SELF-CARE – AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF ‘POSITIVE PARENTING’

Many parents claim that caring for children is much more exhausting than work!  Surprised?

The positive side of the story is that caring for your child/children is more meaningful and rewarding in the long-term.

It’s like watering a plant.  It can get frustrating at times that you are not able to see the fruits of your labor immediately, but when the flower does blossom, the happiness and joy it provides you is unmatched.

When it comes to parenting, mothers are more likely to wear themselves out and more often claimed that they were exhausted from spending time with their kids, household chores, office and even leisure activities.  You may ask why leisure activity must exhaust a mother?  It’s cause it is not about their leisure but the role they have to play even in the leisure activity of their child/children.

For those mothers who have their little angels reaching their teens it can put additional stress as the transitioning period comes with its own set of challenges.  This due to their child/children going through intense emotional and mental upheavals which comes with their physiological changes.

It demands high level of endurance, especially for working mothers and it would be very important that they take care of themselves first.

Self-care has to be your number one priority as a stressed-out mother can get overwhelmed with personal and professional work overload.  It will start impacting your thinking, decision-making and problem-solving ability and more importantly your communication.

Frequent emotional outbursts, anger, conflicts, relationship struggles are some which you could add to the list.

Our ‘Positive Parenting’ program focuses first on ‘Self-Care’ before even it attempts to address the challenges of your child/children.  It guarantees that you are in better control of yourselves before you start helping others in the family.

The ‘Power of Positive Parenting’ – Online Program

The GIFT a Mother so deserves!

Emptiness lies within!

She saw her husband sick and dying
Counting his days laying
She found the time flying

Till death do us part
Was the fairy lying
She burst out crying

She never thought she could love someone
So much as this one
Her whole life revolved around her special one

She loved him more deeply
Praying to almighty ever so deeply
As she started to find completeness lately

Her prayers answered and worries laid to rest
her husbands health turned towards the best
Did she now fear the worst?

A sudden feeling of emptiness
A surge of bitterness
Sensing a loss of completeness

She was willing to do her part
Till death do us part
Only if he was going to depart

Now that the husband got the gift of life
She felt she was sentenced for life
This was now turning real with strife

It was easier for her to commit in loss
Alas life was not all candy-floss
Her life now gone for a toss

It was her search for wholeness
Which exposed her emptiness
She found she couldn’t create happiness

The fairy tale was all magical and fun
Till she thought she would be the only one
Who could care for that special someone

In caring for him she had finally felt whole
Her heart now a shallow hole
That he got out of the hole

The answer lay in ending the search
And finding completeness on her own
Not longing to seek it with someone she thought her own

She started to search within
To find that emptiness lay within
Much to her chagrin

You don’t find completeness and wholeness
In someone you love
As the emptiness lies within

by Sree

Are you both referring to the same ‘Map’?

Imagine you and your significant other are on a road trip with each having a ‘map’ for navigation.

Now imagine if both are referencing two different maps.  It’s easy to guess by now that you would make little progress as most of your time will be spent on coming to an agreement as to which direction you need to take.  The whole journey might end up being extremely stressful with no joy whatsoever.

Isn’t it the same for couples as well?  Or in any relationship?

How much do you know about your spouse? Perhaps you know exactly what makes them tick, what motivates them, and what makes them truly happy.

love-map

Couples who know everything about each other are people who hold a detailed relationship ‘map’. Similar to how a road map tells you how to get to your destination, a ‘relationship map’ helps you know and love your partner. The more detailed the map, the stronger the love. If you don’t know your partner, how can you love them? Enjoy the journey with them?

I knew of a couple who became distant from each other over the years. The husband ran a highly successful business which had several stresses that came with his work. He used to often work very late and stay overnight in his office having a strong work-life. The consequence was obviously a rocky home life as he spent so little time at home.  He didn’t know anything about what his children were up to in school, their progress, how his wife was doing and spent her life waiting for him all day.  He had a map all of his own which was quite different from his wife.  The result was that he navigated himself quite far away from her, so much so that he bought himself a house very close to his office and started living separately.  I can’t figure out why they even continued in the relationship when they had very little in common and referencing two different maps in their journey.

Couples who take the time to establish a detailed relationship map are much better prepared to navigate their life and the up’s and down’s which go with it. For example, the arrival of a baby can at times have a deep impact in the dynamics of a marital relationship and can change the partner’s life in an instant. Some studies have shown that young couples experience sudden dissatisfaction in their relationships after the arrival of a new child in the mix. Why such a difference? Well, those who stayed strong had detailed and common relationship map that kept them from losing their way. The lesson here is that the more you know and understand about your partner, the easier it is to stay connected throughout the often bumpy and exciting road journey called ‘life’.

