Models of hu­man re­la­tion­ships—tools to un­der­stand people

This post will not teach you the mod­els here. This post is a sum­mary of the mod­els that I carry in my head. I have writ­ten most of the de­scrip­tions without look­ing them up (See Feyn­man note­book method). If you have read a book on every one of these points they will make sense, as if you were shak­ing hands with an old ac­quaint­ance. If you are see­ing them for the first time, they won’t make very much sense or they will feel like a sur­face trivial truth.

I can’t make you read all the books but maybe I can of­fer you that the an­swer to so­cial prob­lems is sur­pris­ingly simple. After read­ing enough books you start to see the over­lap and real­ise they of­ten are try­ing to talk about the same thing. (i.e. NVC + Gottman go to­gether well).

In fact if you were sev­eral in­de­pend­ent dragon hunters try­ing to model an in­vis­ible beast and all of vari­ous people’s homemade sensors kept go­ing “ping” at sim­ilar events you would prob­ably start to agree you were chas­ing the same mon­ster. Models should start to agree when they are talk­ing about the same thing. The vari­ety of mod­els should make it easier for dif­fer­ent minds to con­nect to dif­fer­ent parts of the an­swer.

All mod­els are wrong, some mod­els are use­ful. Try to look at where the mod­els con­verge. That’s where I find the truth.


1. The book Cru­cial Con­front­a­tions—Kerry Patterson

http://​www.wikisum­mar­ies.org/​wiki/​Cru­cial_Con­ver­sa­tions:_Tools_for_Talk­ing_When_Stakes_are_High
(without ex­plain­ing how) If you can nav­ig­ate to a place of safety in a con­ver­sa­tion you can say pretty much any­thing. Which is not to say “here is how to be a jerk” but if you know some­thing is go­ing to come across neg­at­ive you can first make sure to be in a pos­it­ive/​agree­able/​sup­port­ive con­ver­sa­tion be­fore rais­ing the hard thing.

In the middle of a yelling match is maybe not the best time to bring up some­thing that has bugged you for years. However a few sen­tences about growth mind­set, sup­port­ing people be­ing a bet­ter per­son and try­ing to help (and get­ting a feel that the per­son is ready to hear the thing) and you could tell any­one they are a lazy bum who needs to shape up or ship out.

The con­ver­sa­tion needs to be safe. For ex­ample—“I want to help you as a per­son and I know how hard it can be to get feed­back from other people and I want to make you into a bet­ter per­son. I have an idea for how you might like to im­prove. Be­fore I tell you I want to re­as­sure you that even though this might come across ab­ras­ive I want to help you grow and be bet­ter in the fu­ture...”

(some people will be easier than oth­ers to nav­ig­ate a safe con­ver­sa­tion and that’s where there are no hard and fast rules for how to do this. Go with your gut)

The crux of this model is “have a model of the other per­son” [15]

2. The part­ner book “Dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions

http://​www.peace.ca/​dif­fi­cult­con­ver­sa­tions.pdf

There are 4 types of dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions around com­mu­nic­at­ing a de­cision:
a. Con­sulta­tion (Bob asks Alice for ideas for the de­cision he is go­ing to make on his own)
b. Col­lab­or­a­tion (Bob and Alice make a de­cision to­gether)
c. De­clar­a­tion (Bob tells alice the de­cision he has made)
d. Deleg­a­tion (Bob tells alice to make the de­cision)

As someone’s boss you may some­times have to pass on bad news in the form of a de­clar­a­tion. It’s up to you which con­ver­sa­tion this is go­ing to be but be­ing clear about what con­ver­sa­tion this is will be help­ful to a per­son to un­der­stand their place in re­spond­ing or in­ter­act­ing with you. It be­comes dif­fi­cult where there is a mis­un­der­stand­ing about what is go­ing on.

It’s also im­port­ant when you are on the re­ceiv­ing end to be on the same page about what con­ver­sa­tion this is. (you don’t want to be ne­go­ti­at­ing in a col­lab­or­at­ive man­ner when they are try­ing to give you a de­clar­a­tion of their de­cision, and the same when you are lead­ing the con­ver­sa­tion).

Among other de­tails in the book.

3. Get­ting the 3rd story.

link­ing back to—ht­tps://​en.wiki­pe­dia.org/​wiki/​Fun­da­mental_at­tri­bu­tion_er­ror
(from one of those books [1] or [2])

Bob knows what happened from his per­spect­ive and Alice knows her ver­sion of events. Where there is a dis­agree­ment of what fol­lows from dif­fer­ent ver­sions of events it is pos­sible to con­struct a 3rd per­son story. This may be hard to do when you are in­volved and an ac­tual 3rd per­son can help but is not cru­cial in con­struct­ing the story. If you can step out­side of your own story and con­struct a 3rd ver­sion to­gether this can re­solve mis­un­der­stand­ings.
So­mething like; “I thought you said we should meet here, even though I said I wanted ice-cream, you thought that meant we should meet at the ice-cream place next door and we each waited 30mins for the other one to turn up to where we were.“. By con­struct­ing a 3rd story it’s pos­sible that no one was at fault. It’s also pos­sible that it can be­come clear what went wrong and how to learn from that or what can be done dif­fer­ently.

