Archive for the ‘Negotiating conflict’ Category

Relationship Map™

In a prior discussion, Relationship Map™, we talked about Maps of the World, and you no doubt noticed that they are unique to the individual. You have your own such map, as do I, and so does your partner, your kids, and your boss.

So to recap for our present discussion, what is a Map of the World in the first place?

We use this term to explain how we as individuals make sense of the world around us. Think of it this way: Your friend wants to take you to lunch at a new restaurant. Neither of you has been there before, as it’s just opened. But you have an address. So you pull out a map (or the mapping app on your phone!) and scan how to best reach that address.

For the map to be useful, it should depict the streets you’ll encounter, other notable landmarks such as railroad tracks and bodies of water. That way, even as you plot the address, you can make note of the fact that you’ll turn left after you pass a bridge over a wide river, then turn right at the park. These landmarks will be represented by symbols, not actual, detailed depictions of each item. And while the landmarks and streets will hopefully be drawn to scale, they will of course not be same size and detail as the real items. That would make for one really large and hard to read map! If you’re using a smart phone, you would certainly go over your data plan – assuming the map was even useful.

NLP refers to maps in a very similar way. To make sense of the world around us, and to navigate within it, we create maps, or more simplistic and smaller, though to scale, representations of the outside world. We use these to make sense of what we see, what we experience, and to get from one place in our lives to another. We are avid map-makers, looking for ways to organize and simplify our experience to hopefully save steps, minimize trial-and-error, and achieve our goals more simply and with less struggle.

Such a map may include our beliefs, your values, experiences, generalizations about what we’ve learned, our prejudices, religious or spiritual convictions, our opinions, and so forth.

Think of it this way. Cartography is actually much more sophisticated today, but the earliest mapmakers followed a process much like the following:


  1. Notice the general shape of the river – document it on paper
  2. Notice the position of the mountains in relation to said river – document it, likewise
  3. Notice the forest to the west, and draw its location in relation to the river and mountains
  4. As you follow the river, notice where it forks, and how a particular rock formation would make a great landmark – then draw both into the emerging map
  5. As you begin planning your small town at that fork in the river, draw it in such a way that someone could find it with the map as a reference
  6. As the town develops, expand the map to include the streets you create, and the landmarks that fall within the boundaries – and draw these into the map. As you learn more about the landscape, mapmakers can add details to the map. Likewise, as you expand the town, adding streets, a city hall, parks, etc., they can draw in these additional details. The objective of the mapmaking process is to make it easy to find things without going overboard on the details. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, you want it to be as detailed as it needs to be – but no more so. If it gets too detailed, it threatens to become a life-size, exact picture of the landscape and the town. This is what Alfred Korzybski meant when he famously said, “The map is not the territory”. The point of a map is to be useful, not an actual-sized, exact photo of the landscape.


We use a similar process as we meet someone. Using the list of cartographer’s steps above as a model, two people create a map of their romantic relationship in a very similar way. Consider the following steps:

  1. Notice attractive person you would like to meet
  2. Introduce yourself and note signs of their corresponding interest – the first shared component of the Relationship Map™
  3. Identify your reason for being there – revealing your interests
  4. Other person reveals that they share your interest – the next component you two share – a second detail on your shared map
  5. Share with one another your additional interests, including taste in movies, music, books, artists, and find that you share several – additional components to add to a shared map
  6. The two of you agree that you already seem to have so much in common, and interest in learning more – then decide to meet again in a social setting. This might be a “date”.
  7. After having the opportunity to discuss your values, passions, history, spiritual and political views, among other things, you decide that you would like to continue learning about one another – your Relationship Map™ is developing still further.

Our Relationship Map™ begins to form even before our very first date. As soon as we begin interacting, and as we discover we have things in common, we are creating a shared map. So our Relationship Map™ actually begins as you strike up a conversation, before the two of you even agree to a first date.

The things that we have in common create the framework and foundation of the Relationship Map™. This includes shared likes, such as movies, art, music, and other interests, are the foundation and as we ask those questions, and as we answer these, we begin to build the map.