It’s also important to remember that relationship maps never stay the same. Similar to a google map which alters its route plan based on traffic conditions, like a traffic bottleneck for example, a baby can change the dynamics of the relationship and also alter a partner’s relationship map.

I understood the importance of a relationship map in my own life. My wife and I after a short courtship jumped into marriage. Immediately after, I quit my well paid job to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams.  Obviously I had changed the map which I was referring to till then.  This put lot of stress on our relationship as both me and my wife now were looking at two completely different maps of our relationship.  My wife put in the effort to align herself to the new relationship road map which immensely helped the marital boat steady and on track.  Similarly, at the time of marriage, my wife was dedicated to her career however, once she gave birth to our son, she put aside her career to stay home and take care of him. You see, having a baby can change your identity and values. This is incredibly common and my wife was no different. With new priorities, her relationship map changed and it was my turn to realign my own to stay on the same path as her.  Our son became an important relationship map which greatly helped in keeping us on course.  Of course we were willing to consider referring to the same map, that is.

If you are the one who is looking for a ‘rock steady’ relationship then its time you started referencing the same ‘relationship map’.

Are you both looking at the same ‘Map’?

FEEDBACK – ‘What’ and ‘How’ to change?

It’s been over 30 years I’ve been coaching people on the ways to “Give and Receive Feedback”.  I remember about 15 years ago my wife asked me “Do you think you have been practicing what you teach on feedback yourself?”

This came out of nowhere and got me thinking.  I always felt that I was open to feedback and used to take corrective action whenever I got the critical one’s.  I have been very particular about using ‘feedback’ as a tool for my professional growth and that’s been my secret to success professionally.  I presumed that it would be the same at home as well.

However, I thought it’s time I put it to test.

Most of us do not use structured approaches towards aspects like feedback, assertiveness, listening, openness and trust etc. at home.  We don’t feel it is necessary and brush it aside by making statements like “Come on this is home and we don’t have to be very formal”; “Personal relationships cannot be compared and is not same as working in a professional environment” etc.

We fail to realize that irrespective of the place where you are, the personality (that’s you) and your communication behaviors are consistent and remain the same.  The problem is that we live in denial all the time.  I’ve heard most of my participants in leadership and team workshops tell me that I am a different person at home and not at all like the way people perceive me in office.

My question is “Do you ever sit down and formally take feedback at home?”  “Do you think it is necessary at all?”  I would say try and you will be surprised.

Husband and wife talking

Anyway, coming back to my wife’s query, I thought it’s time I asked her to provide me with some feedback.  To make it more meaningful and easy for her,  I asked her to write down all the critical feedback she had for me and place it on my table.  Now you may ask, why does she have to write down, can’t she tell you directly?

The problem is that more often than not and especially at home, we take relationships at home casually and for granted.  The moment we get some critical feedback, we would like to quickly close the conversation lest it turn ugly.  We prefer to avoid conflict and live in the make believe world that everything is hunky-dory.  In fact we are conditioned from early childhood to believe the idea of a “happy married life” isn’t it?  We cannot imagine therefore that marriages can have conflicts, disagreements and critical conversations.  I myself have been guilty of quickly bringing difficult conversations to a close.  I think I was one of those kinds.

When I got the list the next day, I saw that there were about 20 items which I had to work on and was causing discomfort to my wife.  The top of the list on number one was that “I keep my workspace at home very disorganized and dirty, with a suggestion that I need to keep it clean”

I thought great, let me start with the first one and then I don’t have to worry about the rest.  For about a week I ensured that I spent a great deal of time keeping my workspace neat and clean.  Then I asked her for some feedback after a week.

Her response “Nothing has changed” angered me at first but I ‘paused’ and then I asked “but what about the office?”

“But, what about the office?” I asked. With that, she just  looked at me in disgust and walked away. What I have found since then is that, even though the cluttered appearance of my office may be a frequent grumble for my wife, its cleanliness has almost no correlation to the quality of our marriage. My office can be a disaster at the same time our marriage seems wonderful, or it can be very clean and organized even when our marriage is experiencing frustrations.

I found that the issue at the top of the list was not necessarily the most important one to change. I also found that other items on the list had a much more direct and significant correlation to the quality of our marriage. Some of these items included helping out more with our child and not being critical of my wife’s decisions and actions.

I learned from this experience that I had been paying the most attention to the things that others complained about the most or the loudest or that were at the top of the list. What got my attention and was complained about most frequently was not necessarily the most important issue to change.

The most critical skill in making change based on feedback is deciding what specific issue to work on first. Many feedback experiences are very similar. Often, people identify the issue that appears to be the most negative and conclude it is the most important issue to change. This is faulty logic. Issues that are most negative or most complained about are simply the ones that are most noticeable. Evaluating what issues to change ought to be a completely separate decision making process, independent from how negatively people react to issues.

