Texting and Relationships

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #8

1036-relax-and-succeed-a-mom-text-messageI think texting was invented by marriage counsellors as a job-creation program. More and more struggling couples come to me because they’re looking at breaking up because of a bunch of text messages. Twenty year relationships being undone in 140 character bursts. It’s crazy.

As I’ve noted before, I often used to ask my college students if they knew what I meant when I said, last night I shot a robber in my pajamas? They would always say they did, but they can’t; because that sentence has four meanings. I never state who’s wearing the pajamas or if someone was murdered or photographed. And yet all the students are sure they understood. This is how weak and frail words are at capturing the fine details of the human condition. So hinging a relationship on some text messages is the flimsiest sort of reasoning there is.

Let’s begin with the fact that people will often take things out of context. If a woman gets a text at 7pm from her sister and all it says is, I got a run she might skip right past the idea that her sister might be playing a card game and she might immediately think that her sister is referring to her baseball league, when in fact she is trying to discreetly ask her sister to rush to her room to get her some new stockings for the date she’s on.

1036-relax-and-succeed-texting-is-a-brilliant-way-to-miscommunicateThere are examples of ambiguous meanings, assumptions about tone, context, meaning, there’s bad auto corrections, tech issues and then there’s stuff like this… why not just cave paint to each other? It’s probably got less room for misunderstandings, because whenever couples show me these texts I just cannot see all of the drama they do. They load the tiniest and most innocent of phrases up with massive amounts of meaning. It’s crazy.

Texts are for some basic data. Grocery lists, times, notifications that you’re waiting downstairs, etc. You should not be discussing your relationship on text. If you’re that anxious that you need answers immediately then you need to get more mature about your anxiousness before you’re ready to be in a healthy relationship. Seriously.

The fact that a couple can be in love in the morning when they go to work and ready to break up by the time they get home when they haven’t even spoken once should be a clear sign people have lost touch with what’s reasonable and healthy. Use texts for what they’re for and save your relationship issues for in-person discussions when you’re both in a positive frame of mind. Otherwise you’re just asking for trouble.

1036-relax-and-succeed-between-what-is-said-and-not-meantTruly, I don’t like seeing people for reasons this frivolous. If you’re actually making relationship decisions based on text exchanges then you’re not mature enough for a healthy relationship. Real couples that make it through real challenges do so by staying connected, and that means their communication lines are open.

Actually commit to no longer texting about emotional issues. Save them for times, dates, lists, and decisions about times and locations, but not about important issues. If it’s important enough then it’s important enough to hear your partner’s voice or to wait until you can. Anything else disrespectful to both of you. You simply cannot expect good results from trying to deal with the most important thing in your life in 140 character increments.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Kind Words

We’re nearing the end of March Kindness Month so it’s time to start increasing the scope of our awareness. It’s easier to be compassionate to children or the elderly or the frail, so to stretch ourselves this week we’ll focus on difficult people.

890 Relax and Succeed - Judge each dayYou’re already friends with your friends. That part of your life doesn’t need special attention, but taking the teeth out of a difficult person can really improve your day, especially if it’s someone you see regularly.

So we’ll start off by literally watching for people whose body language, words and manner all inform us that the person is upset. Maybe it’s the cashier at the grocery store, maybe it’s a co-worker, it can even be a family member. Just get outside yourself by extending kindness to someone locked in a cycle of suffering.

We’ll start off with some nice words. Offer a compliment, maybe support or even defence. Look someone in the eye and connect with them. It’s funny how hard someone will work to get the after-tax dollars necessary to buy something nice to make them feel better and yet this kind of small action in life is free and easy and yet it’s the place where most people fail to turn their mental health dreams into a practice.

890 Relax and Succeed - Small actsThese small actions count for you far more than for the person you’re offering the support to. You feel what you live. If you live generously you feel rich, even if all you’re giving is smiles and patience and some kind words. This is the one thing everyone’s short of today. Just some basic human connections that say, “yes, I see you and I care.”