Each additional experience that you as a new couple find you share in common further enriches this Relationship Map™. Assuming the trend continues toward deepening the relationship, and in fairness, that doesn’t always happen, you may find that you are married to this person and have several children by the time you look up and notice it happening! When we live our lives on auto-pilot, rather than a life of our own design, we may wind up pleasantly surprised to find it worked out to our satisfaction. Just as you can purchase a lottery ticket and it may win you a large sum of money.

It’s also very likely that when taking a chance like that, exerting no influence or skill upon it, that that outcome is less than favorable.

Though you may also deliberately create each piece of the emerging map with your partner, and therefore get to savor each delicious step! Just as each of use is continually creating maps to make sense of the world in which we live, we are hopefully also updating those maps to ensure they remain accurate.

Consider a city map as an example. One that was published in 1970. At that time, the street layout may have been perfectly accurate, the location of the parks and bodies of water absolutely represented in the map. Though since then highways may have been created, new streets laid, the city itself may have grown, necessitating “growing” the map to keep pace. By 2013, that map may bear only a passing resemblance to the actual lay of the land. So trying to use it for navigation may be very challenging, and likely to wind up with a lost traveler.

In other words, it’s entirely possible to allow the natural map-making process to create your life map and Relationship Map™. By making you aware of the process, we encourage your actively participate in creating your map, and overall in designing your life, your love, and your happiness.

The same thing happens with life maps, Maps of the World. Perhaps the map, your generalizations, beliefs, and attitudes, may have served you very well for the first fifteen or so years of life. But once you started high school, certainly by the time you reach college, many of those attitudes may have been refined, updated, or entirely rejected, in favor of more useful attitudes and beliefs. Just as when drawing a map, your accuracy and usefulness are always up for questioning, so too are the personal maps we craft. As long as they serve us and make our lives easier, we tend to leave them intact. But when we encounter situations where they don’t serve us, or perhaps they even make things more difficult, we must go back and update them.

The key take-away is that whether we intend to or not, whether we actively participate or not, we as individuals are continually creating Maps of the World. And in the same way, from the very beginning of a relationship, throughout its life, we are continually creating  our Relationship Map™. Understanding key differences in our individual Maps of the World will provide clues to why our developing Relationship Map™ is challenged. And as we learn to become more skilled mapmakers, we can design and enjoy the life and the love relationship that we have always wanted.

Relationship Map™ is your guide to making not only the journey magnificent, but also the destination what you both desire.

Learn more about how we can introduce you to your Relationship Map™ and how you can take control, using it to create greater intimacy, more love, better communication and tenderness, and more fulfillment for your relationship. Starting now!


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People tend to get good at what we do frequently. Sounds obvious, right? Well in addition to studying a field, remaining current with new innovations, the really great practitioners tend to just love that field. We are continually looking at how a new contribution to the fields of interpersonal dynamics, the study of relationships, hoping to spot a great new contributor to that field.

The old adage, “separating the wheat from the chaffe” tends to apply in such pursuits. For every great new idea, there may be dozens, even hundreds, that are impractical, ineffective, misinformed, or even dangerous.

I was reading a marketing pitch for a therapist who was promoting his idea of winning back a partner…who didn’t want to be won. The idea was that when one partner in a relationship has decided that they no longer want it, the other partner can talk them into it.

Now we’re not talking about seduction, which we actually think has a place within a happy marriage. Think about it: Wouldn’t it be nice if your partner didn’t just “expect” sex on “sex night”? (And by the way, kudos to you if either concept in quotes seems silly to you!) Wouldn’t it be nice to be wanted, desired, and yes, seduced…? Of course it would. And statistically when people who cheat are asked why they did so, they typically cite “sex” as the cause. But when they’re pressed to provide details, (i.e. “Yes, but what will the sex DO for you?”), they wind up saying that they wanted to feel wanted. Desired. Coveted. Needed. So within a monogamous relationship, we believe seduction and playful foreplay is a very good thing.

That said, his technique focused on changing the partner’s mind, bringing them back in line with your thinking. As changework professionals, using tools like NLP and hypnosis, we would be hypocritical if we claimed that such a thing wasn’t possible. Of course it is. But overall, we would challenge the wisdom and intention of such a pursuit.

