The devil is always in the details.
In Aesop’s fable “Belling the Cat” the mice decided that to escape the sharp claws of the cat all they needed to do was place a bell around the cat’s neck to warn them of the cat’s approach.
“But who will bell the cat?” one elder mouse asked.
It is easy to say that something should be done, but quite a different matter to do it.
In a previous blog I suggested that whatever you say to your partner-in-life should be truthful, necessary, and kind. Today I’m focusing on “kind.”
In my first year of law school I took a Contracts class where I learned that to reach a binding agreement you need three elements. An offer (“I’ll mow the grass for five dollars”), an acceptance (“We have a deal”), and consideration (the promise to pay something of value, in this case five dollars).
A grumbling acceptance (“I’ll agree but that’s a pretty high price”) is still legally binding. A conditional acceptance (“You have a deal if you will also put the lawn furniture back in the garage”) requires further negotiation.
We often use conditional acceptance in our lives and in our relationships. For example, “I’ll only visit your mother with you after you have cleaned up all the junk you’ve left in your car.”
That statement sounds punitive. You are complaining about my messy car and using something I want to get me to do something about it. Could the same idea be expressed in a kinder way? How about:
“I’d be delighted to visit your mother with you as soon as you wash the car.”
This starts in a positive way (“I’d be delighted”) and ends with a vision (a washed car.)
Listen to yourself when you speak. Which of those two statements are more like your own style of conditional acceptance? Can you be kinder in asking for what you want in a relationship while also giving your partner what they want?
Consistent and creative changes can generate considerable kindness in return.
So I’ll keep writing this blog, and I appreciate your reading it.
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