It isn’t that the struggle forward through life doesn’t have real challenges. It just means that those aren’t actually very bad to deal with when you feel you have the support of the community. But as we work with people we don’t live near, and our kids are bussed to school with kids from too far away to be active friends, and a lot of people pull from their cubicle at work to their cubicle garage at home and they never even meet their neighbours, we shouldn’t really wonder why we don’t feel better.

Free yourself from thoughts about yourself. Get your awareness pointed outward instead of inward. Find someone having a bad day and just say some small supportive thing to them. A kind word, a compliment on an accomplishment or themselves, point out a good quality, even just smile, wave, and extend some patience. It might not be enough to shift their mood completely, but if they run into two good things in a row they’re on a new trajectory.

Use words to share positivity. It’s not hard and you’ll both benefit. They only reason you wouldn’t is habit, and that’s what this is all about–developing healthier habits. So act. You don’t get mentally stronger by thinking about mental health. You get that way by enacting it. So let’s go make a difference. Go say something nice to someone whose day could use it.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

The Blame Game

You have to begin by appreciating the fact that you and absolutely everyone around you is in a constant, moment-by-moment fluctuation between ego and wisdom. And so we’ll never completely get rid of ego because of course it is Yang to wisdom’s Yin. So what we’re shooting for is a largely enlightened society where there are enough people living in wisdom for long 470 Relax and Succeed - Even the nicest peopleenough stretches that they can absorb and not re-transmit the negativity that tends to emit from ego.

One of the key ways we can express negativity is through frustration, anger and blame. Blame is the result of the chaining together of expectations that are then compared to what is and then a judgment is made—and this is all taking place in only your consciousness. The fact that an ego would tell itself such a story should hardly be surprising. So when someone points the finger of blame at you, remember to understand it as being impersonal.

As I noted, blame is about comparing what is with what we wanted. Arguing the logic that they had no business making their initial assumption in the first place will not go over well when people are feeling frustrated. What we should do instead is really put ourselves into their shoes. See what’s happened not from your superior position of knowing what happened behind the scenes, but what it looks like to them. I can give you a great example.

I have a client I really like and she is friendly and reasonable and even generous. But you know those tasks or projects that just end up being the Bermuda Triangle of activities? Where no single major thing goes wrong. In fact, if the disappointed person was there to witness it, they would easily understand and wouldn’t feel let down at all. And most people will give you the benefit of a doubt even if they didn’t see it themselves. But when you get those fluke instances where one person runs into several consecutive experiences like that, it makes sense that the part of their brain that’s starting to feel familiar is: incompetence. Now, on our end—precisely because 470 Relax and Succeed - Breathe deep and let gothings had gone so badly—everyone was working extra, extra hard in an effort to make up the difference. So it’s really bad math when things keep failing by fluke. Because the harder the people try, the more negativity they face. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the natural flow of things.

So whenever the woman would express frustration in an email, one co-worker would feel she was being unreasonable because she wasn’t respecting how hard everyone was working in their efforts to try to ensure things went right. When you’re ignoring other people’s needs to address someone else’s it’s easy to feel gratitude would naturally flow from that. But if the person is continually not having their promised needs met, it makes sense that their egoic narrative would begin to loop angrily through the region that includes incompetence. I on the other hand wanted only to resolve the woman’s concerns immediately. Her frustrations seemed entirely understandable to me and I wasn’t insulted at all whenever she expressed them. I understood that from her perspective it was impossible to see how hard everyone was working to resolve things.

We can’t really live successfully if our objective is to avoid any and all discord. But we can eliminate a lot of the unnecessary discord by being more patient and understanding about the sources of people’s behaviour. If you understand that someone is reacting to their narrative rather than your reality then it’s much easier to not take their responses personally.

As much as possible try not to lay blame. It’s largely counter-productive. But if you lay it, forgive yourself. And if you’re the one blamed, take it in stride. It’s not that big a deal. Just hear it remembering that the blame is them responding to their internal monologue, not yours. Realities are separate and they can be quite different. So don’t exasperate yourself by trying to get other people to live in yours. It just can’t be done. So when people blame you, just remember that they forgot that you can’t see their reality nor live up to all of their expectations.

Now knowing all of this, I wouldn’t blame you at all for having yourself an uber-fantastic day!

peace. s 😉