Circles And Chairs Of Negotiation For Couples: Part 2 – Michael Grinder & Associates

Circles and Chairs of Negotiation for Couples: Part 2

Michael Grinder here. We presume that you have watched Circles and Chairs of Negotiation Part One and now you are ready for Part Two: understand the three ingredients that make up a satisfactory relationship. We will also look at 8 wrong ways to handle conflict.

Friendship determines the satisfaction that the members have in the relationship.

When the relationship is full because we’ve made our “deposits” in our relationship bank (what John Gottman calls the love map, fondness and admiration, and turning towards each other — also known as bids) it means that topics seem light, almost like on the high side of a teeter-totter.

Likewise, when our relationship is light (it’s not full) then all the topics that we talk about tend to seem more heavy, delicate, and dangerous to bring up.

Let’s examine those three ingredients of friendship.

The first ingredient is love map.

How well do you know what’s going on in your partner’s life right now?

Asking “How was your day?” is very very different than having tracked what is going on in their world. Try asking with greater specificity, such as, “You had a meeting today, how’d that meeting go?”

Specificity in our questions indicates, “I’m tracking your world; what goes on in your world is important to me.”

The second ingredient is fondness and admiration.

How often do I say, “I appreciate?” How frequently am I affectionate? How often do I indicate respect and honor?

Using the concept of the language of love I need to make sure I show these in a form that makes sense for the other person. It is such a temptation to give love the way we want to receive it instead of the way that the other person wants it.

Gary Chapman has indicated that those five languages are: being in service to someone, giving them gifts, affirmations, time, and touch.

The third ingredient is turning towards the other person.

We use the term “bid.” A bid is an invitation, verbally or non-verbally, to engage with you. A bid might be one if you is reading the newspaper and the person who’s reading goes, “Aw!” That might be the invitation for the other one to say, “Honey, what is it?”

It is important to understand which of you tends to bid more than the other. And who tends to respond better when the bid is offered to them than the other partner?

Emotional connection is the basis for romance, passion, and a good sex life.

It is critical for the husband to be influenced by his wife. You can consider that the word intercourse has two definitions: one is dialogue, and the other one is being amorous. They’re directly connected: one precedes the other.

Gender differences may or may not apply to your particular relationship, and yet it may be helpful to know what those statistical differences are. 80% of the time the female will bring up the sticky issues. 85% of the time, the male will stonewall and not want to engage.

So, the satisfaction in a relationship is based on our level of friendship, and that’s based on our love maps, fondness, and admiration, and turning towards each other, the bids, especially when it’s something important and critical for you to share with the other person.

Revisiting our circles of humanness.

When you want to share something that is a very deep level, your sanctuary, make sure that your partner has the time, whether in person or over the phone, via Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype. Try to open with, “I need you to have time,” because if the other person doesn’t have time and you start talking about something that’s emotionally important to you, and they say, “I have to run, so sorry,” you’ve committed emotional suicide — you didn’t check out if they had the time for you to share your sanctuary or not.

Because of the male tendency to procrastinate and stonewall in terms of not wanting to talk about emotional things, sometimes it’s helpful for the female partner to indicate, “Honey, in the next two days, I need to talk about…” It just gives a warning to the male that it’s gonna happen, get ready.

Before we venture into the arena of what could possibly go wrong, let’s summarize what we are saying.

The satisfaction of the relationship based on the friendship is more important than whether the conflicts can be resolved or not resolved.

We will now look at eight possible wrong ways to handle a conflict. We’ll be referencing the terms that were introduced in part one of this series.

1. Impasse.

Impasse is when one person says from the first chair, “I want X,” and the other one says, “Well, I really want Y.”

Yes, it’s true that the couple is at loggerheads, but it’s a clean loggerheads as opposed to:

2. Dirty fighting.

Dirty fighting is when one person tends to bring up the terrible words of either always or never. Always or never means that we’ve left the present issue that we were talking about, and now we’re gonna go back to our history. “You always blah blah blah,” usually results in the other person saying, “Well, you never blah blah blah.”

The term dirty fighting comes from boxing. It means hitting below the belt. We can translate this language of below-the-belt to which topics are off-limits.

Which topics used to be off-limits and are not anymore? Which topics used to be okay and are now off-limits?

