This simple equation explains what we need to experience a thriving, dynamic relationship.

O stands for OBSERVATION

Observation, WatchingObservation is a crucial aspect of any partner’s effectiveness in a relationship. Observation is how we know what’s going on. Without observation we would have a difficult time relating to our partner, knowing what is going on with them or discerning what effect we are having on them.

I stands for INTERACTION

Interaction, ListeningInteraction is the meat of the relationship. Interaction is where the give-and-take occurs. Without interaction we have no way of accurately assessing our observations. We may be convinced that our assumptions about our partner are spot-on but without interaction there is no way of actually checking it.


Relationship, Holding HandsIn its most basic form, a healthy, vibrant relationship is the sum total of our ability to observe our partner and our willingness to check the accuracy of those observations with our partner through interaction.

Observation informs the interaction. Interaction provides a reality test for the observation. When communication breaks down we are ultimately forgetting to incorporate one of these two factors into our approach to relationship.

Balancing the Equation

If the communication breakdown is the type where words are no longer, or rarely, spoken then we are relying too heavily on observation while failing to check our observations through interaction. In this case our perception of our partner and of our relationship can become radically skewed over time. What’s worse is that because we are not checking our observations we have no idea how inaccurate our perceptions may become.

If the communication breakdown is the type where lots of words are being said but nothing positive is being accomplished then we are too heavily engaged in interaction while failing to use observation to connect with what is going on in the moment inside our partner. It can be like he or she is not even there. In this case we start to just put things out there without paying attention to the effect we are having on our partner or what her or his experience in the moment might be.

Both of these conditions can happen in any relationship. The best approach we can take is to remember that we must both OBSERVE and INTERACT in order to have a healthy, vibrant relationship. When our relationship gets out of whack because we forget about the O or about the I then we should work to correct that as quickly as possible. That will allow us to bounce back into balance and avoid the development of a long-lasting pattern of broken-down communication.

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