When Relationships Become DIfficult


To define a peoson by their behavior is incomplete. You are a combination of behavior and core intention.  Behavior 30% - Core Intention 70%.

Relationships become difficult when our “relationship model” runs out of new options followed by our habitual, reactive behavior becomes dominant.  Reactive behavior can range between violent, aggressive to retreating, submissive.  It is whatever behavior is we use when distressed that does not resolve the situation.

When reactive behaviors dominate a conversation, “the relationship anomaly” appears.  The relationship anomaly is the result of two or more people reacting to and projecting on one another.

The relationship anomaly appears with the repetitive use of any behavior that does not get a desired result.  Such behaviors are, but not limited to, avoidance, withdrawal or shaming; blame and the projection of problem on others; anger, rage, verbal and/or physical abuse that is repeatedly used to solve misunderstandings or state a point of view.

 When the relationship anomaly takes over a conversation, we feel the loss of control, loss of the upper hand, loss of position, and sometimes feel helpless to move or talk.

How it feels to be the subject of another person’s projection, might be something like the following:  

  • I do not feel seen, understood, acceptable, chosen and valued.
  • I’m frustrated by not being asked questions about what I am talking about, about how I feel or the reasons for what I want.
  • I feel out of control, uncomfortable, and unproductive during and after conversations with some people.
  • My relationship with some significant people remains negative and unchanged over time.

What Is Normal Behavior

We find it normal to scrutinize others behavior.  It allows us to assess other’s personality, character and the significance of their communication.  This is just common sense!  “Normal” behavior has always been believed to be a reliable indicator of who a person is, how they think, what they want and their beliefs about others.  “Normal” behavior involves a combination of facial expression, body movement, gesture, and tone of voice.  We rely on other’s behavior to understand how they feel and what is missing in their life, their work and personal relationships.  Because we are normal, in conversation with the majority of people, we agree, disagree and cooperate without much effort.

Furthermore, our own “normal” behavior is dramatically influenced by others spoken and unspoken language.  The words they use, the sentences and phrases chosen have a dramatic effect on whether we react or respond to their speech.  Also influential is the wide range of unconscious feelings that wash over our bodies as we speak and listen.  These unconscious feelings make up a very important unconscious language that we pick up and interpret.  This unconscious language is an attempt to show feelings that have no voice or language; feelings that give tone and flavor to intended meaning.  Feelings that attempt to show our real or core intentions.

This reliance on people’s behavior, as a measure of who they are and what they want, originates from early childhood conditioning.  We are trained by parents to be hypersensitive to particular behaviors they find acceptable or unacceptable.  Hypersensitive to how others act, speak and to complex patterns of communication.  We are wired from birth to physiologically and psychologically react or respond when others act out.  Our hypersensitivity to behavior helps us survive, relate and learn, as well as to control, what we believe is abnormal or out-of-normal behavior.

It is important to understand that people are not understood by behavior alone.  Behavior is used to catch other’s attention, not to be representative of who we are as individuals.  Our core intentions are what really represent who we are and what we intended.  Core intentions differ from the “good intentions.”  Good intentions are always conditional depending on others beliefs.  Core intentions are unconditional, the same for everyone, everywhere, at all times.  The universal core intentions are to be: 1. Seen 2. Understood 3. Accepted 4. Chosen, and 5. Valued, while in conversation with others.  Core intentional conversations require a language that speaks to these five intentions.  This core language is distinct from behavioral language, is unconditional and is not dependent on what others believe.

Core intentional language become crucial when the desired results of a conversation have critical consequences to the people involved.  Employee and boss, wife and husband, and parent and child conversations fall into this category.  Furthermore, conversations with auto mechanics, police, repair people, contractors, IRS employees, neighbors, creditors and others can have a significant effect on our feeling of wellbeing.

So why do we often experience less that desired results when in conversations with significant people?  It is because we evaluate and judge who people are mainly by their behavior.  This produces limited results at best.  The relationship anomaly explains the common symptoms of this problem.

The Anomaly

Most of the time our genetics and hardwired (learned) communication skills work just fine to get what we want from others.  The results are within a tolerable range, we continue on with our day and with other people. 

Then there are those circumstances in which judging and evaluating people only by behavior become unproductive.  Not only unproductive, but this behavior leaves unwanted residue between the people that must eventually be resolved. 

Residue occurs when we engage in conversation that involves negative tones, words and gestures or physical harm – what we will call “reactive behavior.”  Reactive behavior gets attention, but rarely resolve the problem.  Reactive behavior can range from silence to violence.  Hardwired silence to violence behavior can pop up in conversations with significant people in our lives such as a co-worker, a family member or a person involved in our community life, or with complete strangers.

What makes reactive behavior troublesome is its sticky residue.  The reactive conversation, the negative experience with the other person, remains glued to us.  We carry this residue around in our psyche, building up stress over time.  Second, the built up residue often finds relief on an innocent victim.  That victim receives our pent up frustration, rather than the original person who created the stress in us. 