(cue busi­ness man­age­ment After-Ac­tion-Review activ­it­ies {what did we do well, what could we have done bet­ter, what would we do dif­fer­ently}, now SWOT)

4. The Gottman In­sti­tute re­search (and book)

The 4 horse­men of di­vorce (but just be­cause that’s what the re­search is about doesn’t mean we can’t ap­ply it else­where) (yes Gottman is lim­ited in value be­cause of bad use of stat­ist­ics we can’t be sure the mod­els are ac­cur­ate, I still find it’s a good model at ex­plain­ing things).

Don’t do these things. When you see these things, re­cog­nise them for what they are and don’t en­gage with them. If ne­ces­sary ac­know­ledge people are feel­ing cer­tain angry feel­ings and let them get them out (not every­one can ef­fi­ciently drop how they are feel­ing and get on with talk­ing about it, es­pe­cially not without prac­tice).

Each one has an an­ti­dote, usu­ally in the form of an at­ti­tude or strategy that can leave you think­ing about the same thing dif­fer­ently and re­lat­ing to it dif­fer­ently.

I. Criti­cism
I would re­name to “in­her­ent cri­ti­cism”. Comes in the form of an in­her­ent descriptor like, “you are a lazy per­son”, “you al­ways run late”. “you are the type of per­son who for­gets my birth­day”[see 5]. Try to re­place in­her­ent cri­ti­cism with *[6] con­crete de­scrip­tions of ac­tions.

To counter this—try de­scrip­tions like [6a]: “I can see you are sit­ting on the couch right now and I would like you to of­fer help when you can see me clean­ing”. “yes­ter­day I saw you try to do a few ex­tra tasks and that caused us to run late”, “you for­got my birth­day last year”.

The im­port­ant thing about the change here is that an in­her­ent la­bel comes in the form of an un­change­able be­lief. It’s equi­val­ent to say­ing, “you are a tall per­son”. It’s fixed in time, space and at­ti­tude. You don’t want to give someone a fixed neg­at­ive trait. Not in your head and es­pe­cially not out of your head either to that per­son or to any­one else. You set someone up for fail­ure if you do. As soon as someone is “the lazy one” you give them the ticket to “al­ways be lazy” and if they are half smart they will prob­ably take it. Besides—you don’t change people’s ac­tions by us­ing cri­ti­cism. You maybe re­lieve some frus­tra­tion but then you have cre­ated some open frus­tra­tion and the prob­lem still ex­ists.

II. De­fens­ive­ness
Prob­ably easi­est to un­der­stand by the de­scrip­tion of re­act­ive de­fens­ive­ness. It usu­ally comes as a re­ac­tion to an ac­cus­a­tion. If two people are yelling, chances are neither is listen­ing. In re­sponse to “you are al­ways mak­ing us run late”, a de­fens­ive re­ac­tion would be, “I make us run late be­cause you al­ways stress me out”.

It does two things:
1. claim to not be re­spons­ible
2. make a second ac­cus­a­tion (can be ir­rel­ev­ant to the sub­ject at hand).

First of all if you are bring­ing up sev­eral prob­lems at once you are go­ing to con­fuse mat­ters. Try to deal with one prob­lem at a time. It doesn’t really mat­ter which so long as you are not yelling about be­ing late while they are yelling about you for­get­ting the laun­dry. (and so long as you deal with all the prob­lems)

The second part is that you can’t shift blame. Ab­sorb­ing some blame does not make you a bad per­son. Nor does it make you in­her­ently ter­rible. You can have both done a wrong thing and not be a bad per­son. After all you had your reas­ons for do­ing what you did.

The an­ti­dote to de­fens­ive­ness is to ac­know­ledge [6] what they have said and move for­ward without re­act­ing.

III. Con­tempt
This is about an in­ternal state as much as an ex­ternal state. Con­tempt is about the story we tell ourselves about the other per­son (see NVC) and is a state of neg­at­ive in­tent. I hold you con­temp­tu­ously. For ex­ample, “a good per­son would not run late”, “if you were smarter you would just...“, “I work so hard on this re­la­tion­ship and you just...“, Some ex­amples of dis­plays of con­tempt in­clude when a per­son uses sar­casm, cyn­icism, name-call­ing, eye-rolling, sneer­ing, mock­ery, and hos­tile hu­mour [see 7 - emo­tional in­tel­li­gence about physiolo­gical events]. This over­laps with In­her­ent cri­ti­cism and makes more sense with [6 NVC].
Con­tempt has two an­ti­dotes, Teacher mind­set and curi­os­ity. Teacher mind­set can change an at­ti­tude of, “He should know what he did wrong” to, “I need to ex­plain to him how to do it right”. Curi­os­ity [See NVC, also [3] the 3rd story] can take you to a place of try­ing to un­der­stand what is go­ing on and take you away from the place of the stor­ies we tell ourselves.[10]

