Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 38: couples and family considerations 3

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 26, 2017

This is my 38th installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-37.)

This is also my third installment to this series to discuss jobs and careers planning from a couple’s and a family perspective, where we have to look beyond our own personal and individual needs, interests, goals and preferences, to accommodate those of others as well (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I focused in Parts 1 and 2 of this on couples, and in Part 2 on the two members of these committed relationships carrying out a specific planning exercise that I have found useful, and in a variety of jobs and careers contexts:

• The constraints box exercise, where both parties separately sit down and think through and list their basic geographic and other needs, preferences and desires, that would constrain what they would preferentially seek in their jobs and careers planning.

Both members of a couple would at least initially think through and write down their constraints box requirements separately, as just noted, and with a goal of bringing their lists together in order to develop a combined, reconciled constraints box list that both would find satisfying. And at least initially, both would couch their individual constraints box entries in general goals-oriented terms – and not in terms of specific possible ways to achieve them. The goal there is to draft these documents in terms that are as open as possible to reconciliation and combining, where lists of specific ways to reach more generally stateable goals, can create irreconcilable barriers to that, with the people involved arguing over the more inconsequential details and not actual underlying needs.

And with that noted, and to round out my Part 2 phase of this discussion, I add that it is very important that both parties take the time and make the effort to actually write down their constraints box lists and with all pertinent to them, items included there. That way, both lists can be more fully addressed – and even if one of the involved parties is presenting their case more forcefully than the other. If it is all there in writing, it will be easier to ensure that all of this, and from both participants, is included in the ensuing discussions.

And I will add in this developing context, that if the points made in those constraints box documents are generally stated, and if a focus is maintained on including all of the points that each of the two people here see as fundamentally important to themselves and without including issues of less importance to them, that can and will serve as an ongoing reality check that can keep discussion from drifting into what for this exercise are more the inconsequentials.

And this brings me to the end note appended to Part 2 of this narrative:

• “I find myself thinking at least in part in terms of the classic fairy tale plot line as I write that, with the bulk of a story offering a narration in which an at least eventually happy couple finds each other and comes together – generally after an adventure or two. And then ‘they live happily ever after.’ That, is in effect where I leave off this narrative as I end this posting – at the start of what is hopefully that happily ever after. Coming to at least provisional and here and now based agreement on overall goals and priorities, at least at the constraints box level is just a first step in a longer process. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will at least point out some possible directions for finding and taking that next step. And in anticipation of that, I recommend starting with a list of shared goals and priorities, and with a focus on ones that are centrally important to both involved parties. I will develop this narrative from there in my next posting to this series, where I will also at least begin to address change and how it impacts on us as individuals and as couples.”

And I begin addressing that, by switching direction in what I propose here. Draft and write out your constraints lists, and certainly as individual exercises in general terms. But carry out the reconciliation and combining half of this exercise, in bringing those individual lists together, in more specific, actionable, here-and-now terms. This means coming to at least sufficient basic agreement as to general overall goals and requirements to be able to plan together from there. But it also means moving past that to consider and decide upon specific actionable courses of action for moving forward that both would find positive.

There is a saying to the effect that silence is golden, and it can be argued that there are circumstances where silence and listening can offer greater value than speaking out. But this is one circumstance where silence is anything but that – where it in fact can come to serve as slow acting poison. If either party in this shared narrative of an exercise simply bites their tongue and remains silent, withholding reservations, objections or doubts, then any actions taken in follow-up to this exercise will have been built upon sand. Combining constraints boxes –lists of fundamental needs and concerns, means come to compromise agreement on what for both members of a couple, are decision points that are really fundamental to them. And that type of accommodating change and compromise is never easy.

Air and discuss concerns, and even fears if they arise. This is a circumstance where open candid discussion is essential and where reticence, and the unspoken but deeply felt word will come back to haunt – and certainly if a member of a couple sees their not having a say as having led to their heartfelt needs not being considered.

• Why do I pose all of this in such at least potentially melodramatic terms? That is because this is an exercise that most of us only seem to arrive at when we are facing transition points, and at least potential crisis points that can be harbinger to them – and then, the openness and the willingness to both speak and listen that I write of here, are essential.

And where possible, make changes in ways that leave you ways out – Plan B alternatives, if for whatever reason your first tries do not work out as expected and desired. Plan for resiliency and flexibility, wherever that can be made possible.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will add in two forms of complexity: family that goes beyond simply being a member of a committed couple, and the unexpected as that can render what has been good planning up to now, less so. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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