Anytime, in a conversation in which the following behaviors are present, we are caught up in the anomaly




The use of chronic, repetitious, negative and unproductive language.


Such language used with specific people,


Such language used to discuss certain topics;


And when the problem remains unresolved & uncomfortable during and after the exchange.


·      *** The origin of this relationship anomaly, when trying to identity it in every day conversation, is problematic and slippery.  Most would agree it is part of the dynamics or the price of being in relationship.  The anomalies, “the chronic, negative, unresolved and uncomfortable conversation we repeatedly experience,” seem so normal that we often completely miss its destructive wake on family or business relationships.

We have all said at one time or another, “Relationships are the way they are!  Most are good, some troublesome, some not worth the effort and others just don’t work out.”  However, this testimonial avoids the core question that the anomaly makes obvious –

“Why are we unable to adjust in real time our negative, habitual reactions when disagreeing with significant people in our life, into a constructive dialogue in which everyone feels heard?”

Is it because we feel right about our position?  Do we feel the “facts” justify our smug, angry, blaming or negative behavior?  On the other hand, in the moment of being “right” did we actually have any other options or did our communication model simply run dry?  Did we have any alternatives that would make a misunderstanding or bad situation better?  The answer is resoundingly no.  We may have felt regret later, but in the moment these options were non-existent.  We acted and spoke with the conviction we felt.

It turns out that no matter who we are, this universal relationship anomaly slips into all of our significant conversations at some point.  Instead of asking why the anomaly exists, we say, “Yes, I’m aware that some times I make conversations worse or at least no better.  Everybody is guilty of this at times. When I’m angry at someone, its usually because they deserve it!”


Being “right” because of facts or feelings is an example of our reaction to other’s behavior.  Misunderstanding not to their core intentions.  As will be explained in detail later, people’s core intentions are always the same – well meaning.  Moreover, it is rarely the whole person that we are in conflict with; just a certain aspects of their personality, behavior, incompetence, attitude, opinion or choice of topic. What we are left with is a feeling that these clashes have made ongoing communications with these people unsatisfying, frustrating and possibly grounds for complete avoidance.  However, if this is a spouse, child, peer, employee or boss, it is not practical.  We will have to communicate with them again, no matter the discomfort or possibility of rejection.


Being affected by the relationship anomaly is not limited to a particular demographic.  No matter what our education, experience or the strength of our willpower, this anomaly takes place.  Whether we are professional, royalty, illiterate or functioning beyond expectations, the relationship anomaly affects our life.  It can occur instantly with anyone we meet.  Even so, the anomaly is more prominent with the significant people in our lives as they are the principal consumers of our time, resources and our sense of value.  These significant people in particular have the power to make our life fulfilling or awkward by the way we react or respond to their behavior.


Who are the significant people that push our emotional buttons repeatedly and so easily?

  • They are our spouses, children, in-laws, relatives and neighbors. 
  • They are our bosses, peers, employees, competitors or venders.
  • They are politicians, public servants, waiters, clerks and strangers. 

What is predictable about our reaction to specific behavior acted out by significant others?

 Our reaction to them is habitual, predictable, chronic, and long-term.  It is the same reaction each time.  Further, if the first person we react to is replaced with a second, who acts out the same behavior, we will react habitually as if the first person were still present.  For example, when a particular high verbal co-worker upsets us; we may fail to see that all people who are high verbal push our buttons.  To extend this notion further, it could be stated that we react to other people’s reactions to our behavior and visa versa


So, why do we (over or under) react to specific people’s behaviors?

 We over or under react to other’s behavior as adults, because of what behavior was over or under empathized by our caregivers during times of stress – either, for example, over done (extreme shaming) or under done (lack of affection). 

We react to other’s behavior to protect ourselves from feeling that which is missing within.  What is missing within, disguised just below awareness, is being seen, understood, accepted, chosen and valued by significant others.  In other words, being acceptable just as we are.  Just as we see ourselves from the place of our Core Intentions.

We over or under react to other people because they have the potential to see and speak our flaws, or as described above, to expose what is missing within.  We protect ourselves by reacting to their behavior before they can potentially expose us or make us feel vulnerable.

When communications decline with significant others, we begin to avoid further interactions that expose us to uncomfortable situations. We feel the interaction may lead to more misunderstanding and thus is not emotionally worth the time or effort.  We suck in our feelings and live with the void.

In reality, when avoidance is the default behavior, our personal relationship model has run out of options. Optional ways to deal with specific behaviors that we are hypersensitive to in others.  When options are not available, this default behavior takes control over of the situation.  This leads us to feeling “right,” but not necessarily achieving the results we originally desired.


Copyright © 2016 Scott Taylor Consulting  All Rights Reserved.

© Scott Taylor 2016