So you’re a techie and you’ve found that special someone. But your partner thinks that you don’t understand them. He or she is upset about something, telling you that “you just don’t get it.” You try to explain yourself as logically as you can, but they’re getting more and more upset. This is baffling, right? At work, you can run back through the code to figure out how to fix the bug, but right now you have an actual human in front of you, and they ain’t happy. You ask yourself, “Why can’t I figure this out? There has to be a logical explanation for this. Right?” Wrong.
8 bits of relationship advice for techies
Techies, here’s what you need to know: Feelings are your partner’s operating system, and you need to be feelings-compatible. The following relationship advice will help you give your partner what he or she really wants:
- Connect with how you’re feeling. Is your blood boiling? Do you feel like steam is about to shoot through your nostrils and out of the top of your head? Are you about to say something that you might later regret? Then be aware of this. Notice it. As anger is often a secondary reaction to more vulnerable emotions such as fear, sadness or disappointment, ask yourself, “What might I be feeling beneath this?” For more on this question, click here. Once you’ve answered this question, take a few deep, purposeful breaths. This is your cooling fan. It’s always there when you need it.
- Put your logical brain on “hibernate.” Reason and logic help you immensely at work, but in this moment troubleshooting and analysis can come across as cold and detached, at a time when your partner wants to connect with you on a more human level. Try to avoid defending or justifying as well; they in effect say, “What you just expressed to me doesn’t matter to me.” Instead, if you can decode your own emotional experience, identifying the more vulnerable emotions that you’re experiencing, you’ll be better able to understand your partner’s vulnerability. This will enable you to access that human connection that they’re craving.
- Hit “delete” on the advice. No need to tell your partner what you would do if you were in their situation. No need to give advice. They’re not asking for any of that. Instead, the “solution” will be born from caring. Simply witnessing and being empathically present with the most important person in your world will produce the solution. This doesn’t require you or your partner being “to blame.” Instead, a simple expression of caring about how they’re feeling will go a long way.
- Think beyond input and output. As you know, when you input data into a processor, the output will directly correlate to the input. With human beings? No such luck. Human behavior is far more complex, ever-changing, and often influenced by subjectivity. How your partner is responding to something you’ve said may not make sense to you. If you can think beyond the information that you’ve conveyed (the input) and consider that what you see in your partner’s face and hear in their voice (the output) is not what you might have predicted, that’ll help you understand them better.
- Zoom in 150% on what your partner is feeling. Notice the look that’s written all over your partner’s face. Listen for the feelings. See if you can look beyond the anger in their tone, and recognize the more vulnerable feelings that lie beneath. They may be feeling hurt that you don’t want to spend as much time as they do with you. He or she could be feeling fearful that they’re about to lose you. Whatever you’re sensing that it could be…
- Reflect back what you’ve heard. Imagine yourself holding up a mirror, and the mirror only reflects the feelings that your partner has expressed. You might say, “So what I’m hearing you say is that when I go out with my friends, you feel hurt that I’m not choosing you.” This helps your partner see that you “get it.” This helps them feel understood. Most importantly, it demonstrates that you care.
- Transmit some warmth, some compassion, some caring. Even if it seems like your partner is growling and ready to bite, in this moment they’re more like a baby puppy in need of some lovin’. Let them know how it affects you to see them hurting. The one that you love just wants to sense that you care. This may go beyond words.
- See if you can refrain from making it about you. When you can go through the above process without saying “OK, now me,” you will earn massive trust from your partner. You’ve listened attentively for the feelings, you’ve reflected back what you’ve heard, you’ve expressed that you care, you’ve demonstrated warmth… Now see if you can stifle the impulse to make it about you. Instead, there is a graciousness in simply being there for them, giving them all of the bandwith you can possibly muster, and showing that you care. This will bring the two of you into safe mode, which is essential for a long-lasting connection.
Your relationship doesn’t have to be iOS vs. Android, thinker vs. feeler. Your partner’s operating system is guided by vulnerable feelings. By expanding your access to those feelings, you can upgrade your relationship so that it never becomes obsolete.