General Semantics Advanced Thinking
A System-Discipline Concerned with the Sanity of the Race & the Individual
Creating More Satisfying Relationships: An Ongoing Process…

by Milton Dawes (2000)

To be ………………. is to be in relationships.When we think of the various 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?We cannot escape relationships. Even if we each lived on desert islands, we would each 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, sanity, 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, or achieves in, a relationship.Science and mathematics constitute activities that are primarily involved in the search and study of relationships. General semantics, through its premises, principles and formulations, provides us with translations of science and mathematics relationships and methods, which we can use as models 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, having his/her own needs, values, beliefs, fears, ways of doing things, etc.
  • Accepts that the other was not born into this world to live up to his/her own 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 the relationship.
  • Learns ways to manage (i.e., “to treat with care”) the unavoidable differences, disappointments, etc.
  • Makes fun, games, and laughter important happenings in the relationship.
  • Rejects force, violence, threats, coercion, financial power or control as justifiable ways to influence the other.
  • Has up-to-date and reasonably accurate map-knowledge of both him/herself, and the other individual in the relationship.
  • Takes some responsibility for the meanings she/he gives to what she/he sees, hears, feels, experiences, etc. in the relationship.
  • Is not afraid to express emotions, but actually enjoys a sense of freedom in expressing him/herself.
  • Is open and willing to learn from the other.
  • Recognizes the inevitability of change, and strives to meet the challenges of change.
  • Is willing to seek outside help when differences seem unresolvable and irreconcilable.
  • Strives to be fair and reasonable.
  • 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.
  • Accepts that, as with all other elements in the universe, there are some kinds of relationships that cannot be satisfying for both parties.
  • Is sensitive to the ways self-concept, values, beliefs, cultural and personal experiences, training, age, and many other factors influence perception, expectations, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • 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.
  • Is very aware of the importance of avoiding “secret expectations” – partners in a relationship are not “mind readers”.

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 interact with many other relationships – sometimes in harmony, sometimes clashing, sometimes getting stronger, and sometimes getting weaker.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. Other times, we get in each other’s way. We operate in different rhythms, we 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 cars to fly; or Madonna to sing like Jessye Norman. We do not expect our cats to bark like dogs. Too often, however, we expect others to produce behaviors 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 to 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 ourselves remember the difficulties we’ve experienced when we wanted to change our own behavior or attitudes, perhaps we might better appreciate the difficulties others face when we place demands on them to change. If we want to create and enjoy more satisfying relationships, we might seek this dictionary definition of “intelligence” as our own personal objective: “The ability to learn or understand or deal with new or trying situations.”

Relationships, like everything else in our lives, have ups and downs. We might ask ourselves the following questions when things do not seem to be going well and we desire changes.

  • Are my demands, requests, or expectations reasonable? Will they help the relationship grow? Or will they create more problems than they resolve?
  • Does the other in the relationship consider my demands or expectations reasonable?
  • Is the ‘problem’ worth making a fuss about? Does it consider the potential damage to the relationship, as well as the potential to strengthen it?
  • Am I aware that what I have been ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ about the problem, could be contributing to the problem? Am I aware that my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, expectations, attitudes, body language, actions, are all interconnected with the problem?
  • Am I willing to consider other points of view? Am I open to negotiation? Am I thinking in terms of win/win, joint venture, and teamwork? Or am I thinking only in terms of my own win/lose self-interest?
  • If this change comes about, will it improve the relationship? What other things may change in the relationship? Will these other changes help or make matters worse? Could this change create new, possibly greater, problems than it resolves?
  • Can I live with these new changes? If “Yes” … how can I know for sure? Can I know for sure?
  • If this change occurs, how might it affect other relationships with family, work, friends, interests, etc.? Relationships affect other relationships.
  • If there is “no change”, will there be unbearable and unmanageable stress?
  • What might be easier: for me to give up wanting the other/s to change – or for them to change?
  • What other ways could I think-feel-interpret-evaluate, the ‘problem’?
  • What would make this relationship ‘perfect’ for me? … Would that also make it perfect my partner?
  • If I were in some other relationship which I considered worse than the one I am now in, and a guardian angel offered me the present one – with all its faults …would I take it?

It’s worth repeating that these questions and factors for improving relationships are necessarily incomplete. As individuals in a wide range of relationships, we have ongoing opportunities to learn from our many other relationships – what makes them work well, what makes them work badly. We can become more extensional, less intensional, more self-reflexive, more aware that we have left out many factors, more aware of interconnectedness, less self-indulgent, as we better understand ourselves in relationships.Since our lives constitute many interrelated and interactive relationships, improving our relationships is tantamount to improving our lives.

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