What the Squid Game Taught Us: Rules to Win in Relationships

What the Squid Game Taught Us: Rules to Win in Relationships

I have been a lover of Korean Dramas since 2020 when I used it to find an escape from low-grade anxiety and dread of the COVID world. It appears that I wasn’t the only one discovering K-Dramas because the South Korean tv series Squid Game became the most-watched show ever on Netflix.  

Squid Game follows the lead character Gihoon, a gambler who is down on his luck and has just signed away his organs to loan sharks while trying to win money in a race to buy his daughter a decent birthday gift. With only a dollar to his name, Gihoon is invited by a mysterious man to join a game that promises him a chance to win millions.  

The show boasts aesthetically pleasing visuals and shock effects that keep you on your toes. You may find the show underwhelming if that is all you notice. You may miss out on a lot of cultural nuances, hidden messages, and strange contrasts that are weaved in throughout the show. 

One big contrast we see is how Gihoon treats his mother versus the old man he meets at the game. If you understand the Korean language, you will also notice the contrast between the names of Gihoon’s mother ‘Malsoon’ (meaning the end), and the old man who at the end reveals his name as ‘Il Nam’ (meaning the first man). From the beginning of the show, you can see the appalling way Gihoon treats his mother, demanding money and even stealing from her.  He shows no care for her as she drags her tired body to the markets to sell vegetables. He even shows contempt at her labour, saying why does she even bother when she makes so little money. In contrast, Gihoon shows care and kindness towards Ilnam, a frail old man he meets at the game. Gihoon’s demeanor is completely different from how he is with his mother versus when he is with Ilnam. Instead of looking at the man with contempt like he does to his mother, Gihoon looks at him with kind eyes. Instead of criticism, he comforts and soothes Ilnam. Instead of pointing out flaws, he ties his jacket around the old man to cover his embarrassment when he accidentally wet himself. 

There is no explanation for why Gihoon treats the two so differently, but it does demonstrate that the same person can be very different in the way they choose to behave towards another. 

Often when there is an affair or even extramarital attraction, they feel that the new love interest is so different from their partner. They don’t frown at you or nag you like your partner. They don’t talk to you with a tone or give you the cold shoulder. But you must also ask yourself, how you are to your partner or loved one? 

Just as there are rules to playing a game, there are rules to how we talk to and treat our loved ones. We can easily fall into doing or saying what we feel like. But if you don’t play by the rules, you may all end up losing. 

Here are some ground rules to consider when communicating with your loved ones. 

    • Right timing: Agree on a time when you are both calm and not under stress.
    • Active listening: Practice how to listen actively. Summarise and repeat back what you heard. Make eye contact, nod, and respond to let them know you are listening. Ask questions to clarify, to gain more understanding, not to prove your own point. 
    • Share on a deep feeling level: Focus on the feelings, not content, especially avoid arguing over whose story is right.
    • Avoid interruptions unless needing to clarify
    • Equal time to each for sharing: Don’t dominate the conversation but take turns.
    • No leaving the room in anger: Keep the communication open. Take breaks, specify the time you’ll be away and never more than 20 minutes.
    • Use ‘I’ statements and avoid using ‘you’ or ‘we’. Try to frame the statement as “I am upset (or insert your feelings here) about WHAT (about what not who).
    • No global statement, such as “always, never”
    • Keep to the here and now. Avoid dragging up past issues to make a point.
    • No quick advice. Quick advice invalidates the speaker’s experience and they will end up not feeling heard or understood.
    • No jumping to conclusions or quick judgments. Do not assume you know their experience. Even if you have heard the same thing many times, maybe you don’t really get it. So keep being curious about the other person’s world and their experiences.
    • Be ready to let go and forgive. Be quick to forgive. Most emotions, even distressful ones, only last a few minutes. If you are angry for days, that means you have decided to hold onto hurt and resentment. It is better to find a way to express your feelings and then decide to let go. Keep the long-term goal in your mind. Fight for the relationship instead of fighting to win.