Ari Sytner

Head-On Collision: How to Actually Win a Good Fight

Posted by in Relationships & Marriage

Newton famously said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Yes, this applies to relationships, and the way people’s words and hostilities collide when fighting.

When a couple fights, think of it as two freight trains racing toward one another. The stronger and faster they go, the more disastrous the impact will be. Plus, in all likelihood, at least one, if not both trains, will be severely damaged and even totally destroyed.

Therefore, in order to win a fight, the goal is to avoid a collision altogether by reducing the speed, intensity, and even changing the complete direction of the conversation.

Wait a second! What if you feel that you are absolutely right and you deserve to win the fight? Why should you not hold your ground and stick to your principles?

I want you to always remember this point: if someone wins, that means that the other person loses. If they lose, two things will happen.

  1. The relationships as a whole will suffer because your partner is defeated
  2. You are now stuck with a loser (and nobody wants to be in a relationship with a loser!)

Therefore, we must keep in mind that the goal of an argument is not to win the fight! Rather, it is simply to avoid a collision by changing tracks and resuming the journey, while heading blissfully together in the same direction.

So, how does this work? How does one simply change tracks?

Please indulge me further in my train analogy: For those who have ridden the subway, you know the feeling of watching a train fly by you in the opposite direction. As you look out the window, all you see is a blur of faces and streaks of colors. There is absolutely no connection to the people in the next train.

However, from time to time, a train pulls up alongside yours, heading in the same direction and at the same speed. It is during those moments when you look outside and instead of feeling the rush of motion, it is as if everything stands still and you can clearly see all the faces of the strangers in the next train. You can smile, wave and feel a real connection, almost as if they are in the same train with you.

This paradigm is exactly how we fight.

Take a husband and wife for example - angry, frustrated and armed with a laundry list of reasons why they each think they are right. Ultimately, like two trains, they will either violently collide, or just fly past the other in a blur and squander the opportunity to truly connect.

What if there was a way for the two trains to pull up alongside each other and move in the same direction so that they can once again connect and see one another, rather than only see a blur?

This is a common exercise that I do with my clients. I invite them to look at the other person’s point of view, digest it, and really try to see it through their own eyes. This is not only an intellectual exercise but an emotional one as well.

Instead of asking, “why is my wife so stubborn?”, try this: “I wonder why this issue is so important to her?”

Instead of asking, “why does my husband always think he is right?”, try this: “I wonder what I could be doing better to show him that I value his opinion and feelings”.

Thus, even if you don’t agree, perhaps you can stop and appreciate who they are and why they feel the way they do. Slowing down to appreciate the person more than the agenda, is what we talk about when we say that relationships take hard work and compromise.

Whenever we stick to our guns and hold our ground, nobody wins.

What we ultimately want to do is each abandon our own rigid views, in place of a suitable compromise that shows we care more about the person than our perspective. After all, you must ask yourself, do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

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When a Leader is So Funny, it Hurts

Posted by in Organizations & Leadership, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

How Humor Can Help or Hurt Relationships

Although every leader has their own style, some are genuine and others are manufactured. Steve Jobs was terrific at inspiring his employees with the innovative vision that Apple so desperately needed. Yet, he also managed to instill terror in the hearts and minds of his employees. Regardless of whether this approach is a replicable model to be taught in business schools, it was genuine. Like it or not, this is just who Steve was. He was not out to make friends, rather, he was committed to his vision and mandate.

Then, there are the leaders take a folksy, humorous approach, where self-deprecation paves the way to creating an environment of humility and friendliness. Employees seem to enjoy coming to a work environment where the boss has reduced the culture of stress and fear and create one of camaraderie. But does this approach really work for maximizing productivity?

It all depends on whether this person is genuine or fake.

Humor is a powerful tool to help put people at ease and build bridges. However, many people use humor as a defense mechanism aimed at protecting themselves when feeling vulnerable. When the CEO is insecure and hides behind humor, it will only last so long before he or she is exposed.

For instance, if unable to remember the names of his or her employees, the CEO dodges uncomfortable encounters by injecting humor, quips and creating witty nicknames, it might seem funny (at least for the first or second time around). However, when this pattern is compounded, people recognize it as being disingenuous. Ultimately, the leader is seen as a fake and may quickly lose the confidence of his team.

There is little shame in being genuine and showing that you care enough to ask an employee to remind you of their name. When employees only see a façade and cannot quite put their finger on who their boss really is, it creates a heightened discomfort, fear, and inability to trust.

Steve-Jobs-470x350

While Steve Jobs may have scared his employees half to death, they knew full well who they were dealing with. However, when a leader is disingenuous and hides behind quick one-liners, he or she may feel safe and protected, but the organization as a whole will remain vulnerable.

Employees thrive when they feel that they are part of an organization which engenders trust and honesty.

A strong leader will constantly strive to be self-aware, know their talents and humbly own their weaknesses. It is through genuine honesty and even being fallible from time to time, that leaders can instill trust, faith and loyalty in the hearts of their employees. 


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Self-Improvement 101: How to Fill the Negative Spaces

Posted by in Addiction, Relationships & Marriage

Change is hard. Who doesn’t enjoy settling into a comfortable routine? However, when a person is finally motivated to break their mold and strive for self-improvement, the shackles of our habits can be debilitating.

It is for that reason that I look forward to the Jewish High Holidays, which give me an opportunity to look at my habits – both good and bad take a personal inventory of how I can improve.

However, beware the trap of the negative space!

When a person digs deeper and deeper, chiseling away at the parts of themselves they wish to change, they will eventually be left with a gaping hole. For example, if a person decides to reduce their laziness and increase productivity, they may find themselves successfully cutting out TV, movies, Facebook and other distractions. However, if they are not filling that extra time by focusing on meaningful tasks and goals, they will likely fail altogether when the boredom takes hold and catapults them back to their previous ways.

To illustrate this phenomenon, imagine your dentist discovers a pretty nasty cavity in your molar. After drilling, scraping and hollowing out the tooth, the dentist proudly reports that the cavity is gone. However, let’s be honest, until the hole in your tooth is properly filled, you’re just not out of the woods.

The same idea applies to self-improvement. It is insufficient to simply cut out the negative behaviors if we do not replace them with positive ones.

Consider how many intelligent and determined people have failed at diets for this reason. They decided it was time to get healthy, banished all fried foods, butter, trans fats, red meat, eggs, salt, sugar, mayo and of course, ice cream. Yes, they had the right idea, “cut out all of the bad stuff”. However, if there is no an alternate plan to substitute healthy menus for every meal, they will likely crash and burn when hunger gets the best of them.

Research on addiction has pointed to the same conclusion. People who wish to quit smoking, drinking, gambling, gaming, shopping, pornography, overeating – all have the same challenge. They will put 90% of their self-control and energies towards NOT engaging in a particular behavior. However, instead of only focusing on the negative, if they were to also expend a great deal of energy pursuing positive behaviors, they would more likely succeed simply because they are busy chasing their dreams and ambitions.

It is for this reason that Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-Step programs, put such an emphasis on the many levels of personal growth beyond just the value of “quitting”. By discovering and pursuing one’s spiritual self, a person is more likely to engage in meaningful relationships and seek life-goals that are inherently motivating, fulfilling and rewarding.

Sure, becoming a better person can be a huge undertaking! However, if overcoming my challenges compel me to focus positively on my dreams, then my weaknesses actually become the greatest of life's gifts! (Think about it).

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