Do I Really Know You?
Tim Connor, CSP
Most of us are living with, or related to strangers.
People can live together for years and never really know each other. They can be married for over thirty years and still be surprised at the attitudes, behavior, feelings and reactions of their partner. Few people really know their parents or children, friends or lovers.
Why is this. Why when people spend a great deal of time together don't they get better acquainted? Why do most people know each other superficially while a very few people know their partners, friends, parents or siblings on a deeper emotional level?
Having had my share of relationships including being a son, brother, father, spouse, friend and supervisor, I believe there are a number of reasons why people can spend years together hiding or suppressing feelings, desires, frustrations, fears, needs or dreams.
Let's look briefly at ten of the more common ones.
First. Women and men are different. They have been raised with different paradigms, expectations, communication styles and conditioning influences.
Second. Everyone has within them some old emotional scars that need healing. We come to relationships regardless of the type, with the hope that this other person will help us heal our old wounds. Often we are not even consciously aware that we have them let alone where they came from, and yet we want this person to read our unconscious minds and fix us.
Third. Most people protect themselves from the pain that could be inflicted by another human being through a number of withdrawal methods. Work, play, hobbies, TV, reading, or any type of avoidance tactic either emotionally or physically. Everyone suffers when these games are played.
Fourth. Being vulnerable takes a great deal of courage. Being real and honest with our fears, fantasies, frustrations and dreams sets us up for rejection, disappointment, criticism and contempt. It takes a very secure person to be willing to share their deepest fears and fantasies with people that know them. You will often find that total strangers sitting next to each other on an airplane, confiding their deepest level stuff with each other, because they know there is no history, therefor no judgment and no future therefore no expectations. Just two souls passing in the night temporarily.
Fifth. There are so many demands on our attention and interest. This is even more true today than it was only five to ten years ago. Computers steal our attention keeping us from human contact and the needs and desires of our loved ones or friends. People can spend hours at their terminal talking electronically with total strangers and literally get lost on the information highway. (I am thinking about creating the equivalent of AAA for computer users and for people who get lost in their databases, on-line services or any number of other future computer services.) There are career and career path demands, there is virtual reality which takes people out of their reality and puts them smack in the middle of someone else's reality. I could go on but you get the point. The key is to discover what in your relationships is keeping you from real human to human contact and understanding.
Sixth. The ego needs, demands and rituals of people, tend to keep them off center and living in a power struggle that will have no winners. These people would rather be right than happy. They would rather live life from the intellect, which they believe they can control, than from the heart that often gets them in trouble.
Seventh. Lots of people have not dealt with their old baggage, therefore bringing it along into new relationships. This old baggage and the inability to forgive ourselves and others acts like a protective shield against letting other people in to hurt us, disappoint us, criticize us etc., again.
Eighth. Hidden agendas are destructive in any relationship. Hidden agenda is essentially, not sharing feelings, opinions, attitudes and so on with others for one of five reasons: One, we want to avoid any potential conflict because either we or the other person can't handle it gracefully. Two, we want to avoid hurting the other persons feelings or damaging their identity or feelings that they are worthwhile. Three, we want to avoid disappointment that we set ourselves up for due to expectations of the other persons behavior. Four, we want to make sure that we don't divulge any secret parts of ourselves that we may not be ready to defend or discuss further. Five, we don't want to say anything that we don't mean or may have to contend with again at some future time when the other person throws it back in our face..
Ninth. The way people deal with conflict determines whether they use the conflict to build a better relationship or let it destroy the relationship. The problem is not about conflict itself. Conflict is neutral. It permits the people involved to use it for growth or destruction. The real problem is trust and respect. When trust and/or respect leaves a relationship, the same conflict that was present before and helped build understanding and awareness now is used as a divisive wedge driving the parties apart with each new conversation.
Tenth. Relationships have momentum, either positive or negative. Relationships are either getting better or getting worse. If the momentum in your relationship is positive, then you are likely learning more about the other person with each new activity, adversity or event. If your relationship with them is getting worse, you are most likely looking at them and the relationship through a microscope. Nit-picking, challenging, questioning or criticizing their every move, decision, action, thought either out in the open or in the privacy of your own mind. Either way, the outcome will be the same. A relationship that will continue to deteriorate.
How can we overcome all of these negative and destructive tendencies or issues to begin to know better the people in our lives.
Here is a ten step process. It is not as easy as would appear from the abbreviated but concise list of steps. Don't be misled by their simplicity.
One. Know yourself.
Two. Learn to be true to who you are, your attitudes, feelings, opinions, goals and dreams.
Three. Focus on what makes you happy, not what makes you right.
Four. See compromise, flexibility and moderation as important options, as long as they don't compromise your basic values and what you stand for.
Five. Leave your ego out of your relationships. Needing to manipulate, control, exercise power over others is not your right or in your long term best interests.
Six. Lead with your heart and let your head follow.
Seven. Focus on the other person and not yourself.
Eight. Recognize that people see life the way they are not the way it is.
Nine. Life is perceptual. To know another person, you must look past their outer appearance of looks, dress, roles and conditions. You must see their essence, who they really are beneath all of the exterior wrapping.
Ten. Keep trying to get past the exterior emotions, attitudes and feelings of the other person. Beneath all of these is a person that has the same dreams, hopes, fears, fantasies, doubts and needs as you. See yourself in them.
Why not complete the attached questionnaire with someone who you would like to or need to know better. I guarantee some of these questions will open areas that need further understanding, awareness or understanding if you are to really get to know the people in your life. Don't be limited to these questions. Develop some of your own. One word of caution. Complete honesty is required with this exercise or you will waste your time and energy.