IV. Stone­walling
This is a physiolo­gical state of go­ing si­lent. It is used when you are be­ing lec­tured (for ex­ample) and you go si­lent, pos­sibly start think­ing about everything else while you wait for someone to fin­ish. It’s like hold­ing your breath when you go un­der­wa­ter, wait­ing for it to pass. If you are do­ing this what you need to do is take a break from whatever is go­ing on and do some­thing dif­fer­ent, for ex­ample go for a walk and calm down.
There was a clas­sic joke, they asked a 110 year old why he lived so long and he said, every time I got into an ar­gu­ment with my wife I used to go for a walk. I went on a lot of walks in my life.
Be­cause this is a physiolo­gical state it’s so easy to fix so long as you re­mem­ber to pay at­ten­tion to your in­ternal state [see NVC what is most alive in you, and 11. what does that look like in prac­tice]

5. How to win friends and in­flu­ence people

I al­ways re­com­mend this book to people start­ing the jour­ney be­cause it’s a great place to start. These days I have bet­ter mod­els but when I didn’t know any­thing this was a place to be­gin. Most of my mod­els are now more com­plic­ated ap­plic­a­tions of the ideas ini­tially presen­ted. You still need weak mod­els be­fore re­pla­cing them with more com­plic­ated ones which are more ac­cur­ate.
The prin­ciples and (in brack­ets) what has su­per­seded them for me:

BECOME A FRIENDLIER PERSON
1. Don’t cri­ti­cize, con­demn or com­plain. (There are places and meth­ods to do this. Criti­cism can be done as [1] from a place of safety or in [4] from a teacher/​mentor/​growth mind­set. Def­in­itely don’t do it from a place of cri­ti­cism. Con­dem­na­tion is more about [10] and is an in­her­ent trait. Pro­gress doesn’t usu­ally hap­pen when we use in­her­ent traits, From Saul Al­in­sky’s rules for rad­ic­als—don’t com­plain un­less you have the right an­swer—“I have a prob­lem and you have to fig­ure out how to fix it for me” is not a good way to get your prob­lem solved.)
2. Give hon­est, sin­cere ap­pre­ci­ation. (so long as you are do­ing this out of the good­ness of your heart good. If you are us­ing it for ma­nip­u­la­tion you can just not bother. NVC su­per­sedes this. By keep­ing track of what is most alive in you, you can do bet­ter than this)
3. Arouse in the other per­son an eager want. (Work out what people want, work out how to get both your needs met—su­per­ceded by NVC.)
4. Be­come genu­inely in­ter­ested in other people. (de­pends what for. Don’t bother if you don’t want to. That would not be genu­ine. You need to find the genu­ine in­terest in­side your­self first.)
5. Smile. (um. Hard to dis­agree with but a de­fault smil­ing state is a good one to cul­tiv­ate—from [7] physiolo­gical states are linked two ways. Smil­ing will make you happy just as be­ing happy will make you smile)
6. Re­mem­ber that a per­son’s name is to that per­son the most im­port­ant sound in any lan­guage. (I don’t know about most im­port­ant but I would say that any­one can re­mem­ber names with prac­tice. http://​bear­lamp.com.au/​list-of-tech­niques-to-help-you-re­mem­ber-names/​)