3. Emotional Abandonment.

One person says, “I want,” the other one says, “I really want,” and that is followed with the first person really spiking and saying, “Well, I really really want.”

This dead-end strategy involves the counter person scooting from their first chair to the third chair and saying such things as, “Honey, what are you getting so worked up about?” The other party feels emotionally abandoned. They tend to start dirty fighting. They will continue to dirty fight until the person who did the abandonment becomes unraveled, and it’s emotional. Then the first person feels a lot more sane.

Statistically, it is the female that will tend to spike a little bit more than the male, and the male is the one who is a little more likely to run down to that third chair and try to calmly say, “Honey, what are you getting so upset about?”

This position allows the male to feel like he is superior. The female, feeling abandoned, is going to go after him.

Most males will actually justify that she’s the one who started the dirty fighting first, and, of course, his emotional abandonment is what caused or triggered the female to go to the dirty fighting.

4. Rationalizing.

It’s when we take our first chair, which is, I want, and stack it on top of our third chair, which is supposed to be rational, disassociated, and justify why our position is more logical than the other person’s position.

5. Acknowledging from the third chair.

This is one that I have to be careful of and work on. It’s when you run down to the third chair and try to do a listening acknowledgement which is what the second chair’s supposed to do, not the third chair. I become robotic, and I say, “Honey, it sounds like you really want to go to New York, and the reason why you wanna go to New York might be blah blah blah.”

6. Acknowledging is misinterpreted as agreement.

This usually means one person is more empathetic than the other. They have done their second chair with recommended listening, the first person quite excitedly has gone from “I want” to understanding exactly what the values are, that is the impetus for the “I want,” and they interpret that, “Well, good, let’s go down to the third chair, ’cause it sounds like we’ve solved what I want.”

7. Going to the third chair with only behaviors.

Each of you knows only what you want instead of your values — you then experience dilemmas in terms of how to solve what is not solvable because it’s too much on a behavioral level.

8. Obsticals are the PITs.

Pretend that you’re looking at the word P-I-Ts all capitalized and a small S next to it.

These are the three variables of any negotiation. The P stands for power, I for information, and T for time.

The PITs are more likely to occur when one or both parties are fatigued. Gail and I still have a rule that either of us can call upon that says, “It’s 10:15 at night, too late to talk about volatile topics.”

Someone once said that fatigue makes cowards of all of us. When we are fatigued, we feel victimized. What’s amazing is oftentimes, when one member of a relationship feels like the other one has all the leverage, it is more likely that the other one feels the same way. Both feeling victimized, yeah, that’s the nature of relationships.

One of the keys to understanding if we feel victimized is to use the expression “Freedom from” and “Freedom to.”

“Freedom from” is when I don’t want to do things that I have to do; “Freedom to” is when I want the time and energy to do things that I want to do.

When each party wants freedom to do things, the negotiation is rather easy. What is difficult is when both parties want freedom from obligations.

Now that you’ve listened to these eight dead-end strategies, which of them might you (or the two of you do), and what tends to trigger them? What do you do when these eight dead-end strategies appear?

Part of what we do in the seminar, besides giving you a copy of John Gottman’s book, is talk about taking breaks so that the fatigue does not set in. It’s critical in terms of being respectful of each other.

The second thing we recommend is to have a friend of the relationship. A friend of the relationship is not your friend or your partner’s friend, but they listen to whomever is talking to them. When you finish and they have helped you clarify what your wants and your values are, they send you back into the relationship with a curiosity, what are your partner’s values behind their ones?

The single biggest thing is to make sure that you have time for the friendship.

On our last day, we have you write love letters to each other. You put it in an envelope, put the person’s name and address on the front, indicate on the back when you want it sent to them, and we will handle that.

Let’s end on this metaphor: I was raised in a fishing community, and a relationship is like a ship. Sometimes it has to be in dry dock from time to time to remove the emotional barnacles that have attached themselves to the ship.

Those barnacles, they’re below the waterline. You can’t see them until you dry dock the ship. You remove the emotional barnacles and relaunch the ship so that it can sail smoothly again.

Thank you for listening to Circles and Chairs of Negotiation, part two. Now, make sure you go put some deposits in that bank called Friendship.

Michael and Gail Grinder here, thank you.

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