I received a moving email from Esther Perel this week, reflecting on the many and varied ways that relationships have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. She included an exercise I found so useful that I wanted to share it. Drawing on Robert Johnson’s Polarity Management Grid, Esther suggests the following:.
Draw a cross. This is your grid. On the left side is Position A. On the right side is Position B. On the top left quadrant, the person with Position B will list the positive aspects of the OTHER’S argument. On the bottom left, they will list the negative aspects. On the right side, the person with Position A will do the same for the OTHER ARGUMENT.
Let’s say Position A is letting your child play with other children and Position B is keeping them at home. Position B will write the positives of Position A (“it will make them less lonely; they will spend less time on screens; they need social time) and the negatives (they have asthma; grandma lives with us). Position A will do the same for Position B.
When we only list the positives of our position, the other person inevitably becomes tasked with emphasising the negatives. But if we include both the positives and negatives in our own arguments and for each other’s arguments then it will help us come to a decision that considers all factors and helps us see eye to eye, even if we don’t completely agree.
If you are having disputes at home that are difficult to navigate, this exercise may well help. Finding advocacy for positions other than your own can be hard, but it can also be extremely helpful. It may be that neither position is the one you end up with, but the process may well help you come up with alternative ideas that incorporate the best of both, or that you find a softer, more respectful way of being with your differences that helps you navigate more gracefully.
Relationships are not always easy, and just now so many of our usual ways of being have been disturbed. We are finding new ways to relate, new normals, and that takes energy and work. The rewards however, can be long lasting and deep.