SALT LAKE CITY — I am often asked: “What can I do to make my relationship better?” In this article, I want to share some of the basic tendencies of human behavior, which will help you understand the dynamics involved in your relationships and how to improve them.
In other articles, I have written about the two core fears and the four basic value systems, that drive human behavior, and I use them with my clients. The two core fears are fear of failure (I am not good enough) and fear of loss (I am not safe). We all experience both of them every day, to some degree, but each of us has one fear that is more dominant than the other. Thus, we are fear of failure dominant or fear of loss dominant.
It will be a game-changer in your relationships if you understand your own dominant fear as well as the other person’s. When you know their core fear, you will understand their most sensitive trigger — the one that brings out their worst behavior — and what they need to feel safe with you.
Safety is the most important factor in the success of a relationship. If you don’t feel safe with the other person, you cannot show up authentically and you cannot fully love them or yourself. If you don’t feel safe, the other person will always feel like an enemy, at some level, and you will often be at odds. When someone feels safe, they need nothing and have more to give.
2 core fears
Here are the two core fears, and how to make a person who is dominant in each fear feel safe:
Fear of failure dominant
If a person is fear of failure dominant, their worst behavior is triggered when they feel criticized, judged, insulted, unwanted or abandoned. These experiences make them feel they aren’t good enough and put them out of balance.
When you have some feedback for these people, you should deliver it gently. You should also make sure they feel secure about how you see them. To make them feel safe with you, you must give them lots of validation and reassurance. If you can do this — and they see you as a cure to their fear, not a cause of their fear — they will thrive in the relationship.
Fear of loss dominant
If a person is fear of loss dominant, their worst behavior is triggered when they feel taken from, mistreated, disregarded, or that people aren’t showing up for them the way they should be. These people need a certain amount of control over their environment to feel safe.
You must make sure they feel heard, respected and appreciated, and let them be in charge as much as you can. To make them feel safe with you, you should let them be the boss as much as possible, reassure them things will be OK, and take their advice without feeling criticized by it. Understand when they give suggestions or advice, they are only trying to help.
4 value systems
Understanding the other person’s core fear is only half the equation, though, so let me explain the four value systems and what people from each group value most.
Values people and connection: These people fill up by socializing with others, and they get most of their self-esteem and safety in the world from connection and relationships. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their great need to communicate and spend time with you. They need more of your time and affection than you would, and they need you to listen to them, be affectionate and let them have lots of socializing with other humans to keep their bucket full. If they get these things they will feel good and have more to give you.
Values tasks: These people fill up and get self-esteem from getting things done. They need to accomplish and finish tasks, and have good performance in those tasks, to feel safe in the world. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their great need to work and get projects finished. They treasure time alone to get their work done, and they need you to notice and validate what amazing workers they are. If they get tasks done and feel accomplished they will feel better and have more to give you.
Values things: These people get their sense of self-esteem from what they create, build or own. They are artists, inventors, business builders and beauties, and they highly value appearance and how things look. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their need to look good or create amazing things. This may require time away from you, but if they get the time to create things or make themselves look amazing they will have more to give you.
Values ideas: These people get their sense of self-esteem from knowledge, principles, morals, doing things right and knowing answers to problems. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you need to validate their knowledge and expertise in the subjects they are passionate about. This will mean listening to them a lot (even if you aren’t interested in that topic) and giving them the control to make sure things are right. If they have the chance to share, teach or learn more about what they care about, they will be happy and they will have more to give you.
Working with fears and values
The magic happens when you put these ideas together and figure out your partner’s core fear and value system.
For example: If they are fear of failure dominant and value tasks most, they are someone who needs validation about the work they do. Don’t compliment this person on their appearance; tell them how productive, brilliant and hard-working they are. Allow them to be task-focused, have time alone to work, and don’t ever make them the bad guy for being wired this way. Honor the fact that this is who they are and see them as amazing, and it will pay off big.
If a person is fear of loss dominant and task-focused, they need control much more than they need validation. Let this person have some things they can control. Understand that if you don’t get tasks done or if you do them wrong, they could feel mistreated or taken from.
If a person is fear of loss dominant and ideas focused, they need control and to be right as much as possible. They need you to listen to their ideas or knowledge and validate that they know their stuff. Make sure if you think they are wrong, you handle that gently and validate how smart they are.
Are you starting to see how the fears and values go together? When you understand the other person at this level, you will understand their wiring and it will be much easier to make them feel safe.
By the way, having the same fears and values doesn't necessarily make a relationship more successful. The success of a relationship really comes from how mindful, emotionally intelligent and in control of their own fears the parties are. If both people are working on their personal fear triggers and learning how to make themselves feel safe, they won’t expect their partner to do that for them.
No one can cure your fear issues but you, and you have to stay responsible for your inner state and happiness. If you are both learning how to stay balanced, happy, and out of fear, you can work through most issues maturely and will get along great.
You can do this.