March, 2010:

Be Prepared for the Death Spiral

Photo by: Just Ree via Flickr

Have you ever been ice skating in the Caribbean…. on a boat? A feature of the Royal Caribbean Liberty ship is an ice skating rink.Skating on this vessel was as odd an experience as it sounds. To feel the boat sway, just a little bit, while skating around this tiny little rink is something I think everyone should experience at least once.

One purpose of the rink was to hold an ice show. Around the ice rink was a tiny auditorium. As the show started I remember thinking, this is a tiny little rink, yet these skaters are gliding along, jumping, and spinning as if they were on a full size sheet of ice at Madison Square Garden. I was impressed with the skaters’ ability to maintain their balance and perform gracefully.

One of the skaters who stood out was a huge bald guy.  Of course, he was the main performer.He tossed  the female skaters around with no problem. At the climax of the show, the star was featured in a pair’s routine with a tiny female skater. They were darting around the ice, he was throwing her up and catching her, it was great to watch. At the end of their routine, however, I saw something I was not prepared for at all.

The Death Spiral

They maneuvered to the far side of the rink and as the star skater picked up this petite, little woman, he began to spin. The faster he spun, the faster she spun. I was convinced her head was going to slam into the ice and I would have to witness this horrible, violent event with my ten year old daughter. Fortunately, the routine ended, the skaters returned to their positions unscathed, and the audience was left cheering and in awe. Later, my wife excitedly said, “They did a death spiral?! I can’t believe I missed it! That’s awesome!” That wasn’t exactly my reaction.Photo by: Daniskates via Flickr

The Skaters Explanation

The next day on a tender boat from an excursion we happened to sit next to the skaters I had seen the day before doing the routine! I had to ask them about the death spiral. He called it “The Skull Cracker”, by the way. I was in awe about it, yet the skaters seemed so non-chalant. It turns out they have been skating together for eighteen years and are also married. They have built a lot of trust. I said to the male skater, “It’s a good thing you’re as strong as you are.” He responded, without a hint of false modesty, “Her strength is as important as mine. In order to keep her body as straight as she does above the ice has nothing to do with me, it’s all her strength.”

Applied to Relationships

Think about that in a relationship context. In a healthy  relationship you absolutely need trust. You also need mutuality. Everyone’s best interests must be kept in mind, if not someone feels taken advantage of and trust is destroyed. A successful relationship requires strength on both sides. There are unexpected challenges that arise which will need both parties to remain strong and committed. For the skater to not slam her head into the ice she had to have trust, mutuality, strength, and commitment. She had to know her husband had those characteristics as well. If either wavered, it would be disastrous. The same is true in your  relationships:

  • Be committed
  • Build trust
  • Know your strengths

Maintain these characteristics and you will always be prepared for the death spiral.

You Vill Get On Zee Board!

Photo by: jennifer_wilkinson via Flickr

One of my absolute favorite experiences on a cruise I went on last year was a surfing/boogie board simulator called the Flow Rider. On the Flow Rider the water is coming out at 35MPH which makes it easy to glide along on your boogie board. The person operating the ride was a big athletic guy with a thick accent. My wife and I called him the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Flow Rider. He wasn’t as concerned about the time it took for people to get on the board as he was about people actually getting on the board.

Some of the younger kids, as you can imagine, just hopped up like it was nothing, but some people, like me, needed some guidance and coaching. Hearing “You Vill Get On Zee Board” was very reassuring. It was clear he meant what he said. There was little doubt he would do his part to make it happen.

His attitude is the essence of this technique:

Be aware of the value you bring to the relationship.

  • “Arnold” exuded confidence. He knew what he was doing, and as a result it was easy to have confidence in him.
  • He brought value in the form of being knowledgeable about the equipment, experience in being able to teach people how to have fun on the ride, and his physical presence which made you feel he could take care of you if something went wrong.

