Friday, July 10, 2015
Proactive vs Reactive
After watching the fall out of the Amtrack train wreck in Philadelphia last month I couldn’t help but notice the reactions by so many who wanted to fix the problem. There was a suggestion to change policy making sure there are two in the engine rather than one. Others wanted to install monitoring cameras in every engine compartment to watch the engineer to see what he/she is doing while on the job. Still others wanted to make certain a speed monitoring device is mounted to every train that would slow it down on curves to prevent a repeat of this terrible accident.
Are we not a reactive society? Now a month later after the horrific shooting in Charleston, everyone wants the Confederate flag taken down because some loony 21 year old had it as a symbol of white supremacy. I’m not a southerner, although I now live in the south. I can say from a Yankees perspective: I have no negative association with the confederate flag. I’ve never associated it with slavery. My only associations are those flags in the back of pickup trucks along with a gun rack and the symbol of the Confederacy during the Civil War. But policy will be what policymakers decide and momentum is on the side of taking the flag down in public places.
How many of us know of a bad intersection and have said, “if they don’t put a traffic light here or make this a four-way stop someone is going to get killed.” And when that accident happens, guess what happens? They install that light or sign. They react rather than proact.
It made me wonder if we approach our marriages in the same way. Too many of us wait until things become noticeably bad before we do anything about the problems. Usually by then, whatever the issue is has hit an acute point of sensitivity so now, whenever it occurs again, both partners are in defense mode. Looking back on my failed marriage I know we both let things go too long before addressing them. But that’s simply the kind of people we are – we react. I think we’re just too busy with life to not put small stuff aside (even if it ends up being major stuff).
I saw my son not too long ago and asked “do you or your wife do anything to protect your marriage and ensure it stays healthy?” He looked at me like I was from Mars. I told him about his mom and I and how I wish for him to never experience what we it. I don’t think he saw the significance of what I was saying because he really had no answer.
Doesn’t it seem like being proactive is a better solution than being reactive? What do we do proactively to keep that special “oneness” with our spouse? Kathy has evening chats while her husband kneels at her feet. Sub hub in Phoenix and his Mistress go out for dinner periodically specifically to talk about their D/s relationship. Katie makes sure I’m locked if I ever leave the house without her accompanying me. We recommit our love for one another by reciting vows annually. She knows my email passwords and monitors my location via her phone when we are part. Dennis’ wife (worshipping your wife) rifles through his wallet to see what receipts/cash he has, making certain he isn’t spending on items he shouldn’t. I wonder what your spouse does to keep the two of you close? (I put the ownership on the wife since most reading here live in a WLM.)
I guess some might respond by saying “she disciplines me”. I would agree that discipline serves as a way to curb wrong behavior although it is a reactionary response rather than a proactive one. Many years ago I went to a seminar on esteem building. The talk pertained to helping children grow to be well adapted and have a positive self image. I remember the speaker stating, “For every negative comment you make you need to balance that with at least four positive ones.” Wow! Now that’s a toughie. We don’t think that way. It’s not how most of us are wired.
I attended another conference some years later and the speaker was a therapist. He noted that if you say ‘don’t do this or don’t do that’ the patient will then focus on that very thing. That’s not the goal here he went on to say; the goal is not to get them to focus on the negative but the positive – what you want them to accomplish. He then said, “When your patient doesn’t perform the task properly correct them without saying the word don’t.” Again, it’s not how we tend to speak. It takes a conscious effort to rephrase the statement from a negative to positive. As a parent isn’t it easier to say, “Sally stop that!” then say “Sally, come. Let’s try this.”
I did a quick Google search and came across this article. It noted those in the business world who are most successful had a 5.6/1 positive/negative feedback ratio from colleagues while those that were least successful had a .7/1.0 ratio (that’s four negatives for every three positives). The study sounded quite similar to the talk I heard fifteen years ago regarding self esteem. It seems getting the most out of employees works the same way as building a positive self image.
To bring the message a little closer to home the above author makes this parallel,
“As an interesting aside, we find ….this research is echoed in an uncanny way by John Gottman’s analysis of wedded couples’ likelihood of getting divorced or remaining married. Once again, the single biggest determinant is the ratio of positive to negative comments the partners make to one another. And the optimal ratio is amazingly similar — five positive comments for every negative one.”
Isn’t that interesting? Not to use this as a barb to those engaged in domestic discipline but having your bottom reddened every time you do something wrong doesn’t seem like the best method to get Joe to stop doing wrong. Yes, discipline and criticism does work in the short term. A beating is akin to a sharp rebuttal or other negative comment. It gets one’s attention. It works to get your point across in the immediacy of life but life isn’t about the moment, it’s about a lifetime. It’s a continuum. It seems a better choice than the whack or cutting remark is to be proactive and build your spouse up, saving criticism when it is needed but using it sparingly.
I know if I’ve had a great day at work but had a situation where someone criticized me, on the way home that one critical remark will stick in my mind and bother me. When my son was younger I attended a piano recital. He memorized a piece that was several minutes long but messed up the ending. When the recital was over I was standing with him and his teacher and I said, “you did great except for the ending.” His teacher promptly corrected me saying, “but did you notice how many notes he played perfectly?” She cut me to the quick. I focused on the negative. I cut my son down by my remark. She built him up. She commended him on doing well and implicitly reminded me I should do the same.
OK, enough writing. I need to stop so I can go tell Katie how much I love her, and how much I’ve appreciated being able to spend my day with her (that’s two positives…. she deserves so many more!). I’m sure your Mistress does as well.