In a perfect world, we would receive feedback on many issues and change everything appropriately. We would soon become perfect ourselves. But in the real world, people face limitations in terms of how many issues they can successfully address at a time. A guaranteed way to fail in making changes based on feedback is trying to change too many things at the same time.

People cannot make five major changes at the same time. In fact, whenever most people try to change more than one or two important things at once, they end up making no changes at all.

In one of our leadership programs I asked the leaders to focus their efforts on only one issue.  I found that in four months people could see a significant difference in pre and post feedback assessments.

Most people think and worry that if they focus on changing only one issues, others may not find any difference and would still end up complaining.  But my experience is that if you spread your effort in changing too many issues, may prevent people from noticing that things are changing, because they will see little difference between where you started and where you are now.  Focusing your efforts on changing one issue increases the  likelihood that others will see a difference.

The 80/20 Rule

Change is difficult. Managing expectations is key towards working the change process. It requires focused effort and attention. Most change efforts do not occur in a vacuum. We still have to complete our required work and take care of ourselves and our families.

However, focused effort on a few specific issues greatly improves the likelihood of success. It is critical that you learn how to prioritize issues discovered through feedback according to which will yield the greatest benefit. I suggest you follow the 80/20 rule.  When you start focusing on that 20% of critical feedback it should yield 80% benefit.

Remember, the people whom you ask for feedback will likely expect you to take action on all of their feedback.   Therefore, it is helpful to establish up front that, although they may provide feedback on a variety of issues, you will focus your efforts on selected issues as you work your way through the feedback. To manage these expectations, I suggest the following steps:

  • Thank the person who gave you the feedback
  • Let the person know that you may not be able to respond to every issue but their feedback is invaluable and will help you work gradually through the change process
  • State upfront that you will start by working on one or two critical issues and name the issue you are going to work on.
  • Demonstrate that you are changing

Although the people who gave you feedback would expect you to change everything, their experience tells them that little would change.  However when you make a focused effort on one or two issues, they will be able to see a significant difference and will not overly focus on issues which are not yet worked on.

How do I prioritize?

In order for your to prioritize you must rank each of the listed issues into ‘desire for change’, ‘ease of change’ and the ‘impact’.

Desire for change – The first step in bringing about change is to create a strong desire for change. As you think about the issues for which you received critical feedback, you may notice one issue for which others feel a high need for you to change, but you feel little or no need to change. How can you increase your desire or motivation to change?  It’s important that you think about the extent of motivation you have to make the change.  As you think through each of the critical feedback you received you should categorize them on ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ motivation for you to change.  You must however not confuse others desire for change with your own intrinsic desire to change.  However in a relationship it is important to take a holistic approach.  You may want to align both so that you get the best from the change process.

We also commit the mistake of externalizing the feedback by making statements like “it’s what you feel, but I don’t think there is any need to change this”.  The problem with this kind of attitude is that it does little to contribute towards motivating you to change.

It’s like an alcoholic when asked by his counselor, whether he was an alcoholic, the man said “I don’t think I am, but my wife thinks I have a problem”.  The counselor then said “Then why don’t go and drink some more because I don’t think we can help you unless you think you have a problem”

For each negative feedback you have received you must think which one of those you are more desirous of changing.

Determine whether your desire to change is driven by you or by others

If you think that you got to change because your wife, boss or any other person is telling you, then you would have already forsaken your responsibility and will have little by way of motivation to change.  Whenever you feel “My boss thinks I need to change this, ” or, “Other people think I have a problem in this area.” In these situations, your real felt need is not to change the problem, but to change other people’s opinions about the problem.  So how then can you increase your desire to change?

Firstly you must not just be focused on the ‘negative impact’ of the issue and start reinventing the feedback by rethinking in your own mind.  Try and understand what frustrates people the most and the impact it is having on the relationship.  Have open discussions around the issue and be honest with yourself.  Most often I find that people are not motivated to change because of their lack of understanding of the impact it is having on the giver of feedback and the relationship.

But if you have to increase your motivation to change then you need to start focusing not on the ‘negative impact’ but the ‘positive impact’ which would come out of your effort. If you understand only the negative impact of your behavior and have no sense of the positive impact of change, you will find less motivation to change and therefore have a lower felt need or desire to change.

Ease of change

Some issues are easier to change than others. In planning your change process, select at least one issue you know will be easy to change. This not only gives you confidence in your ability to change, but it sends a positive signal to others that you have responded to their feedback.

Focusing on small observable actions can be a great starting point to demonstrate that you are truly committed to improving the quality of the relationship. For example, if you were to be   given frequent feedback that you are irresponsible and do not care for the team cause you always seem to arrive late to meetings.  Irresponsible is a judgment and that you cannot work on or will surely not have any motivation to work.  You may become defensive as well.  However, arriving 10 minutes before the meeting commences is a behavior you can easily exhibit and is also visible to others.  It’s a small change but can impact the overall perception of others on you.