7. Be a good listener. En­cour­age oth­ers to talk about them­selves. (NVC—pay at­ten­tion to what is most alive in you when you do. Make sure you know about the spec­trum of )
8. Talk in terms of the other per­son’s in­terest. (Sure why not. Sales are a lot easier when you are selling what people want. See [15] and NVC to su­per­sede how and why this works)
9. Make the other per­son feel im­port­ant—and do so sin­cerely. (I guess? I don’t do this act­ively.)
10 The only way to get the best of an ar­gu­ment is to avoid it. ([9] if you are in an ar­gu­ment some­thing already went wrong)
WIN PEOPLE TO YOUR WAY OF THINKING
11. Show re­spect for the other per­son’s opin­ions. Never say, “You’re wrong.” (NVC, in­stead of say­ing no, say what gets in the way. “here is evid­ence that says oth­er­wise” can be bet­ter than “durr WRONGGG” but I have seen people use “you are wrong” per­fectly fine.)
12. If you are wrong, ad­mit it quickly and em­phat­ic­ally. (hard to dis­agree with, but hold­ing onto grudges and guity things is not use­ful. [4] gottman talks about de­fens­ive­ness, avoid de­fens­ive­ness and ac­know­ledge the fact that someone feels you are at fault first. It will sat­isfy the psy­cho­lo­gical need arising in an of­fen­ded per­son [14])
13. Be­gin in a friendly way. (as op­posed to what? Sure I guess.)
14. Get the other per­son say­ing, “Yes, yes” im­me­di­ately. (Yes lad­ders are im­port­ant and valu­able. You see bits of this creep­ing into Gottman [4], NVC [6], The game [13] and other prac­tices but no one as yet ex­plains it as well as I would like. The game prob­ably has the best com­ment­ary on it, short of busi­ness books that es­cape my memory right now)
15. Let the other per­son do a great deal of the talk­ing. (not really im­port­ant who talks so long as you are on the same page and in agree­ment. If you want someone else to do the emo­tional la­bour [15] for you, then you can let them. If you want to do it for them you can. Im­plic­a­tions of EL are not yet clear to me in full. Some places it will be good to do EL for people, other places they need to do it for them­selves to feel own­er­ship of the prob­lems and solu­tions)
16. Let the other per­son feel that the idea is his or hers. (sure I guess. A good idea is it’s own cham­pion. Ideas that are ob­vi­ously bet­ter will win out. You can’t make a turd beat a dia­mond but you can em­ploy tricks to pol­ish cer­tain dia­monds over oth­ers. This tech­nique is bat­tling over little bits. can be use­ful but I would not rely on it alone.)
17. Try hon­estly to see things from the other per­son’s point of view. (NVC [6] and EL [15] should help do that bet­ter. Ima­gin­ing that you are that per­son in a way that is hard to im­part in words be­cause it’s about hav­ing the ex­per­i­ence of be­ing that other per­son (see http://​​bear­lamp.com.au/​​zen-ko­ans/​​) and not “just think­ing about it”. needs a longer de­scrip­tion and is an ef­fect­ive tech­nique.)
18. Be sym­path­etic with the other per­son’s ideas and de­sires. (NVC su­per­cedes. Every­one has ba­sic feel­ings and needs that you can un­der­stand, like the need for safety)
19. Ap­peal to the no­bler motives. (giv­ing people a repu­ta­tion to live up to is a valu­able tech­nique that I would say only works for qual­i­fied people—ht­tps://​​en.wiki­pe­dia.org/​​wiki/​​So­cial_fa­cil­it­a­tion but does not work so well if you put pres­sure on people who are less skilled. Prob­ably relates to the things go­ing through our head at the time—see also book—the in­ner game of ten­nis, NVC, judge­ment model)
20. Dram­at­ize your ideas. (I don’t know? Try it. It could work. will not work by vir­tue of it be­ing a good model of things, might work by luck/​break­ing people out of their habits)
BE A LEADER
21. Throw down a chal­lenge. (can work if people are will­ing to rise to a chal­lenge can work against you and cre­ate cog­nit­ive dis­son­ance ht­tps://​​en.wiki­pe­dia.org/​​wiki/​​Cog­nit­ive_dis­son­ance if people are not will­ing. Need more in­form­a­tion to make it work)
22. Be­gin with praise and hon­est ap­pre­ci­ation. (Don’t give people a shit sand­wich—slices of com­pli­ments sur­round­ing shit. That’s not re­spect­ful of them. In­stead us­ing [1] nav­ig­ate to a place of safety to talk about things)
23. Call at­ten­tion to people’s mis­takes in­dir­ectly. (there are cor­rect and in­cor­rect ways to do this. You can be pass­ive agress­ive about it. I don’t see a prob­lem with be­ing blunt—in private, in safe con­ver­sa­tions [1] - about what is go­ing on)
24. Talk about your own mis­takes be­fore cri­ti­ciz­ing the other per­son. (don’t yam­mer on, but it can help to con­nect you and them and the prob­lem. NVC would be bet­ter than just this)
25. Ask ques­tions in­stead of giv­ing dir­ect or­ders. (so­cratic method, can be a drain, need more ad­vanced skills and [15] EL to know if this is ap­pro­pri­ate )
26. Let the other per­son save face. (bet­ter de­scribed in http://​​less­wrong.com/​​lw/​​o4/​​leave_a_line_of_re­treat/​​ I agree with this, but [15] EL might de­scribe it bet­ter)
27. Praise the slight­est and every im­prove­ment. Be “lav­ish in your praise.” (NVC dis­agrees, praise only what is rel­ev­ant, true and valid. Be a teacher [4] but de­liver praise when praise is due.)
28. Give the other per­son a fine repu­ta­tion to live up to. (This is 1926 again. I agree with it. I could use it more)
29. Use en­cour­age­ment. Make the fault seem easy to cor­rect. (agree, solve the “prob­lem” for someone else, make it easy to move for­ward)
30. Make the other per­son happy about do­ing the thing you sug­gest. (NVC gives a bet­ter model of do­ing what other people want, “with the joy of a small child feed­ing a hungry duck”)

* Giv­ing people a pos­it­ive repu­ta­tion to live up to. “I trust that you won’t for­get my birth­day again”. Don’t be silly with this, “I have con­fid­ence that you will give me a mil­lion dol­lars” will not ac­tu­ally yield you a mil­lion dol­lars un­less you have reason to be­lieve that will work.