Moreover, the language the therapist chose causes us concern. He spoke of changing “even the most recalcitrant” partner.

Think about that for a moment. Merriam Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recalcitrant)   defines “recalcitrant” as “stubbornly refusing to obey rules or orders. Full Definition of RECALCITRANT. 1. : obstinately defiant of authority or restraint.” You get the idea. The underlying presupposition is that your partner is not, in fact, your partner at all, but some mindless automaton awaiting your orders. That doesn’t sound very loving or respectful to us. Further, consider the implications of that statement – that your partner just doesn’t seem to remember who’s the boss! (S)he doesn’t want to conform to your “restraint and authority”! How dare (s)he! This definition just summons the image of an abusive spouse to us.

We firmly believe that you cannot have a long-term, love relationship that isn’t based on mutual respect. The word “recalcitrant” or arguably its antithesis, “obedience”, does not belong in any list of adjectives for either member of that relationship. If it fits your relationship, we challenge you to make it healthy, because right now, it’s not.

What does that word remind you of, however? Does anyone remember the antiquated marriage vow that included the word, “obey”? As in, “Do you take this man, ______, as your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, and obey him…”

Suddenly, we gave the therapist a bit of a break – after all, he wasn’t weird or some sort of pervert, he had apparently just forgotten which century we are in! However, we respectfully suggest that if he can’t even get the century right, his program is probably not one we ought to trust! He might afterward try to make you a great deal on one of those new “horseless carriages the young folks are so fond of!” Then muttering under his breath: “Dang contraptions’ll end up being the death of us all!”

It actually reminds us of another well-intentioned (though similarly out of touch) therapist we encountered and discussed in an earlier article, Abstinence to Make the Heart Grow Fonder? Maybe the two of these folks could meet up, enjoy a nice dinner, a bottle of wine, or whine, as the case may be, some soft music, moonlight, and perhaps they could in one another find the answers they both appear to need. Alright, enough about them.

As most of us learn how to be a partner, and how to participate in a relationship through life experience, we’re not surprised that earlier in life, relationships might take on such a simplistic, primitive air. But as we mature, learn more about how to make relationships work, we (hopefully) begin to learn that our partner deserves our love and respect. (S)he is a great person, or we wouldn’t have chosen them. And one of the easiest ways to lose them is to show them no respect.

It doesn’t stop there. This fellow even called it a “myth” to believe that to improve a challenged marriage, we need better communication skills. He completely misunderstood what is meant by “communication skills” in the context of a relationship. Communication does not refer to witty repartee, clever debate skills, and good volume and timbre to the voice. No. We’re talking, as is every other relationship coach or therapist we’ve ever observed, about the ability to both convey your own ideas, needs, fears, hurts, loves, in a manner clear enough for your partner to understand and accept. As importantly, meaning that first portion is meaningless if you miss out on this second part – you must be able to comprehend when your partner conveys their own such information. If either of you projects (referring to the Freudian defense mechanism in which we, disliking something we see in ourselves, search for it, or project it onto someone else) your own issues onto your partner, or if either of you is guilty of “premature closure” (our term referring to assuming that we understand the communication before it’s actually complete, and even sometimes before it has even been started!), then communication skills are lacking. Likewise if either of you just doesn’t pay attention, and really listen to what your partner is trying to say, communication halts. All of this sounds simple to do well, as we do it every day. However it takes real practice to do it correctly, deliberately, and with an attitude of respect, concern, and love.

Take any lingering conflict, say the ongoing Middle East crisis, in which Arab and Israeli people have been warring for seemingly forever. They have overcome the language barrier. They comprehend the semantics as each side speaks. Perhaps they even bother to actively listen and understand. But there is a tradition of mutual disrespect and lack of concern for the other party. Imagine how much worse it might be if as each side began to speak, the other just knew what he was going to say, (premature closure) and had begun considering his rebuttal.  Communication skills involves actively participating in a dialogue, which means that as the other person speaks, you invest energy into comprehending them. Then when it’s your turn, you consider what you’ll say, and only then do you speak.  And that therapist didn’t think we need that in relationships. Nice.

