February 21 2012

Better Relationships 101

Hey everyone,

I just wrote this article for the AAT Carriers Quarterly newsletter and thought it might have some relevance for our work at Lamp Post, too.  Working well in teams is essential to what we do around here.  Hope you find these reminders helpful.


Better Relationships 101


I’ve worked with many teams over the last 15 years, including “teams” of marriage partners, business partners, co-workers, and families.  All high functioning teams need two important things:  healthy boundaries and common courtesy.


Without boundaries, we become a pawn in someone else’s life with little regard for our own needs.  Personal boundaries allow you to say ‘no’ when it’s necessary.  They also allow you to take care of your needs so that 100% of you can “show up” for others. Personal boundaries demonstrate that you respect yourself, which is the foundation of healthy relationships.


I recently read a post on Facebook from an old friend of mine.  It said, “My life is crazy as hell.”  She then proceeded to list six things that she and her kids are involved in, but then ended the post with “Why do I keep saying yes?”   Without getting into the psychology of this, suffice it to say my old friend has a problem with boundaries.  Saying ‘no’ is unbearable to her (for some reason that she’ll have to figure out).


Without healthy boundaries, you fill your life with things and people that suck your time and energy, leaving you with less time for things you really love.  Without healthy boundaries, you are also at the mercy of what other people want for you, appearing to float along wishy-washy and uncommitted.  My favorite band has a lyric, “Decide what to be and go be it.”  Once you figure out “what to be,” boundaries anchor you in staying true to it.


The second skill necessary for improved relationships, not surprising, is to simply be nice and demonstrate common courtesy. Marcial Losada, a Chilean psychologist and business consultant, discovered a 3:1 tipping point of positive to negative interactions necessary for relationships to flourish.  If your relationships have three positive interactions for every one negative interaction, it is considered healthy.  He evaluated people’s statements as either 1) positive or negative, 2) self-focused or other-focused, and 3) based on inquiry (asking questions) or defensiveness.  Not surprisingly, he found that really healthy relationships soared to a positive to negative ratio of about 6:1.  They said six times more nice and positive comments as they did defensive, snarky, and selfish comments.  By contrast, unhealthy relationships fell below 1:1.  Losada’s research demonstrates the indispensability of positive interactions, asking people questions, and focusing on others.


So, how are you doing with boundaries and common courtesy?  How would others in your “teams” rate you?

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