General Semantics Advanced Thinking
A System-Discipline Concerned with the Sanity of the Race & the Individual
Creating More Satisfying Relationships
Posted: 10.07.2013 | Categories: General Semantics


To be ………………. is to be in relationships. When we think of the conflicts, confusions, anger, disappointments, insecurities, uncertainties, etc., that each of us experiences within our own ‘selves’ from time to time …should we be surprised that our relationships with others are not always smooth sailing? If we sometimes do not get along with ourselves, is it so surprising that we sometimes do not get along with others? We cannot escape relationships: Even if we each lived on a desert island, we would be in relationship with our surroundings. But more importantly, we would be in relationship with ourselves. The quality of a relationship depends a great deal on the levels of general knowledge, intelligence, reasonableness, understanding, adaptability, clear thinking, respect, caring, willingness to learn, openness to continuing selves-education, forgiveness, humor, communicating skills, ability to listen, sensitivity to another’s rhythms, moods, and much more that each party brings to a relationship. Science and  mathematics constitute activities that are primarily involved in the search and study of relationships. General Semantics, as generalized science and mathematics, provides us with translations of science and mathematics principles, approach and methods, which we can use as models and semantic tools to help us understand and improve our everyday relationships with self, others and with our environments.

The following is a list of some factors that are important for creating more satisfying relationships. The list is necessarily incomplete. You are invited to add to this list of insights you have gained from your own experiences in relationships.

Relationships tend to be more satisfying when each member in a relationship:

  • Considers the relationship important and valuable, and is willing to work at making it work.
  • Sees him or herself as part of a team, and works towards the success of the team.
  • Respects the other member in the relationship as a unique individual; and remembers that we each bring to a relationship, our own needs, values, beliefs, fears, habitual ways of doing things, etc.
  • Accepts that the other is not there to live up to his/her expectations, or to make his/her own hopes, dreams and wishes, come true.
  • Thinks less about what she/he can get out of the relationship – and more about what she/he can contribute to make the relationship a more satisfying one.
  • Learns ways to manage (i.e., “to treat with care”) the unavoidable differences, disappointments, etc.
  • Makes fun, games, and laughter an important feature of the relationship.
  • Rejects force, violence, threats, coercion, financial power or control as justifiable ways to influence the other; keeps in mind that leading can result in unpleasantness if another does not want to be led; and that a good leader knows when to be a good follower.
  • Takes some responsibility for the meanings she/he gives to what she/he sees, hears, feels, experiences, etc.
  • Is not afraid to express emotions, and make an effort not to keep things ‘bottled up”.
  • Is open and willing to learn from the other.
  • Recognizes: that we grow and learn at our own pace; that things will change, and so, strives to meet the challenges of change.
  • Is willing to seek outside help when differences in opinions seem irreconcilable, and problems seem irresoluble. .
  • Works at improving his/her skills in communication – especially in listening and interpreting.
  • Works at developing his/her own skills in managing conflicts, negotiating, compromising, managing stress, managing change, solving problems, etc.
  • Recognizes that there are many differences between what she/he thinks is going on – and what ‘is’ going on.
  • Seeks to broaden his/her range of general knowledge and interests, and is aware that the more we know and understand about ourselves and our world, the better we can anticipate and manage problems that will arise in our relationships.
  • Is sensitive to the fact that self-concept, values, beliefs, cultural and personal experiences, training, age, and many other factors influence perception, expectations, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • Accepts that we live in a Universe where different elements sometimes meet and react violently: There are some relationships that will not be satisfying.
  • Remembers that there are no unrelated relationships; a relationship is a structure within a complex of many other interrelated and interacting relationships – work, friends, interests, relatives, in-laws, etc.  In dealing with one relationship, it’s important to remember that others will be affected.
  • Develops awareness of the importance of avoiding “secret expectations” – individuals in a relationship are not “mind readers”.  (You should have known that…I expected you to…)

Partners in a relationship could do well to keep in mind that a human being exists as the most complex process in the known universe: And that human relationships constitute still higher levels of complexities. Relationships are embedded in, are part of, and influence many other relationships – sometimes in harmony, sometimes clashing, sometimes supporting, and sometimes destroying. Each one of us has our own likes, dislikes, ways of thinking about, feeling about, talking about, and doing things. In our everyday relationships, we sometimes help each other: At other times, we get in each other’s way. Our living involves different rhythms–we each do things at our own pace. Adapting to change to our rhythms and ways of going about things involves hard working. We do not expect apple trees to produce oranges. We do not expect our cats to bark like dogs: Too often, however, we expect others to behave in ways that might not only be very uncomfortable for them, but behaviors that they might simply be incapable of producing. We can think of a relationship as a process: Relating with another involves constant adjustments to change. We often do not realize what tremendous pressures we put on someone when we want or expect them to be the way we would like them to be. If we remember the difficulties we experienced when we wanted to change our own behaviors or attitudes, perhaps we might better appreciate the difficulties others face when we place demands on them to change their ways. If we want to create and enjoy more satisfying relationships, we might find this dictionary definition of “intelligence” quite useful: The ability to learn or understand or deal with new or trying situations.” It could also help to remember that “The more time we spend being concerned with how things should be, the less time we have to explore how things actually work. 

Relationships, like everything else in our lives, have their ups and downs. “When things are not going well for us, we could seek to find ways to go well with things.” We could ask ourselves the following questions when things do not seem to be going well and we think that some changes will make things better.

  • Will my demands, requests, or expectations, etc., help the relationship grow healthier? Could they be a source of future problems? Am I asking someone to give what they might not have to give?
  • Does the other in the relationship consider my demands or expectations reasonable?
  • Is the ‘problem’ worth making a fuss about? If left unattended–Could it harm the relationship; could it strengthen the relationship?
  • Am I aware in what way I am part of a problem: How I am contributing to the problem? Am I aware that my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, expectations, attitudes, body language, actions, etc., are not separate from–but are aspects of the problem?
  • Am I willing to consider other points of viewing? Am I open to negotiating? Am I thinking in terms of win/winjoint venture, and teamwork? Am I thinking only in terms of my own self-interest and satisfaction?
  • If this change comes about, will it improve the relationship? Will this change, change other things in the relationship? Will these new changes help or make matters worse? Could these changes create new, possibly greater problems than they resolve?
  • Can I live with these new changes? If “Yes” … How can I know for sure? Can I know for sure?
  • Keeping in mind that relationships are part of other relationship; that what happens in one affects others: How might new changes affect other relationships with family, work, friends, interests, etc.?
  • If there is “no change”, will there be unbearable and unmanageable stress?
  • What would be more difficult: for me to change my opinions, views, and ideas, or for another to change their views, opinions and ideas?
  • What other ways could I think-feel-interpret-evaluate a ‘problem’? Are there more than one solution?
  • What would make this relationship ‘perfect’ for me? Would that also make it perfect for my partner?

It’s worth repeating that these questions and suggestions for improving relationships are necessarily incomplete. As individuals in a wide range of relationships, we have ongoing opportunities to learn from all our relationships–what make them work well, what make them work badly: We could use the lessons we  learn to help us improve our ways of relating. It’s worth reminding ourselves from time to time that: We never know all that’s going on; and that whatever problem we encounter–We are part of that problem. Since our lives constitute countless interrelating, interacting, and diverse relationships, exploring ways to improve our relationships is tantamount to improving our lives and so enjoy higher levels of satisfaction in our living.  



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