Similarly, for my wife, giving her 1 hour of undivided attention daily and listening to her was easy to work on and it was actually that small thing which made a big positive impact.  It was the same with my Son as well.  When I started to devote 1 hour daily to have a chat with him and listening to his stories of the day, it greatly improved the quality of my relationship with him.

These small observable behaviors made a huge difference than being physically present all the time without being emotionally available.

Try to change actions than people

Most of us hit a roadblock and get frustrated in our attempts to change people.  In fact married couples expend all their energies and a lifetime trying to change each other and end up getting little by the way of outcome.

It’s easy to change what we say or do than what others do.  Changing my own action or behavior is easier than changing people. We have much more control over our thought and actions. For example, it is easy for me to arrive 10 minutes early for every meeting than trying to persuade people to wait for me before they start the meeting.  Similarly it is easy for me to decide that time in the day when I will spend time with my wife and kid than asking them to come to me when they see me free.

Work on building agreements

It’s important that you discuss openly with your significant other or the person who provided you with the feedback on issues which are absolutely critical to work on.  You may find that while prioritizing there can be disagreements on which one of the issue is more critical than the other.  However, it is important to start with points of agreement, however small they may seem.  It will provide you with quick-wins and get you a more meaningful and positive impact.

Summary

  • Do not start with more than one or two issues to work on at a time
  • Start with small actions which are easier to work on and get some quick-wins under your belt
  • Make sure others desire for change matches with your own desire for change. Do not change just because others want you to change.  In such situations the chances of success are greatly reduced
  • Find areas of mutual agreement which will show visible impact

FEEDBACK – WHY SHOULD I CHANGE?

As soon as people receive feedback, they frequently begin to wrestle with the question, “Why should I change?” Do you identify with any of the following negative attitudes that are common after receiving feedback?

  • I’ve changed a lot from who I was, when I was young. Give me a break
  • I do not think we must change for every single request for change, in this way we will be spending our time changing and would get little done in the process
  • If others can’t accept me the way I am then its their problem not mine
  • No one is perfect, everyone has weaknesses. It’s important how we leverage our strengths.  The fact of the matter is that I get things done and that’s what matter.

 

Feedback and Change

Feedback usually gives us some good news and some bad news. Most people are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses, but they do not always try to improve them. As a facilitator the comment I’ve heard most often when reviewing feedback reports with participants is, “I knew I had a problem in this area.”

Every once in a while feedback comes as a big surprise, but most of the time, people always were aware of their weaknesses, often for years.

When I ask, “If you already knew about this problem, why didn’t you do something about it?” They inevitably answer, ” It didn’t seem that important, ” or, “I didn’t want to.”

The problem is not that people can’t change. The problem is that they do not want to change badly enough.

The fact of the matter is that change is often possible only when you combine high “desire for change” with “ease of change” as I illustrate in the figure below.

When motivation or desire to change is high and the task difficulty is high, making a change is going to be difficult. But, even when task difficulty is low, if commitment is low, making a change is still difficult. However, when commitment is low and the difficulty of a task is high, making a change is virtually impossible.

Before you begin making some changes, you should first understand a few things about yourself. First, change does not happen automatically. Simply acknowledging the existence of a problem; though it’s a good place to start, does not change the problem.

The key to making lasting changes is to increase your level of motivation and commitment to make the change. Without an overwhelming desire to change,  you will only be able to resolve some issues which are easy though with some difficulty.

So what should I do?

Begin working on the changes from your ‘current state’

When I was reviewing the feedback report with one of my participants, I recollect that it indicated that others perceived he lacked the ability to think and act in a strategic manner.  He responded by saying that his job didn’t require him to think strategically and the role demanded that he just follows his bosses orders to the tee.  I will demonstrate strategic thinking when I have a job or role which demands that of me.  In fact I can do better than my boss if given such a role he said.

It seemed like he was thinking that the feedback which was given to him was more to do with the and in relation to the position that he had than his ability.

I asked him, if he thinks that the management would ever consider a person who did not have the ability to positions which demanded thinking and acting strategically.  He said “No”.  I just told him that he is never going to get the job unless he starts demonstrating the ability to think and act strategically.

Most people end up saying that “I will change when my situation changes” The problem with this line of thinking is that – you will be running for the shovel to dig a well when you are thirsty.  That’s not ideal isn’t it?

Change has to be in the ‘here and now’.

Involve stakeholders – stop blaming

In most cultures, we have a learnt and have a tendency to assign blame. It starts at a very early age. For example, when we were asked by our parents who made a mess in the living room, we were quick to point the finger at another brother or sister.

Similarly, I am always amazed that, when managers encounter complex and difficult problems, they frequently solve them by replacing somebody. The problem is still there, but now they have someone to blame.

