Who Walks Away with the Game Ball in Your Relationship?

In the moment that the Giants Quarterback was about to pass the ball in the NFL Wild Card playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants on Sunday, January 7, Clay Matthews stripped the football. The ball bounced down the field, and a Giants running back watched as it wobbled to an almost stop.

But Clay Matthews went after it; shoved the opponent—who still watched the wobbling ball—out of the way, and pounced on it. Playmaker/Claymaker Matthews stood up cradling the football and walked off the field, game ball in hand.

Two things happened in these few seconds. First, most of the players—save for Packers, Julius Peppers, and linebacker, Clay Matthews—assumed the play was dead. Second, no whistle was blown. Clay Matthews was fully present, focused, and disciplined the whole time.

The idea of being fully present and focused is becoming a precious commodity as more and more of us are easily distracted with external stimuli. We half hear each other. We nod a thoughtless confirmation with usually limited understanding of what’s going on.

Like the NY Giants players, we make assumptions—fill in the blanks in our ill-informed experiences—and arrive at conclusions that sometimes have devastating consequences.

Here are our 5 tips to immediately be a playmaker in your relationship:

  1. The idea of having your head in the game is a good lesson. Set down mobile devices. Listen. Focus. Be present.
  2. Miguel Ruiz says it best in his book, The Four Agreements: “Don’t make assumptions.” Get clarification—answers to wobbly thoughts.
  3. Good Communication requires excellent follow through. Don’t leave the discussion without resolution. Don’t stop playing until the play is over—until the whistle sounds.
  4. Align yourselves with others who are like-minded. Just as Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers thought the same thing above the “live ball,” they reached mutual understanding, however they communicated.
  5. Do whatever it takes to save the moment. Matthews shoved the opponent out of the way. Make sure you shove away any detractors—those emotional vampires who undermine your relationship—as well as rid yourselves of excuses:
    “Why didn’t you go for the ball, man?”
    “I thought the ball was dead.”
    “Why didn’t you ask her about…?”
    “I didn’t think she wanted me to.”

Every moment in our relationships counts. You don’t need a time clock, whistle, or a referee (we hope!), but, like a playmaker, you do need good instincts and follow through. Blow your own whistle on assumption-making. We promise it’ll gain you a lot of relationship yardage, and you’ll both walk away with the game ball.