Saturday, December 17, 2011

Establishing Successful Customer Relationships Through Effective Communication

"One cannot always oblige; one can, however, always speak obligingly..." says Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Indian spiritual master, which is an exact explanation for the complex role of corporate communication in modern corporations today.

The customer, as the old saying goes, is the king! A king he truly is he believes, that is, till the not-so-charitable mandarins of marketing let him know and make him aware, rather painfully for him, that he is one among the many millions that feel that way, without actually being that way. However, the same mandarins grudgingly acknowledge that a happy customer is a brand's success, while a delighted customer is a brand's ambassador. The customer relationship management paradigm - popularly abbreviated as CRM - is built precisely on these pillars. And the customer enjoys a precarious position in this paradigm.

In the concentrated CRM efforts a company often forgets the basic thing that is the cornerstone of the concept... relationship! Traditional marketing theories have always focused on attracting new customers, rather than retaining existing customers. Over the past decade, thanks to intensified competition and greater variety of products, this has gradually altered. The current flavor of marketing is 'retain' more than 'gain'. Because retention leads to growth and growth leads to fulfillment.

In marketing, today, the consumer is treated not as a king but like a mischievous sprite. He is accused - well, almost - of making a brand dance to his wishes and whims. While purists tend to argue that brands need customers and vice versa, modernists counter it by saying that customers need a brand, any brand, so long as the brand is his willing genie. This disproportionate balance shapes brand communication strategies. Positioning per se is no longer a marketer's tool but rather as an awkward proposition to grab the customer's fancy. Positioning is not brand or product or benefit or feature-centric anymore; it is customer-centric.

What is then important to establish a relationship between a brand and its customer? In order to build a personal relationship, the brand's personality has to come through (Michael C Gray, 2006). It will no longer be brand and customer, but simply 'you' and 'I'... a collaboration is well-developed leads to 'we', which could be a fulfilling state for a brand and a customer.

Social researchers have always advised marketers that people prefer to do business with people, not institutions or brands. This implies that corporate communication has to be the link that helps to build and maintain a healthy relationship between both stakeholders. Technically there can be several types of regular communication: newsletters, fax messages, voice broadcasts, blogs, sales letters, emails and more.

Communication with customers reflects the following aspects of a relationship.

o Strong culture

o Favorable identity

o Coherent philosophy

o Genuine sense of camaraderie

It may not be instant gratification or affection but effective corporate communication establishes an appropriate and professional relationship with the customer, including quick, responsible channels of two-way communication. Corporate Communication is all about managing perceptions and ensuring that with effective and timely dissemination of information a positive corporate image is created that ensures a smooth and affirmative relationship with all customers, at all times.

Be it a corporate body, company, research institution, non-governmental organisation, PSU, all of them need to have a respectable image and reputation in the eyes of the customer. In today's day and age of increasing competition, easy access to information and media explosion - reputation management has gained even greater importance. So, corporate communications as a role has become significant and professional in nature while dealing with customers.

Gone are the days when corporate communications merely meant 'wining and dining the client'; it has now emerged as a science and art of perception management. The concept of managing relationships with customers is as old as trade itself, but the focus has always been to sell products and services (Kotler, Philip, Introduction to Marketing Principles). Competition, driven by globalization and the Internet, has changed the face of business. Customers now have a variety of choices and, most importantly, they are becoming far more knowledgeable and demanding. The power has truly shifted to the customer. With this scenario, most companies realize that they need to treat their customers with more care.

Companies are now desperately searching for different ways to manage their relationships effectively, not only to acquire new customers, but also to retain the existing ones. According to a Harvard Business Review Study by Reicheld & Sasser, some companies can boost their profits by almost 100% by retaining just 5% or more of their existing customers.

Customers express their satisfaction in many ways. When they are satisfied, they mostly say nothing but return again, and again, to buy or use more. Measuring satisfaction is only half the story. It is also necessary to determine customers' expectations or the importance they attach to different overtures of a brand, otherwise resources could be spent raising satisfaction levels of things that do not matter. The measurement of expectations or importance is more difficult than the measurement of satisfaction. Many people do not know or cannot admit, even to themselves, what is important.

Consumers do not spend their time rationalizing why they do things, their views change and they may not be able to easily communicate or admit to the complex issues in the buying argument. A customer satisfaction index is a snapshot at a point in time. People's views change continuously and the performance of companies in delivering customer satisfaction is also changing. Measuring satisfaction must be a continuous process. (Paul & Nick Hague, White paper on Customer Satisfaction Surveys, B2B International Ltd.)

Even when experts discuss CRM, the discussion is almost always from the point of view of marketing, sales and business development. Seldom is CRM looked upon as a 'goal' that every organization should actively pursue. Often it is looked upon as a tool that every organisation could use. The differences are plenty. And CRM is not an IT function. CRM is more often a function of communication, by the company directly, through an intermediary such as a PR agency or simply through the media.

Successful CRM practices is not about statistics, data warehousing or loyalty programs, rather it is about competing in the relationship dimension-not as an alternative to having a competitive product or reasonable price-but acting as a differentiator in terms of 'feelings for the customer', however abstractly - and sometimes absurdly - romantic that may sound. If brands can get an edge based on how customers feel about the brand, it's a much more sustainable relationship in the long run. This feeling for a brand, as brand theorists prefer to call it is directly proportional to the communication efforts, written words and spoken sentences, that emanate from a company.

