Saturday, November 22, 2008

Do You Want to Be RIGHT, or HAPPY? Conflict Resolution in Relationships and Marriage

Many people get so hung up on WHO’s right that they can’t see WHAT’s right, making them push a bad position to “win” instead of focusing on getting the right answer in everybody’s head and moving forward, alienating everyone around them. That’s bad enough when at a social gathering, even worse at work, but what if it’s going on in your relationship or marriage? Just how long do you think such a relationship can last? Luckily, the condition is treatable with a little self-injection of self-esteem and an attitude adjustment.

This has been the week for phone calls from very disturbed people. I just got off the phone with a consulting client who bought “THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage,” and he was frantic. His relationship with his wife was on the rocks, she had filed for divorce, and it didn’t take but a very few minutes to see why she was divorcing him.

First, a little background: The poor guy has such an extreme self-esteem deficit that no woman would ever have him for long (I questioned whether his wife married him for his money because he described her as coming from a rather “low-maintenance” background, he’s loaded with “old money,” and there’s just no way this guy was ever able to spark attraction in anyone through any means other than dressing well and exhibiting the trappings of money and power), and every part of our conversation was about “who was right” instead of “what will work for him.”

You’ve probably met people like him, and if you haven’t, ignore them when you meet them. Don’t bother trying to get to know them, because they will try to get to know you by telling you that they know more about your life than you do before you’ve said much more than, “Hello.”

His wife had apparently had enough of it and was bailing out after only two months, and he maintained that she knew nothing about herself, what she wanted from herself or him, didn’t have a clue what relationships were about, and he couldn’t get her to understand that he was smart because he was wealthy. Attention all disciples of the Church of Cause and Effect…all together now…1…2…3…CRINGE!!!

I’ve heard a lot over the years of being a business consultant and executive coach, but this guy beat anything I’ve ever seen in terms of being in denial, having a sub-zero self-esteem level, and having absolutely no concept of cause-and-effect relationships. He actually believed that inheriting a large estate made him intelligent! Being intelligent gives one the ability to build a fortune, but receiving an unearned fortune obviously does not include a brain infusion or transplant.

Now that you have the background, picture the fun part. He calls up, introduces himself, describes in great detail all of the above, and after agreeing to a $250 consulting fee for a block of my time, proceeds to spend the first hour trying to first justify everything he did and then trying to tell me why nothing in the book he purchased could possibly help him, and that since he was wealthy, he could afford to spend time with me to suggest changes that had occurred to him as he was reading the Table of Contents – he had NOT yet read the book!

Now, in case this is your first edition of this newsletter and you’ve not heard it before, a team of 118 couples helped me conduct and test all the research that went into this book, and anything that was less than 90% effective was not included; things that were between 50% and 90% effective were noted for discussion in this newsletter to see if there might be a way to fine tune them for acceptable performance to be added to the book, and anything less than 50% effective was consigned to individual circumstances or personal tastes and omitted entirely. Now, think about that for just a second…

…a 118-page book full of advice and concepts, each of which at least 90% of 118 women agreed on being effective with them, and at least 90% of men agreed were easy and enjoyable to do. There have been only two refunds in nearly five years, and both were the result of some misunderstanding about the purpose or content of the book (one of which had inadvertently purchased the same book twice and wanted one of them refunded!). I also have unsolicited testimonials from almost everyone who has ever bought it stating that it works wonders. That kind of thing is unheard of with information products. Most authors brag if they can keep their refund rate down to 10%, and mine is currently under 0.004%.

That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for error, does it? It has worked to improve everyone’s lives, but this guy, who’s bought this book to try to head off a divorce and starts the conversation with the words, “My name is XXXXXX XXXXXXXXX and my wife is divorcing me and I don’t know what to do,” is going to be charitable and spend an hour of paid consulting time telling me that everything in my book, which he has not yet thoroughly read, is wrong and then asking me for help. Sound familiar?