6. NVC—Non-Judge­mental com­mu­nic­a­tion

I can’t yet do justice to NVC but I am put­ting to­gether the pieces. Best to watch the you­tube talk in the title link but here are some short points. Also this helps—cnvc.org/​Train­ing/​feel­ings-in­vent­ory
a. Con­crete de­scrip­tionshttp://​bear­lamp.com.au/​con­crete-in­struc­tions/​
In agree­ment with Gottman, be con­crete and spe­cific - The ob­ject­ive test of whether the de­scrip­tion is con­crete is whether the de­scrip­tion can be fol­lowed by an an­onym­ous per­son to pro­duce the same ex­per­i­ence. “you are a lazy per­son” VS “you are sit­ting on the couch”
b. Ac­know­ledge feel­ingshttp://​bear­lamp.com.au/​feel­ings-in-the-map/​
people have huge psy­cho­lo­gical needs to be heard and un­der­stood. Anyone can ful­fill that need
c. Con­nect that to a need
See the NVC video.
d. Mak­ing a re­quest
See NVC video.
e. Say­ing no by passing your goals for­ward
In­stead of say­ing no, Con­sider what it is that gets in the way of you say­ing no and say that in­stead. Keep in mind vul­ner­ab­il­ity [16]. This also al­lows people to plan around your fu­ture in­ten­tions. If someone asks you to buy a new car and you say, “no I plan to save money to­wards buy­ing a house” they can choose to be mind­ful of that in the fu­ture and they can act ac­cord­ingly (not of­fer­ing you a dif­fer­ent car for sale next week).
f. Con­nect with what is most alive in you right now
See video for best de­scrip­tion.

7. Emo­tional intelligence

There is a two way path between physiolo­gical states and emo­tional states.

Try these:
a. Hold a pen­cil/​pen in your mouth and go back and read the joke about the old man [4]. (ex­pect to find it fun­nier than you did the first time)
b. fur­row your brow while read­ing the first para­graph of this page again (ex­pect to either feel con­fused or the cog­nit­ive dis­son­ance ver­sion if you know it very well—“I know this too well”)
The two way path means that you can feel bet­ter about emo­tional pain by tak­ing a paracetamol, but more spe­cific­ally, if you take a break from a situ­ation and come back to it the emo­tions might have im­proved. This can in­clude get­ting a glass of wa­ter, go­ing for a walk, get­ting some fresh air. And for more com­plic­ated de­cisions—sleep­ing on it (among other things).

Every­one can train emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, they need prac­tice. This in­cludes hold­ing an un­der­stand­ing of your own states as well as be­ing able to no­tice emo­tional states in other people.

I had an ex who had par­tic­u­larly vis­ible physiolo­gical states, it was a very valu­able ex­per­i­ence to me to see the state changes and it really trained my guess­ing mind to be able to no­tice changes. These days I can usu­ally see when things change but I can’t al­ways pick the emo­tion that has come up. This is where NVC and curi­os­ity be­come valu­able (also circ­ling).

EI is par­tic­u­larly im­port­ant when it is par­tic­u­larly de­fi­cient. In the book it talks about an­ger as a state that (to an un­trained per­son) can cause a re­ac­tion be­fore someone knows that they were angry. Make sure to fix that first be­fore mov­ing to higher levels of emo­tional man­age­ment.

8. model of ar­gu­ments
http://​bear­lamp.com.au/​a-model-of-ar­gu­ments/​

(see also NVC)

If you view dis­agree­ments or mis­un­der­stand­ings as a venn dia­gram of what you know and what the other per­son knows. You have full rights to make com­ment on any­thing you know but only have lim­ited rights to make com­ment on what the other per­son knows. In­stead you can com­ment on the in­form­a­tion they have given you. “you said ‘X’, I know Y about what you said ‘X’“. To say X is wrong, is not go­ing to yield pro­gress. In­stead to ac­know­ledge that they de­scribed ‘X’ and their de­scrip­tion does not make sense to me, or leaves me feel­ing con­fused [6].

9. The ar­gu­ment star­ted earlier

From Gavin: “If I ever find my­self in a po­s­i­tion of say­ing—well of­ficer, let me ex­plain what happened...“, So­mething already went wrong well and truly be­fore now.
When you start the jour­ney you will start get­ting to “Aha” mo­ments about where ar­gu­ments start. As you get more and more ex­per­i­ence you real­ise the ar­gu­ment star­ted well and truly earlier than you ever first real­ised. When you get really good at it, you can stop and say [6] “I am con­fused” well and truly be­fore a yelling match.

10. The stor­ies we tell ourselves

NVC based, Judge­ment model, There is a lot of people who are think­ing in stor­ies. Related—ht­tps://​en.wiki­pe­dia.org/​wiki/​Fun­da­mental_at­tri­bu­tion_er­ror.

Their en­tire ex­ist­ence is the story and nar­rat­ive they tell about them­selves (see also Jordan Peterson—maps of mean­ing). The con­stant nar­rat­ive about how “the world hates me” is go­ing to give you a par­tic­u­lar world ex­per­i­ence com­pared to the con­stant nar­rat­ive, “I am a lucky per­son”. You see this in gam­blers who are search­ing for “the pre­vail­ing wind” or “win­ning streaks”.

You also see this in so­cial pres­sure—when people think and get fix­ated on, “what will people think of me?“, some­times the so­cial pres­sure does not even have to be there to cause the thoughts and the ac­tions that would be “so­cial pres­sure”.
Several mod­els of think­ing ad­voc­ate re­mov­ing the story telling in your head to re­lieve the psy­cho­lo­gical pain. See books, “search in­side your­self”, NVC, Gate­less gate­crash­ers, some in­form­a­tion in the Per­sist­ent Non Sym­bolic Ex­per­i­ence Article.

