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5 Reasons Your Relationship is Falling Apart

5 Reasons Your Relationship is Falling Apart

I hope you’ll excuse the pointed title, and I sincerely hope your relationship is not falling apart, but if you have ever found yourself in dire straits in a relationship (as we all do), chances are that the trouble can be traced back to one or a few of these issues. If your relationship is all rainbows and sunshine dust, fantastic—this list will just be some good food for thought.

1. You’re not listening

I’m not talking about you being glued to the TV while your partner is pouring his/her heart out. If that’s the case, it should be pretty obvious there is a problem.

Many of us believe we are listening when what we’re actually doing is anxiously and impatiently waiting for our turn to speak. When we “listen” from this perspective, we are not truly listening: we are resisting the anger, despair, anxiety, fear etc. inside of us.

True listening requires awareness of what is going on inside. Only when we are conscious of our inner-workings can we truly hear another person.

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The next time you find yourself listening to your partner, whether in an argument or otherwise, see if you can notice what you’re feeling and thinking in response without having to speak immediately. See if you can allow your significant other to really be heard. Then, accept what’s going on inside you, no matter what the thought or emotion. From there you can speak with rational and relative calm, which brings me to my next point.

2. You’re not speaking up

Many of us carry around little hurts and grudges all our lives. Often, we believe that acknowledging the pain is generally more trouble than it’s worth, and while it may seem like that in the moment, over the years those little indignities pile on top of each other and morph into a mound of resentment. And that is dangerous.

Perhaps there’s something that really bothers you about your partner. Why aren’t you saying anything? Are you afraid they’ll get upset? So what if they do? Maybe they’ll throw a tantrum. Maybe they’ll apologize. Who knows? Would you rather try to deal with it constructively now, or bury it and wait for it to explode out of you in a fit of rage? Let it be a learning process regardless of the outcome. You will thank yourself down the road.

As with listening, look inward. Accept what is there. If there is something that needs to be said, then say it. Understand that this does not mean verbally attack the other person. Calmly state what you’re experiencing in the moment, and don’t let it devolve into accusations, which takes us to number 3.

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3. You’re playing the blame game

We often think, “if only he/she were this way, everything would be fine.” When we think this way, we are imposing an impossible ideal on our partners and we are avoiding the issue at hand: what is going on inside of us, the individual; the one who casts blame.

Remember, your significant other is not you. They are a complex being with their own thoughts, insecurities, dreams, and fears… just like you. Do not be so quick to eschew responsibility.

When you start to blame mentally or verbally, ask yourself if you are avoiding responsibility. Ask yourself if you are being unreasonable. Be honest.  Then, if neither of these gels, don’t be afraid to speak up, and then be prepared to listen. Then, you’re on your way to constructive conversation, unless you fall into the next category.

4. You won’t compromise

This usually occurs in a relationship wherein one or both parties always think they are right. “My way or the highway” won’t fly in a relationship these days (not that it ever really did).

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If you believe you are always right, then you never allow for someone else’s opinion or perspective to enter your mind. You label it preposterous before taking the time to examine it. As such, learning to compromise is a direct result of true listening, speaking, and side-stepping the blame game.

When we learn to listen and speak without fear, then we can develop a real understanding of our own needs as well as the needs of our partner. What follows is mutually beneficial compromise. We learn to live with or without some things for the sake of our relationship, and our partners learn to do the same. In turn, both people feel loved and valued.

Listening, speaking, not blaming, compromising; sounds easy, right? So why don’t we just DO these things? The answer rests with number five.

5. You’re not present

Once again, I do not mean physically. This is the line that ties all of the prior items together. Presence is complete awareness, or consciousness—if you do not find at least some amount of presence, it is impossible to listen, speak, compromise, and avoid the blame game.

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You may have noticed that the suggestions for dealing with each point thus far have been to look inward, see, and accept. THAT is presence: learning how to be with yourself, see the cogs turning, embrace what’s there, and thereby put space around destructive thought and feeling.

The idea is that you must first attend to yourself before you can effectively communicate with or help another person. When we learn to cultivate awareness, we are laying the groundwork to deal with all of the aforementioned issues. Not only that, but difficulties in a relationship can be a gold-mine for this type of work.

One of the best ways to practice being present is meditation. I recommend it to all, however, if you’re not interested in that, or it’s not possible for you, this can be as simple as a few or multiple “breath check-ins” a day. All you need to do is sit quietly for as long as you desire. See if you can put all of your attention on the breath, and see what arises. Don’t judge or resist your inner-workings. Simply accept. Practice this a few times a day, and it will start to become a great habit. This way, when you are in the thick of some painful experience with your significant other, you can access that presence and listen without judgment or impatience, speak with clarity, disperse the urge to blame, and learn to compromise.

Final thoughts

The bottom line is that it all comes down to the individual. Get right with yourself, be present, and you will begin to change the dynamic in the relationship.

Finally, these “reasons” do not necessarily apply to a physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive relationship: If the pain in the relationship has reached that level, I would advise seeking immediate professional help.

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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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