In any  relationship you are bringing something of value to the table. When you know this as fact, whomever you’re interacting with will be aware of your value and the relationship is more likely to be positive. Be like “Arnold.” Be confident in who you are and what you do,  and you’ll get people on the boogie board.

Don’t Get Caught Buck Naked (or Nekkid)

“Don’t Get Caught Buck Naked.” Sounds like some pretty sound relationship advice, doesn’t it? In fact, this tool is effective in just about any relationship you can conceive; professional, friendship, parent to child, child to parent, or (unfortunately) some marriages and romances. I learned this valuable lesson, and how to apply this technique in relationships, through an embarrassing and avoidable situation.

How We Got There

In March of 2009  I went on a cruise with my in-laws Bob and Joy,my wife, and daughter. We had adjacent staterooms so we asked the attendant to open the divider between our balconies in order to have a mega-balcony for everyone to enjoy. This set up worked out great with the exception of one unfavorable encounter.

The Situation

When I get dressed I tend to take my time and dawdle a bit. This is especially true if I’m going to be wearing a suit. On one of the formal nights I had the room to myself and was just out of the shower. I took advantage of the opportunity to take my time and air dry. There I was, walking around buck naked not even considering the possibility of someone walking by the sliding glass door. I didn’t look to see if the blinds were closed. The last thing I expected to see was Bob standing at the door, frozen in place. But that is precisely what I saw. As our eyes locked, I realized the current physical state I was in.  I suddenly became conscious of the situation and immediately dropped to the floor yelling “Naked!” as he turned his back to the door.

The Lesson Learned

Of course, we never spoke of this again but I was able to learn some valuable lessons.

  1. In  any relationship, clear and honest communication is critical. The only way another human being can be aware of our wants, needs, or our boundaries is to be clear in our communication. Had I communicated clearly to my in-laws that they may want to knock before popping in front of our door, we could have avoided an embarrassing situation.
  2. If you are up front and clear with people you engage on any level, there are no misunderstandings.
  3. To have successful  relationships you must know where your partner stands and what is important to them.

For any relationship to work, the lines of communication must be wide open. This can’t be a one-way street. Both sides need to be open and both sides must listen. That way no one gets caught buck-naked.

Simple Steps to Motivate Others

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”~ Carl W. Buechner

People are inspired by emotion. When we are able to feel something we are motivated. It doesn’t matter what the feeling is, in order to make a connection with another person there must be emotions involved.

It is easy to see the connection when there is a shared opinion or something about which both parties agree. What we often fail to see is the emotional connection created when we disagree. As a result of disagreements we often create destructive interactions. What if we were able to recognize the connection created as a result of these emotions? What if we were able to recognize the passion of the person with whom we disagree? I know this is idealistic but isn’t it something we could practice?

It is worth a try. Seeing past petty disagreements to find an opportunity to connect is certainly more productive than harboring resentment and fostering hatred. We may not always agree with everyone but we can certainly create an environment of love and understanding. You can practice creating harmony by:

  • Showing respect for someone else’s passion. This doesn’t mean to agree with everything. Diverse opinions add richness to our experiences. This means to focus on what you love before focusing on why others are wrong. This love is what inspires others. This passion is what encourages positive change.
  • Walking away from a heated exchange. Remember, you don’t always have to be “right.” It may serve everyone well to disengage from a conversation going nowhere than to get the other person to back down.
  • Admit when you are wrong. Often people will allow time to heal all wounds. In reality, until a wrong is acknowledged, it doesn’t go away. The person who made the mistake spends energy covering up, the person who was affected waits for an apology. Oops, it doesn’t just go away.

Peace and harmony in relationships can be a challenge to achieve and almost impossible to maintain. Relax, no one is perfect. However, a lot of bad blood can be avoided all together by following some simple guidelines. With a little ego deflation, compatibility is a lot more likely.

You will motivate other people whether you are aware of it or not. You will elicit an emotional response. Will it be one of enthusiasm or fear? It really depends on your ability to put your genuine concern for other people’s well-being before your pride.