Assess – Decide – Do is a simple life management framework. Emerged from some limitations of productivity methodologies like GTD, and constructed with a flexible approach, ADD comes handy when you face difficult or pressuring contexts in any areas if your life. At its core, ADD is overwhelmingly simple, it’s entirely up to you to create your very own implementation in whatever area you want to improve.
In today’s post I’ll give you some outlines on how I think ADD can be used for relationships. It’sÂ my point of view, which may or may not be congruent with yours. And that’s the beauty of it: being so simple, ADD gives you a lot of room on how to implement it for a specific area, as long as you respect 2 simple rules:
- at any time you can be only in one realm, being it Assess, Decide or Do
- the quality of the implementation is given by the Flow, or by the smoothness you achieve in traveling from one realm to another.
If you’re new to my blog, or never heard about ADD like this before, feel free to read the introductory series here.
What Kind Of Relationships?
We’re social animals. We cannot function outside relationships, outside a social paradigm in which we interact with other individuals. Quite often, when you read something about relationships, it’sÂ about couple relationships. But the fact is we have far more interactions than our love relationships, and this approach will be geared towards this more general perception pf relationships. It’s true, love affairs are quite close to our emotional being, so we tend to give them precedence. Sometimes by ignoring other types of relationships.
Your social behavior is sculpted by everything you do, with everybody, not only your couple relationship. It really doesn’t matter if you have a great couple thing, if you’re socially impaired. And it wouldn’t help you much to be the funniest guy at all parties, if you can’t settle in a long term relationship. Besides living in a couple, there are many other levels of social life: friendship, relatives, work, incidental relationships.
The goal is to have a consistent relationship approach to everything, not just to your intimate behavior. Creating a manageable approach to every single interaction is what gives you balance, not excellence in one single area.
Assess For Relationships
The first thing you have to assess when in a relationship (again, being it a couple relationship, a friends relationship or a work relationship) is its dual nature. There are always two levels:
- you, as individuals
- relationship, as an entity
The way you interact as individuals is one thing, but your relationship expands beyond this. The relationship as a single entity has an impact on the outside world. Every single action inside this relationship will create something outside the reach of each of you.
I have to admit I never thought of that until I started to learn a little bit of astrology, and heard about synastry, or composite charts. By studying the charts of two individuals you can extract a lot of meaning for the relationship as a whole, and that relationship is usually different from what you would expect just by looking at the 2 partners. There is no 1 +Â 1 = 2 in relationships. It’s 1 + 1 = more.
Another key point in assessing a relationship is the energy exchange: do I give? and do I receive? You can give a lot of stuff: your time, your money, your knowledge, or you can just give love. It really depends on what type of relationship this is. For instance, if you’re having a working relationship, you’re giving both time and knowledge. If it’s a friendship relationship, you’re giving your time, your understanding, your listening capabilities and love. And perhaps some more.
The same goes with what you receive. You can receive money, time, knowledge, experience. Or, of course, love. If it’s a working relationship you receive most of the time money and experience. If it’s a friendship relationship you receive understanding, guidance, compassion or love.
The biggest obstacle for assessing the existence of a real energy exchange is the status quo. You may think: “well, he was always my friend, even if I don’t get much out of this relationship”. Or: “we’re married, what can I expect more?”. Or: “I’m not getting too much out of this job relationship, but I cannot change it”. Status quo is the biggest enemy of your relationship, because it makes you keep that relationship going, even if the energy exchange is not there anymore. If you can’t challenge your relationship at least every 6 months, you’re in a status quo.
The thought that you may get something unpleasant out of this assessment may also make you avoid the whole process: better stay as you are than to realize you’re not well.
Hopefully, applying an ADD approach will make things a little bit easier. You’re in the Assess realm, and one of the most important characteristics of the Assess realm is that you don’t have to decide or do anything. The Assess realm is giving you the freedom to see things as they are, without taking a decision. You may stay in the Assess realm as long as you want, without deciding anything, if you don’t want it.
Is This Better Or Worse?
Another thing you will usually do while in the Assess realms is what I call the quality assessment, an evaluation of what makes you better – or worse, for what it matters – by staying in that relationship. It’s a very important assessment, and it’s usually the very next after the energy exchange check. Since you already had an energy exchange, and decide it to pursue it, now let’s see if it’s good or not.
It will depend a lot on your personal values system, so there’s no rule that says: “this will be good for your relationship”. I don’t encourage anyone to buy ready-made opinions about what is good or bad about them. Instead, I encourage people to think for themselves and reach to their own conclusions.
Knowing if you’re getting something good or bad out of your relationship can be difficult. Things are changing, you are changing, the partner is changing. What was ok yesterday may not be ok today. Will see more about the time constraint in the next paragraph, but until then, let’s note that it’s very important to find a way to realize if it’s good or bad for you.