I am not sure what is the best prac­tice, but mind­ful­ness seems to help as well, since these thoughts are all the­or­et­ical, ground­ing your­self in the con­crete [6a] and ob­serving those thoughts seems to al­le­vi­ate the anxi­et­ies it can cause. But this can ex­plain a lot of people’s ac­tions (they are telling them­selves a par­tic­u­lar story in their head).

11. Polling your in­ternal states

bear­lamp.com.au/​what-does-that-look-like-in-prac­tice/​
[re­lated to 6 NVC]. Any time you are dis­con­nec­ted to what is go­ing on, try ask­ing your­self an in­ternal ques­tion of “what is go­ing on?” to con­nect with what is most alive in you right now. This might be a feel­ing of bore­dom. It could be any­thing, but if it’s not a good and strong con­nec­tion with what is presently hap­pen­ing you have a chance to fix it. (See also the book “The Cha­risma myth”)

12. circ­ling (The circ­ling hand­book)

[6 built on NVC] is a prac­tice of liv­ing in the cur­rent and present ex­per­i­ence. You can fo­cus on an­other per­son or fo­cus on your­self. Per­petu­ally an­swer­ing the ques­tion of “what is most alive in you right now?” and shar­ing that with other people.

Some ex­amples in­clude:I am feel­ing nervous shar­ing this ex­per­i­enceI just closed my eyes and put my head back try­ing to think of a good ex­ample.I am dis­trac­ted by the sound of birds be­hind me.I can feel air go­ing past my nos­trils as I think about this ques­tion.

The cre­at­ors of cic­ling find it a very con­nect­ing ex­per­i­ence to either share what is go­ing on in­side you or to guess at what is go­ing on in­side someone else and ask if that’s an ac­cur­ate guess. Or to al­tern­ate ex­per­i­ences, each shar­ing one and one. or each guess­ing of each other—one and one.

I find it valu­able be­cause every­one can un­der­stand present ex­per­i­ence, and get a glimpse of your cur­rent ex­per­i­ence in the pro­cess of shar­ing ex­per­i­ence with you. This method can also work as a form of [15] and [7].

13. The game

(From the book The Game) This concept re­ceives equal part con­dem­na­tion and praise from vari­ous parties.

The ba­sic concept of the game is that life is a game. Spe­cific­ally so­cial in­ter­ac­tions are a game that you can try out. You can it­er­ate on and re­peat un­til suc­cess. In the book it fol­lows the jour­ney of a pick up artist as he gen­er­ally dis­reg­ards other people’s agency and works out how to get what he wants (reg­u­larly bed people) through some stages of prac­ti­cing cer­tain meth­ods of in­ter­ac­tion, and it­er­at­ing un­til he sees a lot of suc­cess.

I see a lot of this concept at kegan stage 3[18]. Everything is about so­cial, and the only thing that mat­ters is so­cial re­la­tion­ships.

Most of the con­dem­na­tions comes from the fail­ure of this model to treat other people as hu­man, worthy of moral weight, thought or any­thing other than to be used to your own pur­poses. If you don’t like de­hu­man­ising people the book can still teach you a lot about so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, and prac­ti­cing to­wards in­cre­mental im­prove­ment.

If you feel un­com­fort­able with Pick up, you should ex­am­ine that be­lief closely, it’s prob­ably to do with feel­ing un­com­fort­able with people us­ing ma­nip­u­la­tion to pur­sue sex. That’s fine, there is a lot to learn about so­cial and a lot of so­cial sys­tems be­fore you turn into “lit­er­ally the devil” for know­ing about it. There are also other so­cial goals other than sex that you can pur­sue.

If you are cau­tious about turn­ing into a jerk—you are prob­ably not likely to ever even get close to ac­tions that paint you as a jerk be­cause your fil­ters will stop you. It’s the people who have no fil­ter on ac­tions that might want to be care­ful—herein lies dark arts and be­ing a jerk. And as much as no one will stop you, no one will really en­joy your pres­ence either if you are a jerk.

The biggest prob­lem I have with game and game meth­od­o­logy is that we all play a one-shot ver­sion. With high stakes of fail­ure. Which means some of the it­er­a­tion and hav­ing to fail while you learn how to not be ter­rible—will per­man­ently dam­age your repu­ta­tion. There is no per­fect “retry”—a repu­ta­tion will fol­low you ba­sic­ally to the ends of the earth and back. As much as game will teach you some things, the other mod­els in this list have bet­ter in­form­a­tion for you and are go­ing to go fur­ther than game.