I am not only amazed by our tendency to blame others, but also by our willingness to accept all the blame ourselves. “I blew it; I’m responsible, ” a manager once told me as we discussed a problem. It’s as if life would be simpler for everyone if someone else could just take all the responsibility.

Involving key stakeholders and building codependence actually helps in the change process.  Most of the time you find that it is not always because of the ability or desire to change that comes in the way but it’s a result of others in the social system who keep generating the circumstances which stops people from doing so.

An alcoholic might want to change but the people who live with him have to ensure that they do not create circumstances which will make him start drinking again as an escape mechanism.  The whole environment needs to be supportive else change becomes very difficult to achieve.

Learning to change begins with the right attitude toward change. Some of the following attitudes may help you as you navigate the change process

  • Change is the only constant and it makes life interesting
  • Change is a skill that you can master
  • There will come a time when change is useful and I might as well prepare for it
  • The key skill successful people possess is that they look to improve continually and keep seeking feedback from the environment to do that.

Seeking feedback is the most powerful tool to identify and reduce your blind spots.  It will help you to develop your weak areas and leverage your strengths.

Why not start right now?

GIVING FEEDBACK – SKILL THAT CAN HELP BUILD OR ERODE TRUST IN A RELATIONSHIP!

Giving feedback is ‘a moment of trust building’ an opportunity to build or erode trust in your relationships. If you deliver the feedback with competence and care, the level of trust in your relationship can leap forward. Fumble the opportunity and you can expect to lose trust and confidence in your relationships. The key to giving feedback that builds trust rather than destroys it is to have a plan in place and a process to follow.

I explore “The communication behaviors that influence our ability to ‘Give Feedback’ and the 4 Simple Steps which can make your feedback meaningful”

WFH and the delusions we suffer!

What is the problem if your kids are not studying during the lockdown period?

What horrifying consequences are you imagining if they invest their time playing for 3 months and having fun?

Are you under pressure to prove that you are more productive WFH?

Are you working extra hours everyday just to save your job?

What’s your problem if I sit and do nothing?

Let me explain with an example.

deluding-yourself-895x900

How about this, I am available all day for my wife and family while I work from home.  We get to be together.  That’s a big advantage and the way I bring play into my schedule.

This man’s wife and kids would probably agree that he isn’t doing much playing or spending time with them.  They probably are feeling neglected.  Yes, they get too be with his body, are they with his mind, his heart?  Is his mind and heart really spending time with his family  or is he coming up with the agenda for Monday’s meeting?

The man isn’t spending quality time with his family, he is simply working in a different environment.

Our cell phones have turned a great deal of fun time into work time.  We have work conversations while eating in restaurants.  We don’t just drive, we drive and talk.  People don’t just shop anymore, they march up and down the mall with a phone glued to their ear.  I’ve seen some taking calls during movies.  I heard from a friend of mine that one woman was making calls on her cell phone while she was in labor.

Some of us even manage to turn hobbies and fun activities into work.  People have become so obsessed with turning everything to look like work.  You find folks sharing their hobby videos online with their network which gets them likes and more likes.  They start getting addicted more to the likes and comments they receive than to the fun of doing something they love to do.  As others under peer pressure start to post some videos of their own, it quickly turns into a contest.  They start to look for who is getting more likes than the other.  Now the fun has quickly transformed itself into work, with people even having goals set for the next day.  What will I cook morrow, what new challenge will I pose to my friends in the network and so on.

During the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown you are seeing people posting several challenges, titling them as ‘quarantine challenge’ and everyone seems to be obsessed with it.  What started of as just fun has now turned into a typical work like situation, where you are required to be at your best, delivering results and getting the best marketing strategies for displaying your life and hobbies to the world.

We forget to play when we take life too seriously.  We must remember a time when we played purely, before we learned to play productively.  A time when our hearts were open and we could play without a sense of guilt afterward.  But the idea of living to have fun is looked upon with suspicion. We were told, “Life is serious, wipe that smile off your face.  Do something, become something!”  We look down upon someone who is just a floater and wonder why he doesn’t make something of his life.

We think that a floater is inferior when he says he lives in a world where the fun never stops.  The real question is why do so many of us live in a world where the fun never starts?  Have you thought about it?

As we climb up the ladder of success we forget to treat ourselves for fun.  We see life as difficult, we want to constantly improve and fix things.  We don’t know how to take time off for just fun.  We have lost our familiarity with fun and then when we have some we feel guilty.  We discount fun as a waste of time.

We feel that we don’t deserve to have fun or be happy, so we sabotage our lives.  Let yourselves be ‘bad’ and have some fun.