Link it to the corporate communication strategy and you will have a direct connect between the company and its customer. The critical dimension of any CRM practice is the relationship that a brand shares with its customers. Using the word customer itself may sound a trifle improper here because 'customer' implies that the person is 'outside' a relationship. And any relationship is expressed and nurtured by communication.

Almost always marketers try to understand a customer from the marketing perspective, as people who have to be 'given' something to retain their loyalty. This naturally places them on a moral (and commercial) pedestal that enables them to look down upon hapless customers as beneficiaries of their largess. In communication parlance this signifies up and down power positions. And in a relationship between equals the power position is not hierarchical. Sometimes the anachronistic social mindset refuses to place the customer on even keel with a brand - and vice versa - painting him as a king, or as an unrealistically greedy pauper.

CRM is a simple process, because establishing a relationship is simple. Nowhere is understanding more profound than when it comes to human emotions... but surprisingly the very same human emotions have been overlooked by companies while interacting with their customers.

What is a relationship? When is there a relationship between two entities? What is the role of corporate communications in establishing, maintaining and fulfilling such relationships? Relationship could simply mean to be a particular type of connection existing between people related to with each other biologically or emotionally and having social or economic dealings with each other. Unfortunately all pretenses of dealing with relationships that often ask for simplicity, empathy, credibility and sincerity cease the moment commercial returns on investments are discussed. Which is what communication is all about; communicating to customers, and not with them.

Researchers have often argued that to understand brand-customer relationships, it is necessary to consider what the brand thinks of its customers, more than what the customers think of a brand. Marketers struggle hard to enhance the satisfaction of customers only to find that they choose their competitors. Why does this happen? Research has further shown that investments in customer communication, which logically seems to be the most crucial aspect in a relationship, has been the most neglected area in most companies.

The argument for this lies in the reality that 65% of all customer service activities are outsourced to business processing units (BPUs). That means the brand does not directly handle customer interactions and queries - unless they are of a certain level, of course. This is akin to asking your friend to talk to your representative about everything that you want to say, including... affairs of the heart, and speak directly only if it is something serious! This attitude, in the first instance, is marketing-driven and one-sided. There are also many brand loyalty programs, which are being attempted by marketers in isolation without the back up support of several other relevant and related strategies. There is a distinctive need for marketers to understand the importance of customer communication, and not merely look at it from the point of view of PR, Advertising or other known corporate forms of communication.

Often corporate communication strategies are designed... to work as a bridge between stakeholders, to justify policies and decisions, to deliver business strategies, to inform and persuade, and of course to emphasize that the company is committed to putting customer interests first, almost as an afterthought!

Thus corporate communications is almost always understood as a process used to build, foster, nurture and extend business relationships with customers. This is unfortunately a bureaucratic understanding, as GE's former CEO Jack Welch says, "Bureaucracies love to focus inward. It's not that they dislike customers; they just don't find them as interesting as themselves." And the communication reflects it.

In 'Customers Are People: The Human Touch', author Jon McKean states that in competitive markets, where customers have a choice between similar products and pricing, "70% percent of customer decision-making is based on how customers are treated." "Yet," McKean adds, "Over 80 per cent of customer initiatives are focused on 'selling to customers better' through superior products, prices and promotions, than in investing more resources in treating customers better..." How best can a person be treated? By simply being talked to in a better manner.

The question staring squarely on the faces of companies is: "How to make a customer loyal?" When companies talk of relationships where customers have real choices, they are honestly trying to be the best suitor to the customer, 'as the customer sees it', and not 'as they want the customer to see it'. Reichheld and other loyalty experts have studied this issue for years and have concluded that relationships are driven by the behaviour and perception of customers of the value of the relationship that exists between the brand and himself, which is the net result of what economic and psychological value the customer receives from the brand.

According to psychologists customers' emotional states influence about 50 percent of the value they perceive from their purchases. Jim Barnes, author of 'Secrets of Customer Relationship Management: It's All About How You Make Them Feel', sums it up by saying, "Value is created every time a customer is made to feel welcome, important and valued."

After reasonably agreeing to the fact that the important aspects in CRM are relationship and how customers, on account of their distinct behaviour and personality, differently and uniquely perceive a relationship, it is also imperative to stress on the point that corporate communication is the prime driver of any relationship. As the leading Indian telecom brand AirTel shows in its advertisements, communication is all about expressing oneself.

A brand identity is shaped by a collective interactive experience of customers, product, policy, and strategy. Which is why developing a brand-customer relationship is important. The choice is simple: either a brand makes a customer experience or it gets created despite the brand. To create a successful relationship, the brand must develop a compelling identity with the customer and have a genuine value proposition. The brand must rely on customer perspective, appreciate the viewpoint and have the ability to communicate appropriately. A common pitfall for many brands is that they do not take the time to think about how they should articulate the brand identity. Needless to say, a successful brand strategy is incomplete without a sound communications strategy. The organization must be aligned in ways that anticipate and fulfill customers' emotional expectations at every touch point to create meaningful relationships and lasting competitive advantage.

Successful customer communication clearly highlights the brand's functional, emotional, and self-expressive benefits, as the customer would like to see. It is delivered in a way that is superior or unique when compared to competitors. Customer experience is shaped by a series of interactions with an organization.

