Attitude is Everything - What Works
We talk to our kids about changing their attitude all the time. We notice when a celebrity has a foul attitude in an interview or on a film set. We feel it when a friend is overly negative and we wish they would change their attitude.
What happens when we look in the mirror?
What attitude do we see in ourselves?
What attitude have we developed towards our partner, our relationship and our future together?
Research conducted by the Gottman Institute over the past forty years tells us a great deal about what behaviours we should and should not engage in, in order to protect and prosper our relationships.
In our Gottman Method Couples Workshops we teach these skills, and see many couples achieve amazing outcomes. In this article we don’t want to share about these skills we teach that anyone can learn, rather we want to share with you our experience of what attitudes determine success.
ATTITUDE OF CURIOSITY
Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that “a mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions”. In order for our mind to be stretched by a new idea we must first have an attitude of curiosity. The couples that we see making good progress have an attitude of curiosity. They are curious about what they don’t know so that they can learn and apply this knew knowledge to their lives. It is this attitude of curiosity that is the first step to creating real change in your relationship.
How to Develop Your Curiosity
Curiosity of Self: When was the last time you spent an hour with yourself doing absolutely nothing other than exploring who you are, what your values and interests are? Many people fail to recognize that they are in a constant state of change and evolution – every now and then it is good to stop, check in with yourself and be curious about who you are and who you are becoming.
Curiosity about your Partner: Rather than assuming that you know your partners likes and dislikes, make some time to ask them if they still like/dislike the same things that they used to. Don’t expect that you know the answer - practice curiosity. Just as we continue to grow, change and evolve so do the people that we love. Enduring love exists when we continue to be curious about each other.
ATTITUDE OF PATIENCE
Couples who succeed in being able to learn what it is to really love bring with them, or have a willingness to develop, an attitude of patience. Patience with themselves as they learn new ways of communicating, behaving and of managing their emotions and conflict. Not only are they patient with themselves as they learn, but they are also patient with their partners as they too learn new ways of relating, doing conflict and loving.
How to Practice Patience
Patience with Self: Whatever new thing you find yourself currently embarking on, a new exercise/eating program, a new habit/hobby, a new job, practice patience and self-compassion. Remember that change doesn’t happen overnight and that true and long term change occurs on the back of setbacks, mistakes and falling off the wagon a few times. Be compassionate and patient with yourself. Criticism and self-blame only serve to further derail you.
Patience with your Partner: From a therapists perspective we want to tell you something that you probably do not know, or maybe you even struggle to believe. When we do our one-one assessment sessions with partners before they commence couples therapy we get to see just how hard each partner has been trying in ‘their own way’, to solve their relationship problems. We want to encourage you to be patient with your partner and their attempts to make things better between the two of you.
ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY
Author Ernest Hemingway was quoted as saying that “there is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self”. For one to become superior to their former self they have to first have an attitude of humility. The art of humility can be found in accepting correction. When our clients succeed in their relationships it is because they are humble enough to accept correction from what they learn through our Couples Workshops. The correction you and your partner will receive is very gentle, much like a coach helping you to refine your tennis technique – just like a coach wants their student to succeed, we want you and your partner to succeed in your marriage. If you begin this journey with an attitude of humility, the Gottman Methods you learn will gently correct you, only where you need to be corrected. A couple with an attitude of humility, who welcome correction, and seek to be more superior versions of their former selves will find that they can share, and know, a love that is far more superior to that which they know now.
How to Practice Being Humble
Within Yourself: Think about a topic or a skill in which you are a known expert. Invite someone to challenge your way of doing things by asking them for suggestions. Then really take the time to listen to their answer with a truly open mind and see if you just might actually be able to learn something.
Within Your Relationship: We dare you to take the challenge above one step further and ask your partner for advice or opinion on your area of expertise. Now try and humbly listen, openly and non-judgmentally to their ideas… Ouch, this one is going to hurt!
So what if you find yourself or your partner having the wrong attitude? Where does that leave your relationship? It leaves it in a place where you may very well need an attitude adjustment. This could be the very thing that is standing in your way. In all that we do, and all that we achieve, attitude is everything. Only you can create this shift – but when you do, our experience tells us that the job is then more than half done!
It has been our experience that more often than not, attitudes in relationships begin to change when individuals stop thinking about themselves and start really thinking about what might be going on for their partner and what might be best for their relationship.
Try the tips above, for yourself, and for your relationship and see if there may just be a chance for you to make the attitude adjustment you need, to become curious, to be patient and to be humble, so that together you and your partner can begin to learn what it is to really love.
Join us this September at our Sydney workshop for couples based on the forty years of groundbreaking research from the Gottman Institute and our 30 years of combined clinical experience with couples.
Kerrie and Adrian Lumbewe
Principal psychologists and directors of Motivating Marriages
Gottman Method Couples Therapy
Gottman Leader of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and Bringing the Baby Home