Contributed by Paul Wuthrich
Have you ever wondered why you connect on deeper levels with some people more than others? Why you seem to ‘click’ with people and others you never feel like you are on the same page? There is a lot that goes into developing a relationship, whether it is a romantic relationship (new or old),
a sibling/parent, a coworker, or just a good friend. Relationships play an important part in our social well-being, as well as help us identify ourselves and find meaning in our lives. Good relationships are rewarding and sometimes challenges. Understanding our paradigms and others influences our success in all types of relationships.
The Rules of Life
Your paradigm is the way to choose to perceive the world around you. Yes, this is a choice you make every day! However we are often unaware we are making these choices. But these choices have noticeable consequences.
Your paradigm includes your ‘life rules.’ The rules you have in your head about how you should behave in certain situations- public or private. It also includes your rules for how others should behave. It includes your expectations for what people should do and say, and how they should do and say
When we meet someone with a similar paradigm, it is easier to connect with them. Often times we feel like these are the people that ‘speak our same language’ and find it easy to ‘be on the same page.’ On the contrast when we encounter people who have different
paradigms than we do, the same words have different meaning, discussions are relatively fruitless, and frustrations can arise.
Imagine you are given a big blue rubber ball as a child. You are taught that the proper way to play with this ball is to bounce it and throw it with your hands. You are taught to dribble and shoot. If you were to label the game you are playing, you would
call it basketball. Now imagine you go to school with your blue ball, and you take it out to the playground. Another kid asks if he can play with you and your ball, but when you throw it to him he does not catch it. Rather he runs after it and proceeds to kick the ball and play with his feet. How would you
respond? That is not how the game is played! As you explain the rules he does not understand, as he explains his rules of how to use the ball you are perplexed and confused. Who would do such a thing? That’s not what rubber blue balls are made for!
Some people see life as a soccer game, some approach life as a basketball game. When these two people meet, if they are unaware of the game they are playing, and fail to recognize others might play a different game, it doesn’t matter how long they argue about the
rules, they will never come to an agreement, much less an understanding to move forward.
Improve any relationship
There is a lot of advice to improve relationships. Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind no matter what relationship you are trying to develop.
Know your role- Every relationship has a different purpose. Everyone has their own unique connection with everyone else. Take time to identify what your role in the relationship is. What are you bringing to the table? What would you like to contribute? Are you contributing more or
less than you would like to? Also establish clear and reasonable expectations of what you want from the other person. Is what you want from them realistic? Are they doing more or less than you would like? Keep in mind the answers to these questions are generated by your own
paradigm. You may have to change your expectations or your “rules” in order to
come to a compromise. Discuss these ideas with the other person, remembering they have their own rules and expectations.
Do something! If you have had a good heart to heart discussion on how to improve your relationship, then the time has come to do something about it! Often times these changes will not happen right away. Lasting behavior change takes time and work. Be patient with yourself as you
strive to become better in your role, and be patient with others as they do the same. We are not born with the relationship skills we need. They must be taught and practiced, just like learning a language!