According to Jonathan Hardcastle, barriers to effective communication such as frames of reference, value judgments, selective listening, filtering and distrust (all between sender and receiver) complicate the communication systems and messages. However, these can be overcome by sending clear, complete, and specific messages, which are to put it rather romantically, 'straight from the heart'. Demonstrating love and affection, clarifying intentions, being reliable and dynamic can enhance credibility, exhibiting warmth and friendliness, and building a positive image. Soliciting and providing specific feedback can also enhance communication effectiveness between partners, which is what brands should consider customers as.

One of the most important consumer satisfaction elements is the ability to ask questions and being able to receive appropriately satisfying answers from the brand's representatives. Gaining information, uncovering motives, giving incentives, obtaining participation, checking understanding, initiating the thinking process, inducing agreements, and refocusing attention, are all essential components of an effective consumer communication plan, says Hardcastle. Thus, the active listening skills of a brand help to build rapport with customers that is both intimate and empathetic.

The other most important aspect is the subtle non-verbal communication of a brand and the customers, that is useful both in reading the underlying emotions and attitudes of customers, while reinforcing a brand's verbal messages. Understanding subtle communication can enhance the brand-customer relationship.

Coupled with this are improving standards of technology and devices that add an edge to the communication process. Unfortunately over-dependence on technology and automation has had an adverse impact on customer relationship. While on one hand brands talk of a relationship - a concept normally associated with living things largely and human beings in particular - on the other hand the overuse of technology has led to a dissociation that has taken the customer and brand away from each other. This dichotomous situation has to be recognised by the brand as well as the customer, for communication is all about power positions, and it is important to understand that in a relationship the power positions are on an even keel.

Concluding, due to the growing complexity and turbulence of the business environment and the related growth in research knowledge about customer behavior patterns, managers of the 21st century have to take four themes as paramount; the necessity of managing the challenges of change; functioning within a global environment; being sensitive to the diversity among people; and behaving with ethical integrity.

The final ingredient that binds a customer to your brand in a lasting relationship is dialogue. Your company's brand isn't a monolithic, hermetic face that the organization presents to the world. Rather, it's an ongoing exchange where you listen carefully to your customers, understand what they say, and respond by modifying your value proposition and extending your businesses appropriately to fulfil customers' desires. You exist because of the customer. This selflessness is the cornerstone to successful CRM.

Therefore any corporate communication effort should focus broadly on three aspects: understanding relationships, understanding the distinct behaviour of consumers to relationship overtures and understanding (and establishing) the role of communication in effective and enduring customer relationships.

Author: K Sai Prasaad
Designation: Head, Department of Marketing & Management Communication
College: Convergence Institute of Media, Management and Information Technology Studies (Commits), Bangalore, India
University: Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, India

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Relationship Building - Three Key Types and One Key to Success

"No man is an island," somebody once said and those few words sum up the essence of mankind. We thrive on relationships. One of the worst punishments is to deprive a person of contact with others.

However our relationships are often fragile and sometimes fall apart. Some people strive for positive relationships with others but always seem to make a mess of it. Others end up in destructive relationships where they are used and abused.

There are three key types of relationships that together promote positive, strong and wholesome relationships. All three need to be developed if your relationships are to be successful.

Jesus described these three types in Mark 12:28-31. A scribe came to him and asked which was the greatest of all the commandments. Jesus responded saying that the first and greatest commandment is, "You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, mind, soul and strength," and a second is like it, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." He said there is no other commandment greater than these two.

Now if these are the two greatest of the commandments, they are worth consideration to for they contain wisdom. They both deal with relationships and define the three most important relationships of all. They are:

Our relationship with God
Our relationship with others
Our relationship with ourself

All three work together to enable positive relationships. It may be possible to have a relationship with just one or two of these, but really good, strong relationships are best achieved when all three work together.

These three are underpinned by love, which is the key to a successful relationship for love is the foundation of positive and up-building relationships.

There are many kinds of love. The love you have for a brother is different to the love for a friend, parent, wife or child. The love of God is best described in 1 Corinthians 13. It shows love as active, as something you do. It says things like, "Love is patient and kind, it is not jealous or boastful, it does not insist on its own way, etc." All of these we can do and people exhibit love through such actions and attributes.

Love is the glue that binds the three types of relationships together. Consider this:

Relationship with Ourself

If we lack self-esteem and allow others to walk over us we will end up in abusive relationships. To have positive relationships with others we must first love ourselves to strengthen our own self-image and self-respect. If we have no love for ourself we have no relationship with ourself, so how can we have positive relationships with others?

Relationship with Others

Is it possible to have positive relationships with others if we use and abuse them? If our primary purposes with others are to get our own way all of the time, those relationships will not last. Love does not use and abuse other people and most people will be "once bitten twice shy." If we do not show others the respect they deserve, then we cannot have a positive and mutually beneficial relationship. Good relationships may not always run smoothly, but they weather storms and grow stronger as they work out issues.

Relationship with God

Many ignore a relationship with God not realising its value. A relationship with God strengthens all of your other relationships. A person in a relationship with God learns behaviours that build positive relationships. They learn to take relationships to a deeper, spiritual level with God giving them an inner strength, peace and calm. They become humble and strong at the same time and importantly they learn to recognise that others, like themselves, have flaws. They aim to overlook those flaws while seeking the best for others and enter relationships with consideration for the other person rather than, "What's in it for me?"

