One of the most challenging aspects of dating and relationships is communicating what we like, want and need without sounding demanding, judgmental or creating ultimatums.
When dating a person or in a long term relationship, they want to know you are with them for who they ARE as an individual, not just what they DO for you. No one wants to be perceived as a meal ticket, a sex object, a status symbol or the retirement plan.
The best way to encourage your mate to give you what you want, like and need is by showing gratitude. But how do we show gratitude in a way that has them feel appreciated for who they are, not just what they do?
Breaking the Tradition of Results-Based Praise
Growing up we would be praised for specific results. If we received a good grade, we were good or smart. If we didn’t, well, the self-interpretation is that we were bad or stupid. If we cleaned our room, then we were good or tidy. If we didn’t, then we were deemed ungrateful or lazy. Traditional parenting and business management styles have taught us that based on what we do, we are either good or bad, succeeding or failing, accepted or rejected. This type of results based reinforcement puts people on a negative path of
approval seeking, guilt driven behavior that ultimately diminishes desire.
How Does Results Based Praise Create Discord?
When I say “Thank you for opening my door”, it praises a result and thus sets an expectation. Then every time my date opens my door, he’s “good” but when he chooses not to for whatever reason, he feels a subconscious sense of obligation that he’s not doing something he probably “should”. Thus the foundation of guilt and resistance is laid. Conversely, if I have it in my mind that he “should” open the door for me because he knows I like that, I can interpret it as a passive / aggressive sign that there is something
“wrong” when he doesn’t do it and generate feelings of doubt.
Praise the Behavior, Not the Result.
Instead, if I praise the behavior, “thank you for being thoughtful” or “thank you for being a gentleman”, then any act of thoughtfulness or gallantry can be appreciated. He may not open my door but he may help me adjust my seat or look into my eyes before starting the car. Releasing the requirement that love is only communicated through certain acts, opens the door for endless expressions of love and gives the other person the opportunity to recover or create romance at any time.
The same principle applies when you communicate what you don’t like. If your date is late for a reservation or an event, instead of focusing on the result “you are late and that bothers me.” Address the behavior “when you are late, I feel you are being inconsiderate to me, our guest etc…” The next time your date is running behind, they may think, “I need to be more considerate” (a desire to show they care) rather than, “I’m going to be late and they are going to kill me (guilt, stress).
Praising the behavior reinforces core values that are the foundation of relationships that last. Setting expectations for specific results sets people up for inevitable failure, guilt, resentment or a life of perpetual pleasing and the need for approval.
This also helps us understand if we are with “the one” much faster. It’s easy for people to figure out what you like and press your approval button until they “have you” only to show their true colours later on. For example, your date opened your car door but talked to another person on the phone the entire way to the party. If you focus on the result, you can justify by saying “well he did open my door”. But if you focus on the behavior, and ask yourself was he thoughtful or respectful etc.? Then you realize, he’s only doing what you “like” to placate you and give himself permission to be inconsiderate the rest of the time.
Regardless if you are male or female, be less hung up on whether you are getting exactly what you want and take the time to discover and appreciate the person you are dating. If your values are aligned, your romance has a road to run on. Enjoy the journey