One of our close friends recently said “There is nothing in your book for me. I am single by choice and very happy that way.” The very same day another dear friend who is also single let us know she had gotten her copy delivered and was reading it. “I’m finding the basic tenets of the book quite interesting. I’ve been thinking about how I can use them in my relationship with my mother, and I can see where many of these things would be great applied to our relationship. I’m going to lend her my book when I’m done, and then see how we can use it. Our core values match, but the big thing for her will be seeing that we are on the same side. It seems that we are always in conflict about who is right.”
One of the basic goals in our book is spreading peace one relationship at a time and effecting change in the world toward peace in this way. Although the information in the book is geared toward couples, much of what is suggested can be applied to other close relationships: parents, children, close friendships, etc.
Sometimes, people have different core values from you and there are irreconcilable differences on certain subjects, but the antidote is to look at what you have in common, rather than the differences. We are all human; we all need food and sleep and shelter and recognition.
We start our book by writing about acceptance, and when you practice that, several things happen. Firstly, you give up the struggle to change someone. That’s a whole lot of work you don’t have to do. Now usually we’re trying to change the other person because we aren’t comfortable with some aspect of their behavior – they complain too much or wear strong perfume or make unreasonable demands – and it might appear that the downside of not trying to control this is having to accept it. But there is a hidden benefit in this: you get the opportunity to look at why this behavior is upsetting to you.
Another aspect of acceptance is that the other person feels accepted. You might see this as a trite tautology, but by accepting the other person, you make them feel comfortable, you offer a place for them to be themselves.
We’re not suggesting total compliance here. When faced with a demanding person, you don’t have to acquiesce to their demands; resist them as necessary, but accept that being a demanding person is part of their nature, and don’t struggle to change that.
One important part of our book is a process to resolve disagreements. It is very important not to attack the other person by saying “You…,” but instead, to offer your reality by saying “I feel….” This does several things. It avoids the retaliatory response that makes arguments escalate. It is an act of personal exposure that invites closeness and empathy. It gives you an opportunity to be clear to yourself about your needs and to find what deeper ones there may be. Lastly, it provides material for both of you to craft a possible mutual solution.
Other important things to remember during discussions are:
- Let go of needing to be right.
- Don’t make lists or keep score.
- Remember you are on the same side
- Seek mutual solutions
- Be open to the concept of creating together different solutions
- Practice active listening
If you have a relationship that you want to change from one filled with conflict to one of peace, you will find many useful and practical suggestions in “How Two.” Whether you are trying to find better communication with your relatives or friends or your lover, the same principles can be applied.