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How Does Knowing Yourself Help You Find Mutual Solutions In Relationships?

OwlWhether you are struggling in a partnership, a familial relationship or a close friendship, the challenge remains the same: how do you care for your individual needs and desires and still manifest cooperation?

Our answer to this is always the same – seek mutual solutions. You are looking for decisions and solutions that fulfill the underlying needs of each party without either giving up anything of true value. Yet there are stages in the ability to know this and to apply that knowledge.

To do this well, it is really helpful to get to know who you are and what those core values are that underlie your wants and desires. This is a challenge. It’s hard to hear your own voice because humans are primed to copy each other. Society only works when people agree on the same things – pieces of paper called dollar bills have value, genitals should be covered, cars drive on the right in most places, national borders exist and only certain people can cross them. We go along with all these ideas because we want to be accepted by other people. James Clear said:

We don’t always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about.

The many relationships, groups, families, organizations, nations we belong to all place demands on who we are, what we believe and how we behave. We don’t notice the full extent of this mimicry because Western culture emphasizes the primacy of the individual. We are impinged upon by so many claims for our behavior from without, that there is an obstacle course to traverse in order to get to know the inner self.

We carry all of these attitudes into our relationships, too. (How could it be otherwise?) We act and dress and talk a certain way to attract a mate, and yet to hide our needs in a relationship is a mistake. A codependent relationship where each person tries to accommodate the other is stifling. How many breakups have you seen occur because one person felt that they had lost themselves?

Familial relationships can be a challenge for this kind of connection. In most other relationships, you choose with whom you are relating, but within a family you have the added challenge of not having chosen. This can, however, be a wonderful rich field of practice to stretch yourselves toward mutuality.

To coexist in comfort, both parties have to be willing to look deeper into themselves to find what they truly desire and to recognize the underlying value the desires represent for them.

How can you maintain that individuality in a relationship when differences arise? You might think that two people holding firm to what they each want are doomed to regular clashes, but unless you clash on core values, that needn’t happen. When you are both willing to share in an open undefended manner with each other and are both willing, even anxious, to hear what the other is sharing, you can discover together how you can both be fulfilled. It may be something that sounds different from the original idea, but on closer examination, contains the wants and desires of both of you, just in a new package.

Paradoxically, the more you have a sense of yourself, the less rigid you will be; the less easily you will feel threatened. When your sense of where you stand your ground is strong, you will have less need to hold on to other positions. Cooperation is the natural state we are drawn to as a species. It’s what makes it all work. We have to learn to practice being in those relationships within the complex modern world we find ourselves in.

Photo credit: Addyson Duex

Photo note: The owl was a symbol for Athena, goddess of wisdom and strategy. According to myth, an owl sat on Athena’s blind side, so that she could see the whole truth.

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Books on shelfThis week, we wrote about how knowing yourself helps you find mutual solutions in relationships. Here are a variety of approaches to that topic.

Conflict Resolution – Creating a Mutual Understanding (pdf) "There is an old story about two girls arguing over an orange. They both wanted this single orange to themselves. They argued for hours over who should get it and why. Finally, though, they realized that they could both win: one wanted the rind for a cake, while the other one wanted to make juice from the inside of the orange. This model of win-win situations and mutual gain is our preferred outcome for any conflict. In this module, we will explore how creating mutual understanding can lay the groundwork for a win-win solution."

7 Simple Ways to Deal With a Disagreement Effectively "In every relationship, personal or professional, there will always be some disagreement. You will never find an environment where people always agree and that understand each other. That's fantasy, not reality. As a leadership coach I spend a lot of time working with my clients helping them deal with breakdowns in communication--and truly, a lot of disagreements amount to a breakdown in communication. Here are seven very simple but effective ways I've learned over the years for dealing productively with disagreement."

Why a better understanding of yourself will lead to better relationships "To understand yourself is to know the way your mind works. It is comprehending why you behave and react in certain ways. It is discerning what your strengths and flaws are, in character and in skill. It is recognising what your biggest dreams are, where your priorities lie, what you care most about. To understand yourself is to decipher the workings of your brain, and discover what special building blocks inside you make you, you. It’s a vital key to any healthy relationship..."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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