6 ways to ruin any relationship

anger and contempt

I’ve written many posts on this blog about improving relationships. I’ve talked about building the emotional bank account, being mindful of your partners and friends, being engaged and proactive, and about the building blocks of any relationship – the bid.

All of these are important and proactive ways to improve relationships. Understanding the bid is the most fundamental skill. Just as knowing how to offer and respond to bids for connection appropriately is fundamental to building relationships, there are some ways that your responses to bids can surely destroy your relationships.

Here are 6 responses to bids for connections that will ruin your relationships

Be defensive. Shifting responsibility or blame to your partner is a sure way to start a nasty argument. Let’s face it, in any dispute nobody is purely innocent. Reacting defensively creates a wall of separation and destroys empathy and any possibility of a positive outcome.

Learn to listen to your partner’s complaints without becoming defensive, and to empathize with them to understand your part in the problem.

Respond with contempt. The #1 killer of any relationship is contempt. Once contempt sneaks in, it is like poison and must be remedied immediately. When you respond with contempt, you send a clear message that you do not value the person or the relationship, even if you don’t really mean it.

Guard against hurtful or disrespectful comments, even in the heat of an argument. Find the positives in the other person’s character, and focus on the behavior, not personal attacks. This is where being a collector of emotional moments comes in handy.

Be domineering. When you attempt to dominate or control your partner, child, or friend, you show lack of empathy or concern for their position. The relationship is no longer mutual.

Make genuine efforts to listen, and accept that you don’t have to convince the other of your point of view. Learn to agree to disagree, and accept the value of the other person’s point of view. Remember, “the map is not the territory.”

Be beligerent. When you are combative, provocative, or sarcastic you send the message that you want to fight, and potentially hurt, the other person. Your goal is no longer to find agreement, or even express your views or feelings, but to WIN.

When you feel you are losing your temper and becoming belligerent, take a break. Come back to the discussion when you can avoid combative, provocative, or sarcastic language.

Contradict the other person whenever possible. We all know how infuriating it can be when somebody purposely contradicts every minor point we make. When you find yourself doing this, ask yourself why you are doing it. What is the motive? Are you simply trying to anger the other?

Ignore minor mistakes or discrepancies. Focus on the goal… to resolve the issue and build the relationship.

Be critical of the person. When you attack the person instead of the behavior you are being critical, and attacking the person’s character.

Again, focus on the issue and behaviors, not on the person. Remember, a person is not his or her behavior. Attacking the person only encourages defensiveness and escalation.

Presumably, if you choose to be in a relationship with another person you see value in that person, or in the relationship. Keep this in mind when the other makes bids for connection, and remember, anger is a bid. Your response should be one that achieves the goal of developing or deepening the relationship. After all, why be in a relationship at all if its a bad one, or one that’s not worth having?

Check out these books to learn more about building great relationships.

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