Keep it Simple in Significant Relationships

An Article By Jeanie Marshall

Keep it Simple

I have long felt that the common advice to "Keep it Simple, Stupid" is a conflicting and demeaning statement. To keep it simple is smart and wise. The stupid reference has not ever appealed to me, whether it relates to keeping it simple or making it complicated. So I have re-constructed the KISS acronym to be "Keep it Supremely Simple."

Keeping it supremely simple is important. However, I'm more likely to suggest to others (as well as to myself) to make it supremely simple. But the acronym would be MISS instead of KISS. I'd rather kiss than miss. So, whether you keep it simple or make it simple, my comments apply.

Many people complicate situations. The medical industry, taxation, laws, doing business on the Internet are just a few of the examples. For sure, these fields employ a lot of people! The more areas in which people can share their skills and creativity, the more the world expands. I'm all for expansion, and I'm not advocating that you live in a log cabin without electricity in order to simplify your life.

I share my paraphrase with you and apply it to significant relationships, whether they are romantic or non-romantic. Significant relationships can be at home, at work, in the neighborhood, or among friends. These are relationships that are important to you, whether you kiss, hug, shake hands, or connect virtually.

KISS in Relationships

A relationship with one other person is dynamic, potentially very complicated and/or complex. Add another person and the complexity increases dramatically. For each additional person added to the equation, you increase exponentially the potential for both complication and complexity, and with that comes possible misunderstandings and the need to make or keep it simple.

How to simplify? The simple answer is, by focusing on one interaction at a time. Of course, many different topics interrelate, so it's tempting to bring in data to explain or justify a perspective or to make a connection between one situation and another. If it truly clarifies and helps you to keep it simple, then it can add value; if it complicates the current conversation, then it can detract from the focus of the interaction and personal relationship.

Of course, when everyone is feeling good about a conversation or interaction, finishing each others' sentences, making short-hand references to previous situations, this is an exciting dynamic in relationships. In such conversations, an outsider would be exceedingly confused or amused. But from inside the circle of a long term relationship, this "complexity" can be pure joy.

It's when the relationship is strained or when you're pressured by time that it's particularly helpful to stay on topic. Sorting out one distinct subject or part can seem awkward; however, when you clearly define the subject of conversation or the problem to solve, it can catapult you into understanding when misunderstanding is the predominant dynamic.

So, when you feel under pressure in a discussion, you can move yourself forward more constructively by first stepping back and trying to find a way to make or keep it simple. And when you can, Keep It Supremely Simple.

A Situation Needing a Kiss

In my personal development coaching and consulting work, my clients raise many different subjects. Recently, Elizabeth (a pseudonym, of course) was having some difficulties with her husband. She had all sorts of reasons to be angry with him. If I had been talking with him, he would have told me all the justifiable reasons for his being angry with her.

Elizabeth told me more information than I really needed, so I interrupted her flow with a question so that we were in more of a conversation than a monologue. She was in the sorting-out stage, trying to decide what to say when she next spoke to her husband. As soon as I knew she was in the listening mode, I suggested she keep it simple and say to him, "Before we talk again about this morning's conversation on _____ (the situation), I just want to say the most important thing is that I love you."

A statement like this, when said in a loving moment, is very powerful before re-visiting an argument. In fact, it sometimes means there's no need to re-visit the specifics of the argument because understanding has happened on a deeper level. And if you do re-visit the discussion, it helps to pave the way to re-visit the argument in a more loving attitude. Reconnecting in the loving space that you both want can revitalize you. Humor can also be deeply healing.

And, just to complete the story, Elizabeth did start her next conversation with her husband that way. He melted in her words, feeling and sharing her sincerity.

Here's an important caveat. If you make a statement like this too soon or in the middle of an argument, it can feel very manipulative to your partner or friend. And it can be especially uncomfortable if the subject is extremely important to you both. Uncomfortable moments can lead to deeper, more satisfying relationships when the focus is on understanding. KISS, be loving, and kiss.

Sample Sayings to Kiss and Make Up

Before I present some phrases you might use following an argument with a significant other, as in Elizabeth's case, I think it's most helpful to preface the suggestions with this important thought: relationships that are significant, especially when they're long-term, have a variety of patterns and history that cannot be captured in a one-size-fits-all simple, magical statement. However, I want to present a few as a way to prime the pump so that you can find your own simple phrases or re-framing in your significant relationships. During a situation when you find it a challenge to keep it simple, you can at least not complicate it.

  • "I care more about you than about the tube of toothpaste we squeeze differently. Let's get two tubes; one for you and one for me."
  • "I know we got started on that topic that always hooks us. If I didn't care so much about you, I wouldn't get hooked. Let's find another way to talk about that next time."
  • "Let's kiss and make up."
  • "I'm so glad that we're together."
  • "Isn't it magnificent that we can explore this, even though it's a little messy?"
  • "Let's find the most empowering way to move forward."
  • "How can I support you?"
  • "What do you want/need from me right now?"
  • "How can we keep it simple?"

Additional Resources

Keeping in the spirit of finding simple ways to ease and enhance relationships, I encourage you to ask questions that are empowering and to understand that every decision is a choice which shapes your journey. Even very strong relationships can have their delicate moments, so it is important to know when enough is enough.

Copyright © 2008 Marshall House. All rights reserved. Jeanie Marshall, Personal Development Consultant and Coach, has developed Empowering Personal Development to encourage you on your path. This article is not available for republication without express written permission.

Kiss in flight


This Article reminds you to Keep it Simple

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