationship you really want.
4 Relationship Basics
And what are the basics? Four stand out for me.
The first is safety – if you don’t feel safe (I’m talking of psychological and emotional safety, as physical safety has to be a given) you will defend yourself.
Secondly, think of your relationship as the two of you plus the Space Between you. You must keep all negativity out of the Space Between because negativity causes disconnect and what you want, is to be connected.
Thirdly, the flip side of zero negativity is to amplify the positives in the Space Between, and
Fourthly, you must learn to talk to your partner, about anything, in a safe way.
A Closer Look at the Relationship Basics
Let’s take a closer look at these four basic skills.
1. Psychological and Emotional Safety
I have stressed safety for years. If you look at a picture of the human brain, you will see we all have what is called the brain stem. All mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have a brain stem. It has evolved over the last 500 million years; you are not going to change it. Its job is to keep us safe. It asks the question: Is it safe or is it dangerous? If dangerous, it will defend itself. Period. Your brain stem, old brain, reptilian brain, whatever you want to call it, is just as operative in you and me as it is in any animal. If it senses danger it too will defend itself.
2. Ridding Tension in The Space Between
Quantum theory tells us that everything in the entire universe is mostly energy and that it is all connected; it is all in relationship. There is nothing that exists on its own. The Space Between you and your partner is a tiny piece of that larger universe. The Space Between is not just a cool metaphor; it is a real energy field and you can tell can’t you, when there is tension in the Space Between. It is either tension free or it is not; there is no middle ground. Your task is to make the Space Between a zero negativity field, since negativity causes disconnect.
3. Fill The Space Between with Positives
The flip side of zero negativity is to fill the Space Between with positives (affirmations and appreciations) – thanks a lot, you did a great job, I really appreciated that you did … and to say those out loud. From your partner’s brain stem point of view, hearing positives allows his or her old brain to relax. This is not the enemy over there, this is my ally; we are on the same team. Logically it is impossible to have a great relationship if there is negativity, as the negativity causes anxiety, and if you are anxious you don’t feel safe.
4. Safe Communication
The caveat for number 2 is that it is the person on the receiving end who determines if something is negative or not. There will always be issues to talk about in any relationship because you are two separate individuals with different likes, idiosyncrasies, quirks and quarks etc. I might do something, say something or act in a certain way that I think is acceptable but that my partner experiences as negative. Now you have to talk to your partner about what you experienced as negative, but in a way that is safe. The skill I teach in the office is the intentional dialogue process, now called the Safe Conversation process.
It is made up of three parts: mirroring, validation and empathy. Yes, it is a structured approach. It is also awkward at the start. And yes, it can seem tedious, but the structure ensures safety because it takes issues out of the power struggle. The power struggle tends to be, I am right and you are wrong. Using the intentional dialogue process simply allows one partner to listen to the other without criticism or judgment. Go back to number 1; if you don’t feel safe, you will defend yourself. There will always be issues to talk about in any relationship. The structure of the intentional dialogue process ensures you can talk to your partner in a safe way.
It is not rocket science, but try doing these relationship basics for a month and see if you notice a difference.