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5 Things People Do That Make Their Relationships Difficult

5 Things People Do That Make Their Relationships Difficult

We grow through our relationship with the world and others. In short, relationships shape us big time. They are a central aspect of our life whether we admit it or not. Relationships are also an enormous source of strength, as they support us emotionally and give us a sense of belonging, love and appreciation.

It is equally true, however, that relationships can be hard to balance and maintain in healthy shape. This is mostly because they can be complex, largely depending on the emotions, needs, intentions, likes and dislikes of the other person we hold a relationship with. Some relationships can grow fragile and difficult over time. Not surprisingly many people give up on their relationship when the road becomes too difficult to thread.  What these people fail to recognise however, is that there are some fundamental things they are doing that have made that relationship difficult in the first place.

These are crucial mistakes we are all subject to overlook even though they are quite basic. Here I have listed the five most common things people do that make their relationship difficult:

They have expectations:

This is what keeps most relationships from growing harmoniously and in balance. People have a long list of expectations of how the other person should behave or respond to their actions, demands and ideas in a given situation. They create a mental model in their head of an ideal their partner needs to follow in order to be in line with their own beliefs and inner desires. When these expectations are not met, conflict arises based on disappointment, grief or frustration. The more expectations one has about the other person, the more chances there are of having those expectations unmet. Dissatisfaction builds up the more they see that the other person deviates away from their own expectations. Sometimes unmet expectations can be shocking or result in anger and resentment. “I thought you would do this for me or for us!! How could you?”  meaning I’m so shocked that your actions did not fit in my expectations of your response.

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People who are in some of the longest, happiest and healthiest relationships will all admit this little secret: They have very little expectations of the other.

They trust, forgive and appreciate the fact that the other person has his or her own individuality, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. They expect less, meaning they are more open to the other person and the relationship as a whole. Also, and equally important, they have less expectations of the relationship itself. They do not have fixed ideas of how the relationship should be or where it should take them. The live it on a day to day basis.

They blame the other:

When people are frustrated because their expectations of the other fail to be matched, they externalise that frustration out to the other. They falsely identify that the cause of their resentment, grief or frustration is the action or behaviour of the other. This is in simple words blaming the other and finding fault outside of their selves. Blaming makes relationships difficult in two major ways.

First and most obviously, it hurts the other person’s feelings. It also sends out a clear message of lack of trust in the person and the relationship itself. It creates tension and friction which might turn that relationship in a downward path.

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The second reason is that it blinds them from tracing part of the fault back to themselves as we shall see in the last point. They fail to see that their own action is always part of the equation. This is one of the hardest things to see in any relationship.

They rationalise too much:

Some people live their relationship in their head instead of their heart. They overanalyse and think too much about how things are going or what they should be doing next. Sometimes they mentally ‘grade’ the health or success of their relationship. They break down their relationship into parts and try to see those parts separately – communication, caring, sex, appearance, parenthood, number of common goals, etc. Their relationship with the other person is constantly assessed and evaluated just like a student’s progress throughout a scholastic year.

The danger with rationalising too much is that it forms expectations and as we saw, expectations create difficulty. More importantly overanalysing pushes people away from allowing the relationship to flow naturally and spontaneously – an important ingredient for growing healthy relationships. It blocks them from responding to the other from their heart because they are filtering their interactions with the other person through the rationalisation of their mind.

They judge too quickly:

Some people tend to judge too quickly even when it is uncalled for. Even with the best of intentions, judging someone is the fastest and most effective way of creating difficulty in any relationship. On many levels, judging is  always erroneous. First of all, you can never make a correct judgment about somebody no matter on the circumstances, the information you think you have at hand and how far off the mark you believe the other person is. The truth is that the feelings and thoughts you might have about someone are always partial at best. Once again feelings and thoughts about somebody are filtered through your own emotions – which are subjective by nature – and through your perspective of the whole picture which is never complete because it wouldn’t be called perspective otherwise :)

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Through judging, people send out a clear message of distrust to the other person. It is like voting down the value they give to the other in a very formal and concrete way. Judgement is also labelling and constricting the freedom of emotional response of the other person because in judging, one is saying “You are this or your are not this”. This shapes or distorts how both parties will view each other and themselves through that relationship in future interactions.

They fail to understand that relationships are  in a constant feedback loop:

All the other things mentioned above that make relationships difficult are born out from one fundamental lack of understanding. The basic principle behind relationships is that  thoughts, actions and words are reflected back through the other person’s response. In very simple words, it takes two to tango!

So what people commonly fail to understand is that the other person’s words and actions come very often as a reaction or response to their own. People’s actions are partial mirrors of ourselves.

Seeing it in another way, when we interact with others, there is always a bit of our actions in theirs because we reflect and respond back to each other’s actions like mirrors.

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Relationships are in a constant feedback loop. Failing to understand this can create all sorts of trouble. Sometimes arguments escalate to dramatic heights because one person’s reaction is reflected back by the other with greater frustration and in turn this creates an even greater reaction and so on until it spirals out of control.

Keeping always in mind that relationships are in a feedback loop can help us open our eyes to avoid all the other things that make a relationship difficult. First it makes us recognise that before blaming or passing judgement, we can always find a part of our own actions reflected in the other’s, no matter how small. This creates more objectivity and balance which in turn helps in avoiding passing judgment or blame too quickly. Secondly and more importantly, with this knowledge of feedback loops in mind we can use it positively to our advantage. People in healthy relationship understand these dynamics very well.

For example, in the argument scenario, when the other person is mad at you because of something, you can hold back from reacting even if you feel you are wrongly accused. This will close the feedback loop in a positive way and soften things up. Soon the other person will find no solid grip for his or her negative emotions  and your calmness and openness to the situation will be reflected back by the other and so on until eventually things equilibrate back into perfect balance.

Featured photo credit: Ryan McGuire via pixabay.com

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Gilbert Ross

Gilber is an expert in personal development and the creator of the online course 'Simple Living Hacks'

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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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