Negotiating Changes in Relationships

Negotiating Changes in Relationships

People need to be able to change and grow in relationships for the relationships to remain alive and vital. (See weekly quotes: Transitions Require Resilience; Resilience Requires Transitions)

People also need to be able to initiate and ask for changes for their relationships for those relationships to remain alive and vital.  (Which this week’s upcoming quotes with address.)

The exercise below shows you how to create needed changes in the dynamics between you and another person, smoothly and safely, so a relationship can continue to thrive in its flexibility.

Negotiating Changes in Relationships

When something feels off in the dynamics of our relationship with another person, we may need to request a change in their behavior to help us feel safe in connection. To strengthen our response flexibility we must also take responsibility for changing our behavior in ways that will help us get our needs met.

This exercise builds on last week’s exercise in Responsible Speaking – Empathic Listening.  Now…

1. The speaker, having explored their reactions to an aspect of the listener’s behavior, identifies and states for the listener a specific need they would like to have addressed – for example, to feel more connected, more respected, more appreciated.

2.  The speaker identifies three things the listener could do that would enable the speaker to feel that their needs were being met, or at least addressed. These requests must be positive (the brain has a much easier time learning a new habit than undoing an old one). They must be doable (little and often!). They must be requests for changes in behavior, not in attitude or character. (Behavior is measurable; the listener knows what to do and knows when they have done it.) The new behavior must be done within a defined time frame (generally a week or two) without any nagging or reminding by the speaker.

3.  The speaker also identifies three behaviors that the speaker is willing to do to meet his or her own needs. Again, the speaker takes responsibility for their own response flexibility. Again, the behaviors must be positive, doable, and done within a certain time frame.

4. Both the speaker and listener can negotiate and modify these requests. Each person chooses one behavior that they are willing to do in the agreed-on time frame.

5. At the end of the time frame, speaker and listener check in to debrief. Did they do the behaviors? If they did, kudos. If not, they can try to negotiate behavior changes that are easier to achieve. Did the changes in behavior have the desired effect on the speaker experiencing their needs being met? If they did, kudos again. If not, the speaker takes responsibility for clarifying what behaviors either they or the listener could do that will better meet the identified need.

Negotiating change is the dance of interdependency, a dynamic of give and take that strengthens the response flexibility in both partners and the resilience of the relationship. The little and often principle is important here. One change per week in each partner equals two changes per week for the relationship, which equals more than one hundred changes in the relationship dynamics in the course of a year. That’s pretty resilient!