Many of us have been raised in families in which we were regularly asked “what did you do today?” and in response we had a list of all our accomplishments to prove we were productive and did not waste our time.  Imagine you telling your parents that you did nothing!  They would have immediately snapped back and said “don’t waste your time, life is so precious, you must do something significant, blah.. blah…”

Even now as adults we feel comfortable listing the tasks we have accomplished than saying we did something purely cause it was fun and pleasurable.

Anything can be fun and play, but beware: any form of play can also quickly be turned into productivity.  If you take walks because you truly enjoy them, they are play.  If you are walking daily because its part of the exercise routine you feel you must do, you are not playing.

If you always get a nagging feeling that you are wasting your time then you are not playing enough or have forgotten to have fun.

Don’t fool yourselves into believing therefore that WFH is giving you great time with family.  It’s time to be brutally honest with yourselves.

How does Your Big Five Personality Traits Predict Your Romantic Life?

There was a notion that people differ in their characteristic ways of dealing with the world and it was one of the most basic human intuitions. Some believed that the genes determined a person’s basic characters and some linked personality to date and time of birth, shape and size of different body parts and the lines on the palm.  These however have not found enough empirical support.

A more solid and scientifically supported theory of personality emerged in the late 70s and the 80’s. Popularly known as the Big Five or Five Factor Model, human personality consists of five basic traits, each of which exists on a continuum between opposites. The interplay of these five traits and included with them the 24 facets or sub-traits predicts an individual’s typical behavior in different situations and over time.

The Big Five traits are:

  • Neuroticism or Need for stability – ranging from being ‘reactive’ vs. ‘resilient’;
  • Extraversion – ranging from being introverted vs. extroverted
  • Openness – ranging from being ‘conservative’ vs. ‘inquiring’ or ‘innovative’
  • Agreeableness – ranging from being ‘challenging’ vs. ‘accommodative’ and;
  • Conscientiousness – ranging from being ‘flexible’ Vs. ‘focused’ or ‘purposeful’

According to the Big Five or the FFM (Five Factor Model), these traits are genetically based. They tend to crystallize in early adulthood and remain more or less stable thereafter.   However it is important to understand that Personality is not the only factor shaping our destiny: Circumstances—situational, knowledge, skills, attitude, culture and values—also have a lot to do with it, as do chance, of course.

Yet the influence of personality is evident in many realms of life, such as choice of career, status of health, lifestyle and interpersonal relationships. Not surprisingly, the research also points towards a significant predictive association between the Big Five personality traits and your romantic life.

wilson-sanchez-tL9dekPndHM-unsplash

Here are some of the predictors for you to ponder.

Neuroticism or ‘Need for Stability’

Neuroticism is the personality trait most strongly predictive of a person’s romantic destiny. According to scholarly consensus, high neuroticism is uniformly bad news in this context. According to a 1987 published study by University of Michigan researchers Lowell Kelly and James Connelly  that followed 300 married couples over 30 years; the neuroticism of one spouse predicted dissatisfaction in marriage and divorce. Research has also shown that high neuroticism predicts low resilience post-divorce.

Neuroticism appears to interfere with relationship satisfaction in multiple ways. By definition, individuals with high scores on the neuroticism scale tend to be highly reactive to stress and setback and are prone to experiencing negative emotions. These tendencies are likely to radiate onto the partner and create problems over time.

Researches Terri Fisher and James McNulty (2008) found after asking 72 newly-married couples about their character, relationships, and sexual satisfaction and re-examining them a year later, found that neuroticism of one partner (or both) predicted lower levels of satisfaction in relationships and sex.

Neuroticism, the researchers further found, tended to undermine marital quality by interfering with the couple’s sex life. The authors contend that neuroticism dampens sexual satisfaction because neurotic individuals are prone to negative affect and expectations, which have been shown to relate to lower sexual arousal and satisfaction.

Some argue that neuroticism may interfere with one’s sex life as the animal nature of sex reminds us of our vulnerability which in turn causes stress and since we are ill-equipped to handle that, we might devalue or avoid sex.

Extraversion

Extraversion has been found to strongly predict several love and sex related outcomes. However, high extraversion appears to be somewhat of a double-edged sword in the context of romantic relationships. By nature Extroverts tend to be happier, more socially connected, and more charismatic than introverts. They seek relations and are highly skilled at networking. They also tend to be better adjusted sexually

On the other hand, high extraversion can undermine relationships because of the inherent need of such people to be social can lead to adventurism and being too personal with others. In a study it was found that high extroversion and low conscientiousness in men predicted lower marital satisfaction for their wives.

Openness

Openness appears to play a rather minor role in the romantic context yet it is not entirely inconsequential. McNulty’s study with over 200 newlyweds and their sexual activity for over a period of two weeks found couples in which the woman scored high on the traits of agreeableness and (to a lesser extent) openness had sex more often. The husband’s personality had no effect on the frequency of sex, although more open (and neurotic) husbands were less sexually satisfied.