The real potential for successful relationships can only be achieved when all three of these key areas are working together in harmony and are bound together with love. Strive for this in all your relationships and they will surely flourish.

Would you like to know more? Please feel free to visit to view other teachings, eBooks as well as some original Christian music. It's all free and available for you to view online or download at your leisure. If you use anything for other than personal use please respect the copyright & reference the website

John Lemmon

All items Copyright (c) - John Lemmon - 2008, 2009

Does Your Relationship Have These 3 Important Elements?

When men and women come together to form a relationship, it's a wonderful thing but complicated. Relationships don't conform to the idea that one size fits all: what works for one won't for another, because individuals and the relationships they form are unique. It's important to realize that there's no set of prescripts that can be uniformly applied to all relationships.

You can't even tell for sure why a relationship exists between a man and a woman - is it a union love of shared pastimes, or physical attraction, or something else? Because relationships are unique, the agreements that couples develop that keep them together are also unique.

While there are no comprehensive regulations for the conduct of a relationship, there are deeper elements of a relationship that can be identified. Without these elements, it's doubtful that the relationship will last.

Communication is the first great element of a flourishing relationship. This means the opening of hearts and sharing of things like dreams and plans for the future. It's easy to talk about the morning's headlines or last night's television program. Real communication, though, requires real honesty and self-giving. The kind of communication that occurs every day, of course, is different - couples have to be able to discuss everyday matters, plan the dinner menu, review schedules to make certain they can reach each other. But they'll also discuss the obstacles they're facing on the job, they'll talk about problems within their relationship, and they'll share their own feelings.

Relationships where the partners don't also share their emotions with each other have an unstable foundation. Good communication knows no fear - a couple should be able to share anguish and worry with each other as well as triumph and joy. The next component of a great relationship flows easily from the first.

Closely related with good communication, honesty is the next crucial foundation of a great relationship. Couples who make the commitment to start a relationship together, sharing their lives, impair themselves seriously if they cannot be honest with each other. There's a tendency at the beginning to over-romanticize a relationship and for couples to put each other on a pedestal - part of the purpose of honesty in a relationship relates to understanding and accepting that one's partner is simply human and actually mortal, not some perfect being that must be impressed and catered to at all times.

Lies - even the most well-meaning "little white lies," designed to avoid hurting someone - usually are exposed at the most inopportune times, and their motivation is often misunderstood. A relationship in which lies have been revealed faces significant obstacles. Partners in a relationship who are reluctant to share the truth with the other, even if it means at least momentarily hurting their feelings, are well advised to examine their own commitment to the relationship.

The last foundation of good relationships is forgiveness, which comes from true love. As God forgives us our sins, no matter how serious, we should emulate Him and strive to have a forgiving heart when our partner fails us.

Too often, people in a relationship will claim to forgive each other, but in the heat of an argument will dredge up these past "sins" or shortcomings they claim to have forgiven. Forgiveness doesn't mean stashing transgressions away like ammunition for use later on - it means erasing them and moving forward. Paradoxically, it is through forgiveness that a couple can realize the depth of their love for each other.

Couples for whom these three elements form the basis of the relationship can be assured of many happy years together. Far more relationships are broken up than survive, and the cause of that breakup is often the lack of one or more of these crucial elements. Couples who want to remain together and realize that their relationship is missing one of these components, like a stool with fewer than three legs, had better start work immediately to start growing the foundation of communication, trust and forgiveness that characterizes the greatest relationships of all time.

Steve Steiner enjoys helping men improve their relationship and manage the problems that they may experience in relating with and dating women.

If you found this article helpful and would like to learn more about how you can improve your relationship, check out Saving a Relationship and Make Relationships Work.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Solve Relationship Problems and Enjoy Happy Relationships - Surefire Tips You Can Use Today

Turn Your Everyday Relationships Into Gold

Mastering the art of happiness involves taking care of your relationships. Even if you have good relationships, you can always make them a little better... and the rewards and benefits are fantastic! New research shows us how to master our relationships to improve our health and well being. Relationships are our greatest investment. Yet most of us have put at least one important relationship on the back burner. Here are Richard's top ten tips for igniting the fires of old relationships and turning new relationships into pure gold.

Top Ten Art Of Happiness Tips

1. Give a little more time and attention to your relationships on a regular basis... doing little things daily... like making a surprise telephone call or sending an electronic greeting, an occasional reminder of your devotion, can go a long way toward increasing the excitement in a relationship. Whatever you do, don't ignore your relationships. Keep in touch!

2. Improve any relationship in need of special attention or repair. Relationship problems can often be solved by simply doing little things to remind someone of your affection. Don't have time? Just giving your spouse, for example, a hug every morning can mean a great deal to you both!

Little gestures of affection can make the other person feel good. If you need to apologize for something, do it. How long does a simple apology take? If you need to talk about a misunderstanding, do it. Stay focused and be BRIEF and optimistic! In the end, tell the other person how much you care about the relationship.

Say it loud and clear.

3. Speaking from your heart can make a big difference. The art of happiness entails honesty and direct communication. Sometimes we want to say heartfelt things, but chicken out. Take a deep breath and summon the courage to say what's in your heart. Your relationships are worth it.

