Back to basics

1 + 1 = 2

By Donald The Neosapien.

Back to basics” is a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot lately from various people regarding various things in fact, one of friends, a civil engineer, says it is a basic grounding principle used in their field when calculations seem inaccurate or difficult to break down. This is what this article is about, back to basics when it comes to relating. I’ve often heard people ask old married couples what their secret is to being together for so long and the simple truth is that they have the basics right (those that are actually happy being together that is, not the ones who tolerate each other for their own safety). This begs the question, what are the basics? Honesty and expectation management has to be two of the strongest basic principles that one can apply to any relationship from mother and child, client and supplier & boyfriend and girlfriend etc. Speaking the truth about what you want, what you can provide by when and updating this as you go along makes a monumental difference in how you relate with another person.

Remember the time when your friend said they would come at xx time and five or even ten minutes past that they send you an sms or call you to tell you that they are running late as if you are not aware of it, think of how the frustration would have been alleviated if they had the courtesy to inform you in advance of their inability to make the appointment on time, as well as an estimated time of arrival (No! not the complete lie we’ve grown accustomed to accepting on the phone, you know the “I’m five minutes away” lie). Managing the expectations of the other person is paramount in avoiding conflict. I challenge you to try it; I must state however that managing people’s expectations is far easier if you tell the truth.

It is pointless for you to tell someone that you are running late and that you are five minutes away when in actual fact you are 20 minutes away, this will not alleviate frustration it may actually exacerbate it. So telling the truth is just as important as managing the expectations. So how does one apply these in a relationship? Well firstly it is important to state what your expectations in the relationship are, so that both parties are aware what they are getting themselves into, this will also allow for the parties involved to discuss what they find impractical, unreasonable and so on and so forth until they reach a middle ground where in the relationship will commence. One of my friends was in a situation where his partner told him that she has a child three months into their relationship which freaked my friend out; this of course, is a case in point of the results of not applying these crucial principles.

Managing expectations also prevents the painful reprimands of your partner, you know those that come with the tone that says “you should’ve known better!” because they literally would’ve known what not to do had you managed this. Many people do themselves an injustice by going into relationships without stating their expectations and knowing their partner’s. Both these basic principles go back to one timeless principle which is communication. We all know how important communication is in a relationship but knowing this alone is not enough, we need to also know how to apply it and these two principles are ways to do so.

One of the reasons why men don’t communicate as effectively as they could be, is because they feel that some things are better left unsaid because they open up cans (yes the plurality here is deliberate) of worms. For instance, if a man’s old high school friend, who happens to be female, asks him to meet up for coffee and a catch up, it is very unlikely that the man will tell his girlfriend the full details for fear of conflict, 21 questions and statements like “oh so it’s okay if I also meet up with Tshepo for coffee as well” (yes I am aware that not all females would freak out). In the man’s mind, lying about it is conflict prevention because no man wants to deal with a woman freaking out; this increases our cholesterol levels tenfold. Although the thinking is inspired by a bit of ‘goodness’ the execution is flawed and this is what has led men to their conundrums for decades, in fact most men say the application of these principles is utopian because of the results they tend to yield.

It is therefore imperative that men and women recognise the application of these principles as an effort to communicate effectively in the relationship and not use them as a door to open a world of hell. In other words, it is an insult to morality to have a man say “it would’ve been better to lie than to tell the truth” this is not a world any of us want to raise our children in! So the onus lies with all of us to be able to take the truth as it is told. Tall ask?

Think of the situations you have experienced recently that would have been better handled had your expectations been managed or vice versa, think also, about your ability to handle the truth and how this will affect people telling it to you as a means to manage your expectations. These are very basic principles that we have complicated so much, are you smiling in agreement? Well, let me know your thoughts.




  1. Nhlanhla

    The basics are more than just a set of foundational necessities. The basics sustain the success of an venture, relationship and objective. The danger however is that we sometimes ignore the basics in favour of the more complex. Little do we realise that if we are faithful in how we manage the basics we may not even have to encounter the complex.

  2. Well,, I am nodding in agreement, but
    my recent experiences, lead me to the notion that even if you clearly state your expectations, in whatever relationship, it simply is seen as wanting too much, too early. I believe in honesty, from the word go, but getting the person you are with to follow, can be a hurdle.
    So somehow the ‘basics’ does not apply to him or has malfunctioned.

    Question: how does one cross the bridge to get the next person to lay all cards on the table? In the early stages of any relationship.

    • admin

      I think that it boils down to maturity, the older we get the less we want to ‘play’ relationship and we want to get to the point quicker to save time so if a person you are with feels that you are wanting too much then perhaps you are settling by being with them. To answer your question, just do it and if the person is willing to be with you in the long term, they should be able to handle it.

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