Agreeableness and Conscientiousness

Studies indicate that high levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness  predict relationship satisfaction, in part because these traits signify high interpersonal trust and low impulsiveness, respectively.  This coupled with low neuroticism scores in self or your spouse predicts marital satisfaction.

On the contrary, low agreeableness and low conscientiousness have been found to specifically predict sexual risk-taking. In a study of more than 16,000 participants from 52 countries, the researcher David Schmidt of Bradley University found that low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness predicted infidelity.

Summary

Contrary to popular belief that people tend to become like each other over long period, people tend to choose partners who are quite like themselves. Generally speaking, when it comes to pair bonding, birds of the same feather flock together. However, the bulk of the evidence appears to show that similarity is nota strong predictor of relationship outcome.

However, Four traits—low neuroticism, high conscientiousness, high agreeableness, and high extraversion—predicted higher levels of relationship satisfaction with intimate partners.

It’s important to note that our basic personality traits are under strong genetic influence and are not easy to change. Personality predicts behavior in many areas, including relationships, sexual behavior, and satisfaction. Also personality similarity between spouses is not necessary for long-term relationship success.

If you recognize some of these traits in yourself, you need not fear for the long-term health of your romantic relationship as there is always an ‘incentive to change for love’

ARE YOU LEADING YOUR LIFE LIKE AN ‘AVENGER’?

Is your past the reason for your conflicts?

Did you know that the root of many conflicts which you may have in the present lies somewhere in the past?

Unless you are able to deal with the past issue and move on with your life, you will keep getting into more and more conflict, eventually ending up with a feeling of victimization.

We either end up playing the ‘victim’ or creating the drama of a ‘villain’.  This somehow keeps confirming to our core believes which we have built over a period of time.  It’s a vicious cycle and if you are caught in it then it’s time you get the heck out with some practice of forgiveness.

Let me explain this a little more.  I had a friend of mine who was going through a troubled marriage.  Everyday used to start and end with unending arguments and they had started to become distant with each other.  The situation had precipitated to such an extent that a split was the only option they felt would help resolve this forever.  Each party claimed to be the ‘victim’ and called the other ‘villain’ of the piece.  Such positions never really help in a conflict.  It’s important that we understand the underlying causes for our reactions in the present.

An evening coffee meetup gave me the opportunity to try and help my friend through this phase and identify what was causing frequent ’emotional explosions’ in her transaction with him.

conflicts avenger

“I don’t think our marriage is going to last, looks like we are heading for a split” she said as tears swelled in her eyes.  I could see that she had over a period of time been suppressing her emotions and was looking to a person to pour that out so that she might feel lighter.  For me, I was not really concerned about the current outburst which is a result of suppression.  I was more concerned in digging deeper to let her come out with the ‘repressed’ emotions.  The difference being that the second type is the one from a long past, which is formed and lying deep underneath and is at the core of all responses of the present.

“Tell me more, I urged”.  You know, he doesn’t love me anymore and has been paying attention to other ladies.  He no longer seems to be attracted to me.  I think he has had enough of me.  I knew she was playing the ‘victim’ here and wanted to know more as to what led her to believe this was happening to her.

I had known her husband for over 15 years and saw that he was caring, helpful and a great support for the family.  I didn’t want to jump to any conclusion based on what she was telling me.  I however didn’t want to give her an instant solution or strategy to work around this, lest she feel that I am biased and am no different from her husband.

Tell me more I prodded.  “You know he is so obsessed with his daughter that it’s always about her, he has no time for me anymore” she said gritting her teeth as she banged the coffee cup on the table.  It befuddled me, as even I wondered, what would make a mom so angry that her daughter is getting so much attention from dad?

“It’s like I don’t have space in his mind anymore.  I think he is distancing himself from me and doing this deliberately”.

I thought it was a great opportunity to mine deep.  “You use the word deliberately.  From where did you get this idea?”  I asked.

“Oh! I know this game.  My Dad always used to do this to me.  He used to distance me and give attention to my sis whenever he wanted to communicate his anger towards me and teach me a lesson.  I was at the receiving end of such treatment and I can sense it if someone does it to me” she said.

“Was your Dad always distant from you? And are you saying he didn’t love you enough as he did your sis?” I asked.

“I thought that was his way of letting me know that I was not as good as my sis was.  I could never live up to his expectations, no matter what” she started to sob and I let that happen for her to get lighter in the head and probably become a little open to think more clearly when I offered an alternative way of thinking.

“So you have not been able to forgive your dad for making you feel this way?”  I asked.

She was trying to probably tell me that when someone doesn’t pay enough attention to her, its their way of communicating to her that she was not good enough or unwanted.  Unfortunately for her, she has been living with this feeling for a long time and this repressed anger started to manifest itself when she saw her husband showering his attention on their daughter.  She was actually visualizing her sis in her daughter and comparing her husband with her father.  She was playing the perfect ‘victim’ and was projecting that in every transaction.