4. Just be yourself inall your relationships. Even if you fear you are not good enough, or you won't be liked, being who you are will help you to avoid playing games and to put your best foot forward.

Avoid trying to impress people... or you'll stick out like a sore thumb!!!

Just be yourself and trust yourself. You'll avoid relationship problems and misunderstandings by being true to yourself. You never want to abandon yourself while seeking to impress others. And others will be more attracted to the real you than if you try to be someone you are not.

5. Be an optimist. People will love you for it and stand by you.

In a recent study, optimistic women were 25% LESS LIKELY TO GET BREAST CANCER than those who were not optimists. Optimism helped women to deal with traumatic events, as well.

In another study of men aged 65 - 80, optimistic men had half the heart attacks of men who were not optimistic. Optimism can help you live longer, according to other studies. We can all be more optimistic, with a little effort, and we'll solve our relationship problems more easily.

6. Be more grateful. Why? Gratitude is a validated strategy for decreasing depression.

When we are thankful for our gifts and blessings, express gratitude to others and give them credit for contributing to our happiness or success, we unleash an avalanche of positive feelings and good changes in our minds and bodies. Dwelling in gratitude will make you feel like a new person.

7. Be kind and helpful to everyone in your life, even your so-called enemies. No, it ani't easy! But it's a wise and powerful way to live. And there is research behind it. Plus, sages have advocated it for thousands of years.

Anyone can make a concerted effort to practice forgiveness, be kinder and more helpful. You can be kinder in simple ways, such as smiling more often, putting a spark in the tone of your voice and giving people the benefit of the doubt. And be sure to take note of how you feel when you do a good deed for someone.

Kindness is food for the soul, and it's a great relationship strategy. You'll not only decrease your relationship problems, and bring people closer to you, but you will feel wonderful!

I tell my clients all the time... kindness is a powerful ani-depressant!

Cultivate the art of kindness with your friends and strangers you meet, and you will be well on the way to mastering the art of happiness. Don't shun, avoid or speak down to someone who has hurt or disappointed you, just be kind to him. You'll put a positive energy into a negative situation.

8. Find the silver lining in any cloud. In the therapy world, we call this strategy "reframing." It's how we help people to perceive problems as more solvable and to see the possible good that can come out of them.

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, said, "No matter what happens, it is within my power to turn it to my advantage."

It may take a little creative thinking, but you can turn any unwelcome event to your advantage. This skill will help you to convert relationship problems into new possibilities for change, growth and transformation.

9. Those who master the art of solving relationship problems kick the fault finding habit. Nothing could be more helpful to your relationships than this one little trick. Finding fault tears relationships down and works against your success. Like criticism, it is of little value and causes much damage.

In a marriage, criticism and fault finding do a number on relationship bliss and happiness, creating disharmony, distrust and distress.

10. Instead of finding fault, look for and identify strengths. Use your sleuthing powers to find the hidden good in others. You'll have the art of happiness working for you, and you'll be far more successful than those who seek to belittle or put other people down.

It really pays to be MORE positive in your relationship with yourself, too. Take very good care of yourself (it isn't selfish but necessary) and you'll increase your happiness level... plus you'll develop plenty of happy relationships.

In Short

Solve relationship problems and enjoy happy relationships by taking just a few minutes of your day. Be kind, optimistic and forgiving in all your affairs. Your relationships will support you in countless ways, and assist you in achieving your goals throughout life's hard journey. If you cultivate the best possible relationships, you will build a rock-solid foundation for success in your quest for genuine and lasting happiness.

Richard Hamon is a professional therapist and coach with 30 years of experience. Richard helps people to solve their relationship problems, enjoy truly extraordinary marriages and find exceptional success in all areas of their lives.

You'll find all kinds of articles on how to spice up your relationships and lead a happier life at Richard's website, Take a happiness quiz and see how you stack up. Find out about therapeutic services and personal coaching programs to assist you in quickly fulfilling your special needs and goals. Discover eBooks and other products, such as a free relationship quiz to help you assess your relationship.

For more information on conducting state-of-the-art relationships, the latest research on lasting happiness, and Richard's products and services, please go to:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Healthy Relationship or Unhealthy Relationship? Which Is Yours?

Is your relationship a healthy relationship or an unhealthy relationship?

I'm sure you know of Jeff Foxworthy and his Redneck series. Well, this is similar to that only it concerns intimations as to whether you are in an unhealthy relationship.

When you and your partner are out and about and you get together with other people, does your companion verbally embarrass you? I'm sure that everyone just laughs it off like it must be some kind of joke, but did the remark hurt you inside? If so, then you might be in an unhealthy relationship.

How about this one? You and your significant other spend time together and he or she tells you that they love you. But then their actions don't support their claims. You know, that actions speak louder than words, don't you? Think about it. How do they make you feel? Loved and secure? Or used and abused?

An unhealthy relationship?

Are you starting to be concerned about how things you do might be misconstrued by your companion? If you are starting to feel like your relationship is a ball and chain type of deal where your companion is ultimately domineering and critical of everything you do, you might be in an unhealthy relationship. (i.e. they read your mail, listen in on your phone conversations, call to monitor on your whereabouts throughout the day, etc.)

They hacked your computer and are reading your email (or just checking your history on your computer to keep you in line). They just all of a sudden show up at places where you are just to check on you. Take heed; you might be in an unhealthy relationship. It's possible they are checking up on you out of concern for you too, but many times this is not the case. You'll know the difference.