When we work with couples, the Big Three issues mentioned are: Finances, Sex, and “Feeling appreciated”. But when we begin to lift the covers, so to speak, it is rare the communication skills are so well developed that they have no deficiency in the area. Our reasoning is that if they had that one locked down, they could effectively resolve their differences on even the Big Three, find a workable compromise, and likely even a better solution than they’d previously tried – one that meets both people’s needs even better. Communication has a funny way, when done right, of making everything work better…or if handled badly, flushing it right down the–well you get it.

Never underestimate the importance of developing your communication skills, improving your ability to both understand your partner, and to effectively convey your own thoughts. Without that skill, you both will be drifting toward your own version of the Middle East crisis. And you only have to check the news to verify that is not where you want your relationship to be.

And lastly, remember that it all begins with love and respect. Even with effective communication at a semantic level, if either of you disrespects or does not care about the other, you will also find yourself wandering into your own version of the Gaza Strip, unable or unwilling to focus on positive solutions, looking for creative ways to solve problems, find opportunities, and make your relationship better. You’ll instead find yourselves in conflict like the eternally warring factions in that region. And you only have to check the news…

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 A36W5JHave you ever found yourself in a fight with your spouse or significant other that was spinning out of control, and  you had no idea how to come back from it? Did you listen aghast as you each held on to your points so doggedly that you didn’t even sound rational anymore?  Perhaps the fight didn’t involve anything that truly mattered to you, but you had taken a stand and you’d be damned if you would “lose” the fight? All to often in these situations, we find ourselves unable to back down even when we want to. And now you must be wondering how to stop insane cycles like this, and just find a way to go back to being the loving, connected couple that you really are?

Well, here is a simple five step process Chris and I developed when we found ourselves getting caught in these crazy patterns that seem to have no purpose but to destroy the intimacy we work so hard to build.

1. Breathe. Seriously, stop and take a deep breath, or three. When people are upset they tend to hold their breath or breathe very shallowly. The lack of oxygen makes it harder to think straight and to get out of the fight or flight mode. You need to be able to think clearly in this moment.

2. Remind yourself that you love this person and that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Say this first in your own mind and then repeat it out loud if possible. Don’t worry if your voice sounds tense or angry, or if you don’t feel emotionally connected to the statement. That doesn’t make it false. By reaffirming this intention to yourself and to your significant other you begin to shift from being adversaries to being partners again.

3. Ask yourself how you would feel if this were the last conversation you ever had with this person. If the action in step two wasn’t enough to bring you back to reality, this step usually is. For most people when they take this step any hardness or anger that is encasing their heart just crumbles and falls away and all they want is to make things right again. This opening gives you the chance to change the direction that you were heading in that moment.

4. Change your physical position. If you are sitting down stand up and move around. If you are already standing and moving go into a different room and sit down close enough to touch. This is a really important part of the process because we find that when people are arguing they may literally become “entrenched” in their positions. This is a form of state anchoring that we teach more about in our workshops but for now just try it out and see for yourself. Whenever you radically change your position, you change the way you are feeling. Once you have changed positions, and have found a place where you can be comfortable and close to each other move on to the last step.

5. Take turns telling each other what you are grateful for in the other person. Do this step one at a time alternating with a single statement each. Don’t stop until the internal feeling has completely changed for both parties involved into one of intense love. If you are having trouble with this step revisit steps 2 & 3. Remember you can name small things if that is all you can think of at first. One person we work with sometimes just starts with how grateful she is for her husband’s big shoulders and dark hair. Whether it’s something deep and emotional, a simple physical attribute, or a habit we find cute, be sincere and you are bound to learn something new in this step. Experiencing gratitude for each other in both big and small ways will always be a source of authentic, lasting connection.

In most cases disagreements don’t need to be settled in the very moment that the couple finds themselves fighting. Now that you have regained your balance and reaffirmed your connection and commitment to each other, you can take a break from the topic that was causing the controversy. Only revisit it when you are both able to be in a more resourceful state and when you do keep the feeling of gratitude for the other person foremost in your awareness.

Invest in your relationship by learning different techniques for handling disagreements that allow you to stay connected as a couple. And remember this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, treat them that way!

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