14. what an apo­logy must do from Aaron Laz­are, M.D.- on apology

1. A valid ac­know­ledge­ment of the of­fence that makes clear who the of­fender is and who is the of­fen­ded. The of­fender must clearly and com­pletely ac­know­ledge the of­fence.
2. An ef­fect­ive ex­plan­a­tion, which shows an of­fence was neither in­ten­tional nor per­sonal, and is un­likely to re­cur.
3. Ex­pres­sions of re­morse, shame, and hu­mil­ity, which show that the of­fender re­cog­nises the suf­fer­ing of the of­fen­ded.
4. A re­par­a­tion of some kind, in the form of a real or sym­bolic com­pens­a­tion for the of­fender’s trans­gres­sion.
An ef­fect­ive apo­logy must also sat­isfy at least one of seven psy­cho­lo­gical needs of an of­fen­ded per­son.
1. The res­tor­a­tion of dig­nity in the of­fen­ded per­son.
2. The af­firm­a­tion that both parties have shared val­ues and agree that the harm com­mit­ted was wrong.
3. Val­id­a­tion that the vic­tim was not re­spons­ible for the of­fense.
4. The as­sur­ance that the of­fen­ded party is safe from a re­peat of­fense.
5. Re­par­at­ive justice, which oc­curs when the of­fen­ded sees the of­fend­ing party suf­fer through some type of pun­ish­ment.
6. Re­par­a­tion, when the vic­tim re­ceives some form of com­pens­a­tion for his pain.
7. A dia­logue that al­lows the of­fen­ded parties to ex­press their feel­ings to­ward the of­fend­ers and even grieve over their losses.

These are not my notes from the book but they are par­tic­u­larly valu­able when try­ing to con­struct an un­der­stand­ing of apo­lo­gising and mak­ing up for mis­deeds. I don’t have them in memory but I know when I need to make a ser­i­ous apo­logy I can look them up. They fit quite well with [6], but are more spe­cific to apo­logy and not all in­ter­ac­tions.

15. Emo­tional labour

A re­l­at­ively new concept. This is roughly the abil­ity to:
I. Model someone else’s emo­tional state
II. Get it right
III. act on their emo­tional state

For ex­ample:
I. I no­tice my part­ners eyes are droopy and they do not ap­pear to be con­cen­trat­ing very well. Is rub­bing eyes and check­ing their watch a lot.
II. I sus­pect they are sleepy
III. I make them a cof­fee, or I of­fer to make them cof­fee. (as a down­graded form I men­tion they look tired and ask if this is the case)

From Er­ra­tio:

Emo­tional la­bour is es­sen­tially a name for a ma­na­gerial role in a re­la­tion­ship. This takes on a few dif­fer­ent con­crete forms.

The first is man­age­ment of the house­hold, ap­point­ments, shop­ping, and other as­sor­ted tasks that are gen­er­ally shared across couples and/​or house­mates. Sweep­ing a floor or cook­ing din­ner is not emo­tional la­bour, but be­ing the per­son who makes sure that those things are ac­com­plished is. It doesn’t mat­ter whether you get the floor swept by do­ing it your­self, ask­ing your part­ner to do it, fir­ing up a Roomba, or hir­ing a clean­ing ser­vice; what mat­ters is that you are tak­ing on re­spons­ib­il­ity for mak­ing sure the task is done. This is why people who say that they would be happy to help with the house­work if you would just tell them what needs do­ing are be­ing a lot less help­ful than they think. They’re tak­ing the phys­ical la­bour com­pon­ent of the task but ex­pli­citly stick­ing the other per­son with the emo­tional la­bour com­pon­ent.

The second is tak­ing re­spons­ib­il­ity for the likes, dis­likes, feel­ings, wants and needs of other people who you are in a re­la­tion­ship with (and to be clear, it doesn’t have to be a ro­mantic re­la­tion­ship). Ste­reo­typ­ical scen­arios that are covered by this kind of emo­tional la­bour in­clude: the hys­ter­ical girl­friend who de­mands that her boy­friend drop everything he’s do­ing to com­fort her, the hus­band who comes home tense and moody after a long day at the of­fice and ex­pects to be asked how his day went and listened to and have val­id­at­ing noises made at him, no­ti­cing that the other per­son in a con­ver­sa­tion is un­com­fort­able and steer­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to a more pleas­ant topic without hav­ing to be asked, help­ing a con­fused friend talk through their feel­ings about a po­ten­tial or former part­ner, re­mind­ing your spouse that it’s so-and-so’s birth­day and that so-and-so would ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing con­tac­ted, re­mem­ber­ing birth­days and an­niversar­ies and hol­i­days and con­tact­ing people and say­ing or do­ing the right things on each of those dates.

This over­laps with [7]. Com­ment­ary on this concept sug­gest that it’s a habit that wo­men get into do­ing more than men. Moth­ers are good at pay­ing at­ten­tion to their kids and their needs (as the ma­jor care­giver from early on), and stem­ming from this wives also take care of their hus­bands. While it would not be fair to sug­gest that all wives do any­thing I would be will­ing to con­cede that these are habits that people get into and are some­times so­cially dir­ec­ted by so­ci­ety.

I am not sure of the over­all value of this model but it’s clear that it has some im­plic­a­tions about how people or­gan­ise them­selves—for bet­ter or worse.