Maybe your partner is making you separate from family and friends. They realize that when you are around others that love you they have little control over you, so they want to dismiss that from happening at all. Hmmm...could be another sign of an unhealthy relationship.

Let's say that you have changed a lot of things about yourself. Maybe it is your looks, maybe it's your interests, maybe it's your habits...if you have changed things about yourself just to please them that's the wrong reason. If the changes were made, but not to please yourself then you might be in an unhealthy relationship.

Domineering people make you feel odd just being around them. It's not so much that they are scaring you, but just making you feel awkward and you have to be on guard and walk on egg shells when you are with them.

So, why would anyone end up in an unhealthy relationship? Why would anyone want to be with someone who makes them feel emotionally or physically abused?

They say love is blind, so maybe you do not recognize these things as they really are. An unhealthy relationship has a cycle. There's a honeymoon period, followed by some kind of a blow up which is then followed by a reconciliation. Then the cycle begins all over again. It's a vicious circle.

When you first meet a new partner, you are obviously in the honeymoon stage. You may be in the relationship for quite a time before you realize that you are in an unhealthy relationship. Everything is new. Nothing could be wrong. You hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil. Just like a monkey. Literally. That's what the honeymoon phase is like. Two monkeys swinging around without a care in the world.

Later, you have a disagreement. The other person blows it way out of context and it ends up being a full-blown argument, often littered with name-calling or battering. Watch out! Is this something that you should be concerned about or is the disagreement just that...a disagreement?

Trouble could be looming its ugly head.

If you suspect that your relationship is an unhealthy one, remedy it while you can.

At this point though, it may be really hard to get out of the relationship. You know consciously that you should get out and that the relationship is not healthy for you, but you are already on the emotional roller coaster that, subconsciously, makes ending the relationship very difficult.

One reason for subjecting yourself to this type of relationship is that many people in unhealthy relationships grow up in homes where they were witness to unhealthy relationships. As a result, you repeat these patterns from your childhood without even realizing that is what you are doing. You view what is happening to you as perfectly normal. After all, you witnessed this occurence daily.

Another thing is this, you may not know any better. You may have been beaten down into submission and now believe that you deserve everything you get. Or don't get, as the case may be. You think that you are not worthy of getting anything different.

It may be that you can trick yourself into thinking that by staying in the situation you can change it. After all, you do enjoy taking care of people and it's not all that bad. You recognize the care and attention the other person needs and think to yourself that if you only love them "enough" they will love you and respect you back. Unfortunately, that isn't so.

More often than not, a person who stays in this kind of relationship has very low self-esteem. They do not think they have anything of value to offer another so they just suffer the consequences. They often drift into deep depression. They can't think clearly and come to the conclusion that they have no choices about what to do with their lives.

The good news is that this isn't so. It is merely a conclusion that is the result of you honestly not having any respect for yourself either.

The main thing to realize here is that you do have choices. Once you realize that you have choices, then you will be able to start defending yourself. In most unhealthy relationships, the dominating partner has taught you that it is all your fault. Once you buy into this, you become the weaker partner who simply submits to the control of the other person.

Though it can be very difficult to either walk away from the relationship or set new limits that can heal the relationship, it can be done.

Don't be one of your own worst enemies. Don't go on a guilt trip that you don't need to go on.

Some people are able to break the sequence of events that lead to this kind of relationship.

First of all though, before any problem can be resolved you need to recognize that a problem does exist.

The truth is that most relationships are able to be salvaged. Sometimes, each of you just needs some space. Sometimes, as a couple, you need to get counseling. But if both partners make an attempt to rejuvenate the relationship, it is possible to renew the bonds of your relationship in a healthy way.

The first thing you need to decide is that the relationship must improve or you're going to have to get out of it. If your significant other realizes that you aren't willing to walk away, you'll never be able to heal that which divides you. The cycle will continue just the way it is. It's like an infection. If you don't take the proper treatment to remedy it then it is only going to get worse.

Once you recognize that you are in a poisonous relationship and are able to affirm your need for freedom from such a relationship, you are on the highway to healing the bonds that tie you.

Don't incessantly annoy the other person. Just let them know how you are feeling. You can tell them, "I am feeling a particular way and I need your support in this situation" or "I just want you to love me, no ifs, and or buts..." Don't be demanding, just let them know how you feel. Remember that the other person needs to be told how you feel. They cannot read your mind. Don't allow them to continue on their track of control and domineering behavior.

You need to talk to the other person. Make sure that they realize that if you don't get what you need from the relationship then you are willing to get out of it.

Think of a healthy relationship as one where both people can grow. The couple nurtures each other. They support each other and bring out the best in each other.

In an unhealthy relationship, only one person is growing stronger. The domineering person's needs may be met, but the weaker individual is stagnant and crushed.

Recognize this. Don't let it happen to you. Be your own best friend.

Want some more ideas about building love relationships? Discover MY BLOG and read more about how to have the kind of relationship that you really want.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Escape Emotional Hell - End Your Difficult Close Relationships

The idea our closest relationships are meant to be difficult is a myth.

Life is meant to be difficult; our close relationships are meant to support us in getting through life. In difficult times we bond closer - the relationships themselves should not be creating the difficult times.

They are meant to make us feel good despite what is going on in the outside world. In close relationships worth having you do your best to support the others you relate to, right?

