People typically think of diplomacy as an important skill in international relations, but don’t think to apply it to personal relationships. Yet consider Winston Churchill’s famous quip, “Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in a way that they’ll ask for directions.” Imagine how useful that ability would be in your relationship with your significant other. The good news, is that diplomacy isn’t an obscure unknowable secret designed only for Secretaries of State and their like. In fact, diplomacy involves many of the skills we’ve already explored in earlier blogs, including assertiveness, rapport-building, empathy, flexibility, intuition and trustworthiness. (Just remember our ARE FIT acronym.)
Once you start applying these skills in your relationship with your significant other, you’ll see profound improvement in your relationship. Imagine the shift in your relationship dynamic if, instead of being reactive or operating on pure emotion, you could take a beat, and tap into your intuition. Ask yourself, “what’s really driving this issue – for me and for my partner?” Ask yourself what their unstated needs are. Bring empathy to the table, putting yourself in their shoes before you wade in. Stay conscious of whether a particular approach will build or destroy trust and rapport. That does not mean you need to be a doormat. As always, ensure that there’s reciprocity. You need to get as good as you give. You can be assertive while still employing your natural feminine negotiation strengths, with intention, in your discussions, debates and yes, even your arguments. The beauty is that with ARE FIT you’ll be more persuasive and have greater influence. You’ll have more power, not less. You can take the high road to get even higher results.
Strong communication is key as well. In fact, strong communication in the family room equals increased sexual satisfaction in the bedroom. So it’s no wonder couples’ counselors focus on communication skills between partners. Don’t fret if this hasn’t been a strong suit in your relationship to date. It’s never too late to improve those all-important communication skills.
Let’s start with a reminder that if you don’t ask for what you need, you likely won’t get your needs met. News flash: most people aren’t mind-readers, and that particularly holds true for men. Don’t wait, hoping that your partner will magically intuit what you want and need. Don’t assume that if they really loved you, they’d know. Admit it, you’ve had those thoughts sometimes – that niggling resentment that your partner doesn’t just ‘know’. We all have. Exorcise that demon. Banish it from your thought patterns. Start practicing to ask for what you want. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
On the flip side, make sure that you master the art of active listening. And while you’re at it, recognize that we all communicate in different ways. You may be a great verbal communicator. Your partner may not be – they may try to communicate in other ways. You need to be open to receive those messages, even if it sometimes seems like an alien life form has landed in your life with an unrecognizable language.
Speaking of language, also be mindful of the five languages of love (from the book of the same name). The concept is that we all have different ways that we like to give and receive love (our love language). The five languages are: (i) words of affirmation; (ii) acts of service; (iii) receiving/giving gifts; (iv) quality time; and (v) physical touch. When couples don’t speak the same language of love, it can cause miscommunication, tension and lack of connection. Take my situation for example. My husband is a words of affirmation and acts of service guy. In trying to show he loves me, his words of affirmation include telling me I look great when I look like hell and bragging on everything I make – from Kraft Dinner to gourmet fare equally. When we were scrapping, he’d invariably do the dishes or laundry – his ‘acts of service’ demonstration of love. But I didn’t see it that way. For the longest time it drove me nuts. I hated that he told me I looked great when I didn’t because then it made all his compliments empty to me. Likewise, raves about gourmet felt insincere. Why bother? I didn’t know what I could trust. Besides, I wanted quality time and physical intimacy. And so the seeds of resentment sprouted – until we were able to recognize that we each had different languages of love and communicated to come to some understanding and compromises around that.
You need to determine your own language of love and your partners. Even if your partner’s language doesn’t match your needs, at least you’ll recognize their effort when you see it. That can mean more than you think. At least as a starting point. And if you’ve taken one of my programs or at least read my earlier blog about asking for what you want, you’ll be able to talk about it with your partner, ask for what you need and make sure you know what they need. Imagine what a paradigm shift that can be.
[Next week stay tuned for some tips to help you navigate the choppy water of difficult conversations.]