During the best of times, life’s seas are smooth and picture-perfect
blue to the horizon. This special blue is sometimes calm and dark and at other
times sparkling and full of energy. Either way and through all the various
shades of blue that lay between the extremes, life is easy and happiness
abounds. Think of these as your “blue flag” times.

There are also red flag, yellow flag, and black flag times for you and
for your significant other. The red flag is for frustration and anger. The
yellow flag is for stress and apprehension. The black flag is for depression
and feeling bummed-out. As you listen and learn, your task is to identify which
flag is flying, understanding that the flag can change quickly and with little
to no notice. More specifically, you need to know which flag you are flying
before you are ready to detect your significant other’s flag.

Assuming that you know which flag you have out, your first task is to
keep your flag under control. If you are flying your red flag, your
responsibility is to contain your anger and frustration so it does not spill
onto your significant other. Do not take it out on anyone else.

If your yellow flag is out, your responsibility is to share your
feelings with your significant other, knowing that you may not know exactly why
you are so up-tight. Importantly, do not play twenty questions, even if your
significant other tries to play. Say, “I really do not know why I’m so
upset. It will help more if you just let me talk and try to be patient. This
will pass.” Of course, if you do know why, talk specifically about that.

If your black flag is up, talk, even though that may be the last thing
you want to do. Withdrawing or going off by yourself only makes things worse.
You would be pushing your significant other away and reducing your emotional
resources. As surprising as it may be, you will find that your underlying issue
is anger and frustration. Your black flag is a red flag in disguise. The goal
is to responsibly let the anger and frustration out where you and your
significant other can deal with it together. The two of you can handle it much
better than you can by yourself.

If you are a responsible manager of your flags, you are ready to
constructively deal with your significant other’s flags. If the flag is red, do
not react with anger and frustration of your own. A medium blue flag is needed.
You need to stay calm and open to whatever is being said. Your main task is to
let the anger subside; and it will. Once your significant other is a little
calmer and more settled, you can discuss the issues. Just take care not to give
much importance to whatever was said in anger or out of frustration. It is
usually not true that those were the real feelings. What you hear when things
are calmer are the real feelings. Do not lose that perspective.

If your significant other’s flag is yellow, see that the feelings of
stress and apprehension are very uncomfortable and may even be painful. You are
seeing a person who is hurting. If you keep that perspective, it will likely be
easy to respond appropriately. A light shade of blue is needed, one with energy
and compassion. As you actively listen, you can deepen your blue flag, slowing
down and calming down as you talk. Your significant other needs held,
emotionally and perhaps physically. Certainly, you are just the right person
for the job.

If you are seeing a black flag, beware. Recall that it is a red flag
in disguise. There is intense anger and frustration there; and it can
spontaneously blow in any direction and onto anyone, including your significant
other. When such angry feelings are turned in, suicide, among other things, is
a potential outcome. Your response needs to be dark blue, with your emphasis on
listening and learning. Just being there may be all you can do. Trying to push
your significant other to talk is not the way to go. Be there and ready to
talk, though.

Flag management rests on managing your personal flags. It then mostly
has to do with responding to your significant other’s flags in caring and
concerned shades of blue, avoiding raising red or yellow flags of your own. As
Simon puts it, “Listen to me, hug me, be there for me, and don’t get too
bent out of shape just because I do. If you will do that for me, I will give
you my ‘best effort’ to keep my blue flag flying for you.”