16. Vul­ner­ab­il­ity—Brene brown

ht­tps://​www.you­tube.com/​watch?v=iCvm­sMzlF7o
In or­der to form close con­nec­tions with people a cer­tain level of vul­ner­ab­il­ity is ne­ces­sary. This means that you need to share about your­self in or­der to give people some­thing to con­nect to. In the other dir­ec­tion people need to be a cer­tain level of vul­ner­able to you in or­der to con­nect. If you make sure to be open and en­cour­aging and not judge you will en­able people to open up to you and con­nect with you.
So­me­times be­ing vul­ner­able will get you hurt and you need to be aware of that and not shut down fu­ture ex­per­i­ences (con­tinue to be open with people). I see this par­tic­u­larly in people who “take time” to get over re­la­tion­ships. Be­ing vul­ner­able is a skill that can be prac­ticed. Vul­ner­ab­il­ity re­placed a lot of my ideas about [13 The game]. And would have given me a lot of ideas of how to con­nect with people, com­bined with [15] and [12]. (I have not read her books but I ex­pect them to be use­ful)

17. More Than Two (book)

This is com­monly known as the polyamory bible. It doesn’t have to be read as a polyamory book, but in the world of polyamory emo­tional in­tel­li­gence and the abil­ity to com­mu­nic­ate is the bread and but­ter of every day in­ter­ac­tions. If you are try­ing to juggle two or three re­la­tion­ships and you don’t know how to talk about hard things then you might as well quit now. If you don’t know how to handle dif­fi­cult feel­ings or ex­per­i­ences you might as well quit polyamory now.

Read­ing about these skills and what you might gain from the in­sight that polyamor­ous people have learnt is prob­ably valu­able to any­one.

18. Kegan stages of development

ht­tps://​mean­ing­ness.word­press.com/​2015/​10/​12/​de­vel­op­ing-eth­ical-so­cial-and-cog­nit­ive-com­pet­ence/​

Other people have sum­mar­ised this model bet­ter than me. I won’t do it justice but if I had to be brief about it—there are a num­ber of levels that we pass through as we grow from very small to more ma­ture. They in­clude the ba­sic kid level where we only no­tice in­puts and out­puts. Shortly after—when we are sad “the whole world is sad” be­cause we are the whole world. Even­tu­ally we grow out of that and re­cog­nise other hu­mans and that they have agency. At around teen­ager we end up caring a lot about what other people think about us. clas­sic teen­agers are scared of so­cial pres­sure and say things like, “I would die if she saw me in this out­fit” (while prob­ably be­ing hy­per­bolic, there is a bit of ser­i­ous con­cern present). Even­tu­ally we grow out of that and into sys­tem think­ing (Liber­tarian, So­cial­ist, among other tribes). And later above tri­bal­ism into more nu­anced vari­et­ies of tribes.

It’s hard to de­scribe and you are bet­ter off read­ing the the­or­ies to get a bet­ter idea. I find the model lim­ited in ap­plic­a­tion but I ad­mit I need to read more about the the­or­ies to get my head around it bet­ter.


I have a lot more books on the topic to read but I am pub­lish­ing this list be­cause I feel like I have a good handle on the whole “how people work” and, “how re­la­tion­ships work” thing. It’s rare that any­one does any ac­tions that sur­prise me (so­cially) any more. In fact I am get­ting so good at it that I trust my in­tu­ition [11] more than what people will say some­times.

When some­thing does not make sense I know what ques­tion to ask [6] to get an­swers. Often enough it hap­pens that people won’t an­swer the first time, this can rep­res­ent people not feel­ing Safe [1] enough to be vul­ner­able [16]. That’s okay. That rep­res­ents it’s my job to get them to a com­fort­able place to open up if I want to get to the an­swers.

I par­tic­u­larly like NVC, Gottman, EL, EI, Vul­ner­ab­il­ity all of them and find my­self us­ing them fort­nightly. Most of these rep­res­ent a book or more of edu­ca­tional ma­ter­ial. Don’t think you know them enough to dis­miss them if you have not read the books. If you feel you know them and already em­ploy the model then it’s prob­ably not ne­ces­sary to look into it fur­ther, but if you are ready to dis­miss any of these mod­els be­cause they “sound bad” or “don’t work” then I would en­cour­age you to do your home­work and un­der­stand them in­side and out be­fore you re­ject them.

The more mod­els I find the more I find them con­ver­ging on de­scrib­ing real­ity. I am find­ing less and less I can say, “this is com­pletely new to me” and more and more, “oh that’s just like [6] and [7]


Meta: this is some­thing around 6000 words and took a day to write ~12 hours. I did this in one sit­ting be­cause everything was already in my head. I am sur­prised I could sit still for this long. (I took breaks for food and a nap but most of today was spent at my desk)

Ori­gin­ally pos­ted on my blog: http://​bear­lamp.com.au/​mod­els-of-hu­man-re­la­tion­ships-tools-to-un­der­stand-people/​

Cross pos­ted to Me­dium: ht­tps://​me­dium.com/​@re­deliot/​mod­els-of-hu­man-re­la­tion­ships-tools-to-un­der­stand-people-fd0ac0ad6369