1) Take turns listening and demonstrating your understanding.

2) Reflect upon your childhood. Who role modelled these patterns for you?

3) Choose to build a new habit: Vulnerability

4) Reveal your feelings and needs.

5) Forgive yourself and your partner.

6) Commit to creating safety and security.

7) Take turns being the Listener and Speaker

8) Cue each other gently


Hi, I’m Brian and I’ve tended to play the role of Maximizer in my relationship.


Suddenly you’re in the middle of it, fighting again playing out your patterns. You know the routine. Something small turns big, voices get louder, you reiterate your points of view, bodies tense in frustration, you’re both defensive and disconnected.


Minimizer/Maximizer roles are conditioned reactions that feed each other:


The more one person maximizes (exaggerates, blows out of proportion, pokes/prods, criticizes, tries to prove they’re right) the more the other person minimizes (withdraws, downplays, avoids or shuts down).


So what’s the way out of these automatic reactions?


Let’s explore some of the inner workings of what creates, perpetuates and escalates conflict with the person you love so that you can choose a new path forward together where you both feel understood and connected.


I’ll share with you upfront the simple unlock:


1) Take turns listening and demonstrating your understanding.


The reason this dynamic spirals out of control is neither person is really listening, or if you are, you’re unwilling or unable to validate the other person’s perspective for fear of proving yourself wrong.


The fear, “If I acknowledge that what you said makes sense, then you must be right, and if you’re right, then I must be wrong. I’m not wrong, so I spend my energy fighting, defending, convincing, reiterating and clarifying in a hopeless attempt to be understood and right.”


You’re both triggered and both have different conflict management strategies (self-protection mechanisms) that show up as Minimizer / Maximizer roles.


Remember these are “roles”, not who you are. They are conditioned automatic reactions that are actually rooted in a deep sense of vulnerability, helplessness and powerlessness.


The Maximizer maximizes because as a child they learned forceful, pushing and prodding was the best way to get through to someone. “What else am I supposed to do!!! If I don’t get upset, exasperated and critical I’ll never get through to them!!!”


The Minimizer minimizes because as a child they learned retreating was the best way to stay safe. They don’t want to fight or give in to the Maximizer getting their way, so they simply pull away. “I might be willing to validate your perspective, but how you’re coming at me is unacceptable or scary. I don’t feel safe to open up and explore my thoughts and feelings when you’re snapping at me.”


Brene Brown’s work relates to these roles as Victim (Minimizer) and Viking (Maximizer). These are also related to survival responses:


- Victim, Minimizer, Flee / Freeze / Fawn reactions

- Viking, Minimizer, Fight reactions


2) Reflect upon your childhood. Who role modelled these patterns for you?


You’ll likely see that you picked up your default reaction from one of your parents. Was it mom or dad for you?


Awareness of your patterns is a great first step. Now you can observe yourself acting them out more clearly, but you still need to choose a new response - replace the old with the new - so what is it?


3) Choose to build a new habit: Vulnerability


The 3rd V in Brene’s work is Vulnerability. It’s the messy, uncomfortable middle ground we avoid with our Victim/Minimizer, Viking/Maximizer behaviour.


When we stay in our default reactions, we miss out on the opportunity to open our hearts to each other. Your partner is just an enemy you need to protect yourself from.


When you choose vulnerability, revealing how you actually feel underneath your Minimizer/Maximizer reactions, you shift from trying to correct to connect with your partner, from ego and armour to caring and companion.


4) Reveal your feelings and needs.


Communicating your feelings and needs is an excellent way to begin understanding yourself and your reactions better which gives you a chance to experience self-compassion and extend that to your partner. Nonviolent communication is an excellent skillset to expand your emotional literacy and needs consciousness.


5) Forgive yourself and your partner.


Self-blame is simply unneeded here. Once you see where your patterns were learned, it’s up to you to forgive yourself and to ask for the forgiveness of your partner if needed. The context of our childhood gives us great insight into the content of our present day adult behaviour.


6) Commit to creating safety and security.


When you and your partner meet in this place of mutual understanding, you can more gently bring attention to each other's patterns without triggering each other. Afterall, that why we’re in partnership: committed to creating safety necessary to work through all of the shame, guilt, hurt, anger, assumptions and expectations that keep us apart to experience true intimacy.


This is the one person that you dive all the way in with, no holds barred. Complete openness and defencelessness is the path to true intimacy - closeness with another human being.


You are teammates in supporting each other to be your best selves. The Minimizer and the Maximizer become retired roles you used to play because you’ve found a way that feels so much better: vulnerability, honest self-expression, empathic listening, humility and curiosity.


7) Take turns being the Listener and Speaker


Remember, takes turns being the Listener and the Speaker.


As the Listener, validate and paraphrase what the Speaker said until they feel completely understood to their satisfaction. Work as a team to create mutual understanding one at a time.


The Parallel Monologue doesn’t work, especially when triggered or in disagreement. Two people cannot be heard at the same time and going back and forth reiterating your point of view is a waste of energy.


8) Cue each other gently


Conscious partners are masters of self-awareness, cueing and re-enforcing new habits in each other that align with their core values and relationship vision, which should always have safety and connection as a priority.


That’s what we’re committed to in secure-functioning relationships: safety, connection, trust, mutuality, fairness and accountability.


This personal internal commitment to acting like a team with shared values is what helps us get over our egos to meet in radical honesty and humility, the ultimate sandpaper for softening the rough edges of the ego that keep us apart.


Here's to opening your hearts to each other!


Brian


“Your task is not to seek for love, but to remove all barriers to it.” - Rumi