As a rule of thumb, if you can be relaxed in a relationship, this is usually a sign of positive energy exchange. If you’re uptight and feel pressure, probably you’re getting some bad vibes. But there are exceptions to this: for instance, if you’re having a challenging partner at work, that means you can learn and grow faster, although it will cost you a little stress. And you can feel relaxed in the company of a deceiving person who’s trying to fool you. It’s really your job to see if you’re getting something valuable or not.
The Time Constraint
Is this relationship temporary? Is this going to last more than a night, or a train conversation, or a temporary assignment? There are a lot of relationships modifiers based on how long the relationship have to last.
If you’re having a conversation with somebody you don’t know, about a problem you must solve, this is going to last until the problem is solved, no more. From several minutes to several hours or days. It will require a different amount of commitment than a relationship meant to last for a year.
I consider the time constraint very important in assessing a relationship because we tend to act on auto-pilot: we learned several approaches and we tend to apply them without thinking too much. So, we end up giving too much attention and commitment to insignificant relationships, while ignoring other, allegedly more important ones.
Let me explain: if you have a relationship at work with somebody who’s repairing your computer, you don’t have to give him flowers at the end of the job. A simple “thank you” will be enough. But you may want to give flowers to your wife every other day, in order to feed a longer relationship. We tend to take the longest relationships for granted, while new, intriguing things are far more appealing. Taking those intriguing relationships through the time constraint always puts me on the right track.
Decide For Relationships
As you may already guessed, this is not a guide on which decision you have to make in order to improve your relationships. It’s more like a general approach, leaving the implementation details up to you. However, there are some things which are specific to relationships, things which can dramatically improve the effects of any decision, making it work faster or deeper.
Whatever decision you’re taking, in a relationship this must be transparent. It’s so simple, yet so often forgotten. It comes down to this simple word: “talk”. Talk with the partner about your decision, talk about what made you took the decision, talk about the effects of that decision.
If you’re not transparent about your decisions, you can’t have a relationship. It’s simple: if the other one is not aware of what are you up, can’t help you. Can’t disturb you either, that’s true, but that’s exactly what I said: this isn’t a relationship anymore.
Lack of transparency is very often the root cause of any bad relationship. Being it an intimate relationship, a friendly one or a work relationship. Just talk it out loud.
Another specific point in the Decide realm for relationships is that your decision will be most likely challenged. The other one will hear you – if you were transparent about the decision, of course – and will respond. Sometimes will agree, sometimes not. That’s the nature of a relationship, there are more than one people in it and in order to function properly, everyone must agree.
If you’re a strong headed individual, that will hurt. Having your decision challenged can be a real pain if you’re not used to it. But once accepted, the benefits of this constant challenge will be fantastic: you’ll actually start to function on a new level, in a relationship. You’ll become part of something bigger than you, no matter the type of the relationship.
If you’re not having your decisions challenged, the relationship is either not working, or not worth continuing.
Do For Relationships
Again, the Do realm won’t teach you how to make a friend from your boss or how to avoid a weekly fight with your wife. You’re already smart enough for that. But it will show you instead some of the subtle differences of the Do realm when it comes to relationships, as opposed to other areas of your life.
Doing Means Receiving
Whatever you chose to do in your relationship, there will always be a receiving part of it. Since you’re in a relationship, you’re not only giving, you’re receiving too. The energy exchange you identified in the Assess realm will still be active in the Do realm, so better take it into account.
Like the transparency thing, this is also forgotten big time. One must be prepared to receive as well as to give. Not receiving from the other part (not listening, not doing required stuff, not accepting gratitude or love) will block and eventually drain the energy exchange.
Doing Means Completing
In a relationship you’re going to support, more than achieve. As an individual, you’re mostly achieving things, but in a relationship you’re forming alliances, you’re creating shared values, you’re implementing strategies. Keep in mind that whatever you’re doing, in a relationship your actions must complete the actions of the other partners, in order to have a working environment.
This comes often to a sense of oneness, a higher level of human interaction. Relationships are born from a need and as you’re satisfying your needs through that relationship (security needs, emotional needs, material needs) the other part must do this too. Whatever you do, keep in mind the other and his needs.
As you can see, in this ADD exercise, the biggest part is the Assess one. It’s not a surprise, since many relationships are broken because of hasty decisions or immaturity, which are both signs of an incomplete Assess realm.
Assessing what you’re giving and receiving through the energy exchange and putting it into a time perspective are not rocket science. They are simple actions which can be converted to habits and streamline your relationships approach. Other key points are that every decision will be transparent (must be, since it will affect other persons) and challenged. In the Do realm, expect to receive from and to complete your partners.
Any other ideas on how to implement ADD for relationships? Would love to hear about that in the comments.