Are you like this guy, more interested in being heard or being “right” than in being happy? Is your partner? Can you see what a strain it’s putting on your relationship? If either of you are like this man, you can bet that at some point it will end your relationship if it’s not fixed. The first steps in fixing any problem is admitting there is a problem, defining it, and taking responsibility for fixing whatever part of it you can impact. Only after those three things are accomplished can an effective solution be developed.

And, by the way, taking responsibility does not mean taking the blame; it means committing to act in solving and eliminating the problem. Indeed, people who won’t take responsibility are very prone to focus on blame and point the finger everywhere but at themselves, making it impossible to show them how they may have contributed to the problem and determine how they might modify their behavior to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. As you might expect, this was the hardest part of this phone call – getting this man to see that his self-esteem deficit was the vast majority of the problem so that he could begin building self-esteem through genuine achievements and eliminate the problem.

It took two hours of him yelling and screaming and arguing with me, and me countering every argument with the very irrefutable facts he had given me, but finally a light came on (“No bad idea, no matter how popular, can withstand the onslaught of logic.” – Aldous Huxley) and he was able to see that he had spent the entire call rejecting the help he had paid to obtain because he wanted to be right.

There was no way to shorten the process. I kept asking, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” and he kept answering “I want both!” It was when he finally realized that if he could be both he would have never needed to call me in the first place that he finally had a revelation that made me think he’d had a heart-attack. He didn’t speak for about five minutes and there were all manner of stressful sounds on his end where he was trying to either hold back or silence his crying so I wouldn’t hear it. I mercifully let him get it out of his system without asking if he was alright, and he finally said, “Okay, I’m a clean slate. Tell me what I need to know.”

I said, ‘What you need to know first is that everything in that book you bought has worked for everyone who has used it; within the last week a young man in your predicament pulled his literally out of divorce court, his wife is back home, and they’re making long-term career and family plans now. Go back and read the book, thoroughly, this time looking for answers instead of validation and expecting to be happy in the future instead of expecting to be right throughout your history, and then call me if we need to talk further. Now that you have come this far, I have every confidence you can go the distance.” Tear ‘em down and build ‘em back up the right way…facing reality and embracing it with a fury.

(Update: He did as I instructed, and he eventually turned out to be one of my star students. It turned out that he was quite intelligent, not because he was wealthy, but because he had an analytical mind and the ruthlessness to learn anything, once we got his ego out of the way; emotion and rational thinking don’t mix. Congratulations, J.G. – you still hold the title as my biggest challenge of this project, even bigger than finding a whole book full of facts about women that over a hundred women agreed upon!)

As I said, this situation can destroy your relationship if it goes on continuously, but I didn’t mention that you can do extreme damage to your relationship in a single argument with this mistake. As tempers rise, things are said that can be apologized for, but not taken back. When there is a disagreement, focus on WHAT is right, not WHO is right. You’re partners, and supposed to be a team, so the important thing is not to win an argument (competitive), but to score a win for the team in the situation (cooperative), is it not?

So why do we do this to ourselves and our partners, the people whom we should love and seek cooperative and mutually beneficial existence with the most??? As with many people problems, low self-esteem puts us in a competitive mode, thinking that we’ll feel better if we beat somebody at something – anybody at anything! How much self-esteem will you be garnering by making an ass of yourself and putting your relationship on the rocks? Think before you open your mouth, because you can certainly get your foot in it much easier than you can put back into it any words that came out of it. Keep things in perspective, and you can keep things moving in the right direction always.

So, are you going to concern yourself with what’s right, or with who? Have you ever heard that old ditty, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got…”? There’s a little more to it, but that’s the gist of it.

I’m telling you, straight up, achiever-to-achiever, I have what you need, right here. Solid, factual information, tested by over a hundred regular couples in long-term committed relationships, most of them married, all of them long-term enough to have developed significant problems that threatened their relationships, before this book was every published, and thousands more since..

It’s in “THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage,” and it’s just a few mouse-clicks away. Download your copy today at
http://www.makingherhappy.com, because with information like this and a little study and desire, you can start putting an end to silly little traps like this one once and for all within minutes of downloading it. And I have a whole bunch readers who will tell you that you can’t get results like you’ll get with this information, anywhere or at any price.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!

David Cunningham

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