Not everyone thinks like this though.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are thinking 'well I know relationships are meant to be difficult but I did not think they were supposed to be this difficult', and you have been thinking this for some time, it may mean you are missing out on a fact staring you in the face but too painful to face up to yet:

you are not in a relationship worth having.

You may not, in fact, be in a relationship at all. Relationships are two way. At least two people see themselves as being in 'a relationship'; contributing to and benefitting from that relationship and each cares about the experience the other is having. The most important factor is a sense of trust. By thinking highly of them you have opened your Unconscious Mind to this other person and they can now dip right in and affect your feelings directly - so trust is vital.

The main criteria for developing trust in a relationship is that all participants relate. If relating is blocked because of mistrust there is no relationship. Do they mistrust you?

If the other person or people refuse to relate to you as you wish to be related to, if they treat you with mistrust or you find them untrustworthy, you need to acknowledge this and decide accordingly.

Your commitment, your investment of time and love and energy, the hopes and dreams you have for the future of this relationship could be yours and just yours alone.

Those negative emotional responses you might be having, the occasional outbursts of rage or crying or grief in response to how you are treated or not treated and then which you feel guilty or really bad about? Those are signs your Unconscious Mind knows what is going on but your Conscious is refusing to listen to it.

We are surrounded by relationships working just fine without all that angst. The people in them are having no difficulty making them work. They just work. You can have those kinds of relationships too - but you have to accept not everyone is suited to you; not even, unfortunately, blood relatives.

No, you cannot change your blood relatives genetically - but you can change whether or not you relate to them physically and emotionally.

If you are dealing with blood relatives who hold the threat of 'excommunication from the family' over your head while they act abusively towards you, relying on the myth of your having no choice but to put up with it (a myth you yourself maybe perpetuate and need to change) I would suggest you challenge those relationships.

But there is a risk you could lose them. I have. Two blood relatives of mine borrowed money from me continuously week after week for seven years.

One repaid me by stealing from me while the other ended the relationship when I explained I did not mind loaning the money so much as I minded the lack of warmth and communication in our family - when I loaned money I was 'liked' but if I did not loan money or the money was not wanted I was belittled - I wanted us to be a proper family. I was met with a cold, heartless stare and an 'I never want to see you again' in response.

I respected that decision.

There are other blood relatives I have disconnected from for similar reasons - but really I have not disconnected from them so much as made it clear what kind of relationship I was willing to have or not have and stuck to my 'guns'. I used to be emotionally very ill because I could and would not make this kind of tough decision - relationships that do not serve you and the others involved emotionally are a form of self-imposed torture system.

I have not come away from these things completely blameless - I often got very negatively emotional along the way. But I have learned that when I feel helpless in getting a relationship to work it is because usually the relationship is unworkable.

We have no power, right or ability to force others to like, respect or value our contribution to their lives. When we feel helplessness in a situation like this it is because we are genuinely helpless!

The benefit of going through this experience is we get better at spotting, taking part in and enjoying empowering relationships as a result and avoid those potential relationships that would leave us high and dry and possibly emotionally sick again.

Testing Your Relationships

One way to test whether or not you are in a relationship worth having is to ask the other person straight whether or not they think the two of you are in a relationship worth having - when they ask why you are asking just tell them you are going through a phase of testing all your relationships.

How do each of you feel about the relationship? Each of you should be able to explore the highs and lows and the worries and history of the relationship without either of you becoming too defensive. This is not intended to be a slanging match - this is exploring the wonder of having a relationship at all. How do each of you see the relationship developing?

Talk about the future of the relationship. This may seem like a strange, frightening thing to do but we need to bust through that other myth: relationships are like magic and if you talk about the magic the magic will not work any more.

In every single relationship I have had that worked (and still works) this kind of discussion was seen as a perfectly natural and valid thing to have. In those that did not work, and which were extremely painful to work on, these kinds of discussions were a taboo and were met with aggressive responses.

My personal experience is that making tough decisions in this area of life is of primary importance in emotional self-care (not just for yourself but for the others involved, too).

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Relationships - An Astrological Look at Possibilities

When a client comes in for an astrology reading for what is current in their lives, one or more of three primary categories motivate them: health, money/career, and relationships. Oh there are lots more reasons for a reading, but those are the three biggies and accounted for probably 95% of the thousands of readings I did over my years as a professional astrologer. Now that I am retired, researching and writing, I get to examine the assumption in more detail and the concept holds true. In this article we will deal with relationships as we explore some of the various charts and techniques that are available to astrologers.

Before you can understand any person in a relationship, you must get a feel for that person as an individual. What does that person bring to any relationship (giving)? What are they looking for from the relationship (taking)? How will they participate in a relationship? The easiest way to determine these preliminary factors in relating is to lay out the two charts for the individuals side by side to try to get a quick fix on the individuals involved and their key issues. Once you have created a picture in your mind of these individual qualities then you begin to draw comparisons between the individuals by comparing their chart positions. Compare Sun to Sun and every other planet or point in your arsenal, Moon to Moon and every other planet or point, etc. This chart technique is not about the individuals as individuals, it is about the relationship between the individuals and how one affects (or infects) the other. This is called synastry and gives the nitty-gritty detail of a relationship.