Her husband was unfortunately becoming the reason for her to be reminded of her past and their relationship was taking the brunt of all the repressed emotions.  The problem was that the two souls didn’t know what was happening and were ending up blaming each other for the situation.

You will notice that we are not taught how to think through situations and reflect on the root causes.  Instead we are taught to react, judge, lay blame and take revenge.

Avenger

Come to think of it, most of us are leading our life like ‘Avengers’.  We want to avenge for the past crimes committed on us by our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and whosoever.  We have unknowingly developed the victim mindset and now want to fight and harm others as much as we were harmed in the past.

“Is that the only thing about your husband that bothers you?”  I asked.  “What do you like in him, leaving this one dimension aside?”

“He always gives me my space, surprises me with gifts, helps me in chores – right from washing dishes to cooking great food when I don’t feel the energy to do anything.  In a way I am lucky that he always chips in when I need”.  Her reply surprised her as well as she paused after what she rattled about her husband just then.

Have you been evaluating your husband using the prism of your past baggage of your relationship with your Dad?  I asked.  It took some time for that question to sink in, for she paused and remained silent for a considerably long time.  I get your point she said after a while.  I am able to see that I cannot stand anyone giving more attention to others in front of me.  It keeps reminding me of all the love and affection I missed getting from my dad.  I always yearned for that.  I can see that before we had our daughter, I was getting all the attention from him.  Now it was different and I am starting to feel threatened.  I think I have been harsh on him.  “Don’t you think your daughter deserves the care and attention which you always looked for from you Dad?” I nudged.

This one interaction went off smoothly and though it took time and repeated reminders, my friends were able to iron out their differences and save themselves from damaging conflicts.

Have you ever thought about the fact that it is our repressed emotions which are at the core of conflict?

Isn’t it therefore important to go to the root of it and relate how it is affecting your present?

Can you think of some conflicts which you had and have manifested from your repressed past?

Don’t you think one needs to deal with the inner conflict before trying to solve the outer?

ARE YOU LEADING A LIFE OF AN AVENGER?

When am I going to use this?  I don’t see the point in doing these pointless drills!

I recall my Son asking me this question when he was repeatedly asked to solve some complex math problems day-in and day-out.  This was during his 10th grade.  I had then redirected him to his Math teacher as I felt I was not competent to answer his question as I myself had these questions when I was his age.

His math teacher was not as convincing in her answer and was no different from mine.  Her answer went something like “I know this is boring and seems very dull at the moment, but you must remember you might someday need it.  You wouldn’t know yet which career you are going to choose so you might not see the relevance of all these drills.  You might go into a profession where it will be really necessary one day and then you cannot be under-prepared can you?”

teacher

The answer was not satisfying and convincing enough for my son went about this agonizing path with utter lack of motivation.

I must say that most teachers do not know how to respond to such a question.  Either they lie, which even they know or they avoid a direct and clear answer, expecting that the child’s doubt will one day resolve itself if by chance he encounters a profession where he will need those skills.

You all by now know that you have only a few thousands who are really making use of integrals, or division of polynomials.  This is not just a case with a subject like math.  It is also of many other subjects of which the child will carry a doubt.

The fact that my son lived with such questions was confirmed when he asked me a similar question when he was in his Med school.  He asked me wondering why he needs to learn about subjects like orthopedics, ENT, Surgery during his under-grad days when those are mostly specialist subjects you take up while you pursue your post-grad.

This time I was wise and better prepared to respond.  I said “you have to take these subjects as similar to what weight training and calisthenics are to a game of football.  If you really want to be a player at the competitive level, you got to do these boring drills repetitively and find them pointless at times.  You won’t see football players running around with truck tires tied to their waist while playing football do you?  Neither do you find them placing traffic cones in the middle of the field and running zig zag between them.  You do see however that as a player you will use strength, speed and flexibility which you have gained by doing those boring drills, week after week to keep you fit and healthy to play the game at the highest level.”

“You see, even if you play the game just for fun, you will enjoy the game much more when you are able to run fast, dodge past defenders and tackle well if you are fit”.

When you practice these boring drills, you will find that you gain a deeper understanding of your body, health and the mental strength aspects of your life.

There are so many residual benefits of learning each subject that a teacher must be aware of.  You would do a world of good to your students and children if you could provide answers which makes sense.  I think that’s the case with math as well.  Many students which includes me, were left wondering why I need to learn calculus, theorems, integrals, polynomials where all what I needed was to add, multiply, divide and subtract in life.

Which are the boring drills which you have been living with? 

Have you ever thought of their residual benefits?

What will be your answer to your kids, students and anyone who has such a question?