Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ineffective Habits In Relationships

I think most everyone has heard of Stephen Covey's “Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” - a huge bestseller, especially in the business world. In the preface of a more current book “Principle Centered Leadership”, he notes his brother John's (a master teacher) list of seven habits of highly ineffective people. Although the list is generally intended to be applied to business situations, I thought they were worth mentioning and commenting on in the context of relationships.

If you do any of the following you are at risk.

  1. Be reactive: doubt yourself and blame others.
Reactivity is a killer in relationships. It makes couples angry or afraid, leading to defensiveness
and distancing. Emotions under control lead to understanding and empathy.

  1. Work without any clear end in mind.
So many relationships go nowhere for years. I hear all the time of people dating for five, six or seven years with no clear idea if they are right for each other and should get married or break it off. They may get married eventually as a default rather than a choice, or get back into the dating pool at an age when it is more difficult to connect.

  1. Do the urgent thing first.
This habit usually leads to relationship neglect. When I have my priorities out of whack I will probably sacrifice my closest relationships first, expecting them to understand. The goal here is to discern urgent from important. Many things are urgent but not important. I must give priority to the important things in life.

  1. Think win/lose.
If this is my habit, I will eventually alienate the one I love. I will find myself winning skirmishes and losing intimacy in the relationship. Instead I must develop the habit of thinking “If we as a couple win, I win.”

  1. Seek first to be understood.
If this is my goal I will probably wonder why my mate is tuning me out. I am more interested in a monologue than I am in a dialogue. It is said that God gave us two ears but only one mouth for a reason.

     6.  If you can’t win, compromise (your integrity).

Compromise is the only good solution in relationships unless it is your integrity, your values, or your good character qualities that are on the line. Then you will certainly lose what is most important. However we must be very careful that we do not operate in a self-righteous way when defending these aspects.

    7.  Fear change and put off improvement.

Most growth is difficult and often anxiety-producing. What if I change, but my mate does not? Will my position become weaker in this relationship? A better question is what are the risks of not changing when necessary. What would God want from me in this area? Change is inevitable. It becomes our friend when we embrace it and our enemy when we resist it.

I'm sure that we could come up with a much bigger list if we thought about it, but I think this is a great beginning. Which ones seem hardest for you to accept? Which ones do you want to work on?

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