Thursday, 1 December 2011

How do you know you have done a good job?

I just know!
Someone tells me!
Here's the next in our series on filters, those things which help us make sense of the world.
One that causes some difficulty in relationships is when one partner is 'internally referenced' and the other is 'externally referenced'. Let's explain this without the jargon.

What pops into your mind when I ask you the question "How do you know when you have done a good job?" If your immediate response is "I just know"  then you probably  have an internal benchmark, set of criteria or referencing system that tells you. If you respond with "Someone tells me" or "I compare what I've done with something that is known to be a good example" then you look outside yourself for an indication - or reference!

We've talked about these behaviour and thinking patterns as a continuum. This one has 'internal' at one end and 'external' at the other. Many people of course fall in between the two extremes, perhaps taking on external feedback and checking it against an internal 'knowing' to get a match. If we don't get a match do we trust the external or internal answer?

Relationship problems and arguments are more likely when a couple find themselves at opposite ends. This can be because of their prefered, usual or 'default' position, or confusingly it can be context related. So someone could be internally referenced at work and externally referenced at home, or vice versa. Externally referenced when undertaking a new project and internally referenced when engaged in a familiar task, or vice versa! Despite this we will all have a preference for how we filter information through this particular screen. 

Are you internally or externally referenced?
To know which way you tend towards, first ask yourself "How do you know you have done a good job?" If you're still not sure and you look for external information as well as check it out internally, which of the two answers you get do you trust the most?

Jenny and I are towards opposite ends on this one! Jenny prefers to receive 'feedback'. The external input can give her a new perspective on things she hasn't considered before. Unfortunately at times, this also makes her less robust if the feedback is negative and externally referenced people can come across as needy or indecisive. 

I will listen to feedback, if I have asked for it and then check it against my own internal view. If there is a mismatch I usually ignore the feedback! Being internally referenced gives me great self confidence and the capacity to take risks others might avoid. Internally referenced people can at times come across as opinionated or arrogant. 

What can you do?
Because, like everyone else, we treat others as we would like to be treated this can cause us some communication issues.When Jenny has done something, I need to remember to give her positive feedback. Negative feedback from me is more destructive than from anyone else because of our closeness. This may apply in your relationship too.

When I have done something, Jenny has a much harder task of getting me to see any 'errors or omissions' or even admit I need any external input!

I'm glad to say we have found a way around this potential minefield and only occaisionally set off a landmine. We have also put in place good first aid facilities to effect fast healing and repair.
A large part of this is in remembering our differences and giving the other what they want not what we want.

We'd love to hear from you if this pattern is causing mischief in your relationship and how you handle it.
If this sounds horribly familiar and you would like some help to sort it out please get in touch by email or phone.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jenny & Nigel,

    Thank you so much for another great article. It always amuses me to notice that Malcolm & I tend to be on opposite scales on quite a few things, including on this one. I'm also more of an "away from" and he's a "moving towards" kind for ex. Still !!

    Thanks again for your work with us a couple of years ago. You're really helped us ...

    Keep those great articles coming !!