Wouldn’t it be great if you could just look into a crystal ball and determine the future of all of your relationships? According the recent research, there are some characteristics that remain constant over time and thus, can predict how a person will develop.
Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend gives his take on the research and what we can do to improve ourselves.
What if you could see if the person you or your children were dating had the actual “Character” to create a healthy and enduring relationship? Well according to some, that crystal ball has arrived! In a recent article Hara Estroff-Marano (Psychology Today May/June 2011) proposes that there are six character traits that promote better success with relationships in human beings and act as a crystal ball into the future relationship success of the people around us. Those traits are Intelligence, Drive, Happiness, Goodness, Friendship and Intimacy.
Controlled intelligence, spontaneous intelligence
The engine of accomplishment
The ability to find satisfaction
Empathy is laudable in itself, but it has enormous social utility
A support system encourages you to take more chances and move towards greater success.
The capacity for vulnerability and trust
Estroff-Marano defines and lays out the support research surrounding each of the six character traits. She also gives examples of how knowing the traits and being able to see them in others can act as a “crystal ball”, giving us insight into the lives and potential of those around us. The concept of the traits are powerful and, as a relationship coach who works with people every day, I couldn’t agree with her more. The only difference that I have with Estroff-Marano’s “crystal ball” approach is that she actually chooses to focus the magical insight of the crystal ball. She suggests using the ball to determine the potential of those around us and to help us find a better partner, where I would suggest we use the crystal ball to help us become more self-aware and to become a better partner.
There are four main reasons that I suggest we use the crystal ball on ourselves rather than others. The first reason is because we have significantly more data on how we’re doing in relation to the six traits that we have on how others are doing. So let’s go where we have the data and try to improve our own conditions, rather than judging everyone else for their weaknesses. Secondly, I have found it is always better to focus our attention and energy on the activities where we have the most power to actually create change, on those things within our circle of influence. Everyone has at one time or another tried to change others, when if we had just changed ourselves, we would have more easily influenced those around us to change.
The third reason we should focus on changing ourselves is because “love is blind” and the minute we have the yearning chemicals of love coursing through our veins the crystal ball becomes less important. Any parent who has tried to talk one of their children out of dating someone who “wasn’t good for them” understands that the logic of the crystal ball is irrelevant when they’re under the influence of love. Sadly we don’t necessarily choose our partner based on what the research is showing will be best for our lives, we tend to choose the people we feel chemically attracted to.
The final reason we should focus the crystal ball on ourselves not others, is because by growing our own character and skills, we’ll be better prepared to handle the other people in our lives who are lacking such character. So the goal is to focus our efforts on just one person, the one person who will have the biggest impact in our lives, and that is us! When we have our act together, we will have the power to help others to get their act together as well.
Here are six specific activities you can do to grow Estroff-Marano’s six traits of character.
· Intelligence – Learn to stop reacting to every situation placed before you and increase your intelligence by thinking of better responses to others rather than simply reacting.
· Drive – Exercise some drive in your life by setting a goal for something you want to accomplish in your life, making a plan, and acting on your plan daily.
· Happiness – Find ways to see the joy and positive things in your life every day. Identify one thing every day you’re grateful for, journal it daily and talk about it with others.
· Goodness – Create empathy in your interactions by trying to get in the shoes of someone with whom you’ve had a run in. While thinking of them, ask yourself the following questions over and over, “What is it like to be them? What is like for them to deal with me? What do I just not understand about them?” Continue to look for the compassion that eventually comes with this exercise.
· Friendship – Focus on friendship in your day by initiating contact and following up with your friends and social network. Actively focus on giving back to those that have given to you.
· Intimacy – Take a risk with someone your really care about. Have a conversation where you share something that is really important you or do something you’re not always comfortable doing.