Most of our computer programs do this automatically and you can print out a grid which details those connections for your reading convenience. For much of my astrological life, such conveniences were not available and I learned to do it by hand, tedious, but instructive. As any good cook making a pie crust will tell you, using the hands makes a more satisfying crust. True, just ask. I do this step twice, not because I am detail crazy, but because they produce two different results, both of which are useful to me. Construct this synastry chart as a double wheel, with person one on the inside and person two on the outside. Then, reverse the positions, person two on the inside and person one on the outside. This is the same information, but the layout and use is different.

How do you read these charts? The person in the center of the chart is primary, the person on the outside is secondary to that inside person. The person on the outside benefits, affects or infects the person on the inside. The person on the inside is a stand-alone about the person as an individual. The person on the outside brings something new to the table which may be a positive, a negative or absolute confusion. Read that chart thoroughly, being sure to keep the primary (I) and secondary (you) in correct relationship (there's that word again.) Now put that chart aside and look at the reversed position chart. Same rules but now the story is about the other person. The number 2 person becomes "I" and the number 1 person becomes "you." Read that thoroughly being sure to keep the primary and secondary in correct relationship. You have just generated a ton of information which can keep the two people busy for decades! But relationship reading does not stop there.

When a relationship occurs, a new entity called "the relationship" comes into being, i.e., Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith as a couple. We are never truly quite the same with any other person we encounter. My relationship with each of my four children is unique and has a shape and texture of its own. Each pairing is a unique entity that must be read individually. These charts pertain only to the unique relationship. It must not be read as belonging to either individual involved because that is a false application. This is tricky to remember when you're reading charts created for relationships. Birth charts are for the individual. Synastry charts are how individuals affect each other. Relationships charts are about the unique relationship itself, not the individuals. Of course, this can also be done two ways.

For the longest time composite charts were the name of the relationship chart game; it was the only mathematically viable choice. The basic premise of a composite chart is: what happens if two people in a relationship meet each other halfway on all issues (a pipe dream). The composite chart does that. It is a construct and not a real-time chart. It filled the bill quite nicely for generations of astrologers. All you had to do was be willing to ignore that it was not a real time chart and participants in a relationship rarely met each other half way on all issues!

Mathematically it was quite easy to add the two midheavens together, divide that sum in half to create a new position halfway between the two midheavens. Do the same procedure for the two ascendants. Planet-wise, same procedure: add the two Suns together, divide that sum in half to create a new position half way between the two Suns. You would then do the same with two Moons, two Mercurys, etc. You lay out the wheel according to the MC/Asc and their intermediary cusps from a table of houses, drop the new planet positions in where they belonged naturally, and then read the chart as a unique relationship entity. This process is so much easier with the advent of computers. Just push a button and out pops a unique relationship!

Many astrologers forgot it wasn't a real chart and relied on it as the total expression of the relationship itself. You would then read the chart as a relationship and carefully correct your clients when they attempted to turn it to a personal statement about their chart and life. That just doesn't work. It must be read as a unique relationship.

An accurate, real-time, trustworthy chart did exist, it was just such a bear to construct, that few astologers would attempt it. You had to find the midpoint in actual time and space between the two birth times, the time standards in effect, dates (365 ¼ days per year, that ¼ could bite you), longitudes and latitudes. When you got all done doing the math, it was a calculated guess because there was no way to proof it without doing it all over again. I was one who would attempt it, but it would take me hours of effort and was very frustrating. I taught it, my students looked at me like I was nuts and rarely tried it. With the advent of computers, accurate relationship charts could be spit out instantly. Eureka!

Sometimes we can be quite lazy. Why throw out what has been working so beautifully over the years to learn a new trick? Composites are still the most popular form of relationship charts. We now have one real chart and one not-so-real chart. The not-so-real has filled the bill for generations. The real chart has little to no history to study, but it is gaining in usage. Do you throw the baby out with the bathwater? I pondered on this for a while and my conclusion was that both charts had value, they simply showed different aspects of a relationship. The composite chart showed the potential of a relationship... what could occur if you met the other person halfway on all issues (not most people's reality), that which lures us into a relationship because we can see the potential. The calculated relationship chart shows the actuality of the relationship, how it really works out in real life in real relationships.

My version of a famous saying is "What you sees is what you gets." Again, this is not my personal experience. Sometimes we get what we see, more often we don't. So how do we determine this in a relationship? The closer the two charts (composite and relationship) resemble each other, the better the chance that you are going to get (real time) what the potential (artificial time) shows you. The more distant or different those charts are, "what you gets is not what you sees!" I've read these charts this way for over 30 years. It works for me. The rest is for astrologers who are not faint of heart.

One other point... If you and I live together, we will be simultaneously stimulated by events, perhaps somewhat different in effect, but occurring at the same time. Therefore, there must be common degree points, with very little orb, to be triggered simultaneously. Orbs need to be tight, 5Ës or less, closer is better, exact (less than 1Ës) is what I'm always seeking. Tight orbs! I have had the good fortune as a researcher and bad fortune as a participant to have charts of entire families and have been able to watch these simultaneous activations. They do work, particularly with major events. Build yourself a family of charts and research important dates for activations.

I hope this article has given you a good overview of the possibilities of reading relationships. Comments are appreciated.

Marilyn Muir, author of
Presidents of Hope and Change: Bringing Hope to our Future by Reaching into our Astrological Past