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UMBC Wellness in the Workplace

Practices for Cultivating Healthy Relationships

A series of monthly relationship practices by Jill Weinknecht Wardell, Training and Development Specialist, Training and Organization Development department

What are healthy relationships?

Wellness not only applies to individuals but to relationships as well.  What are healthy relationships?  Healthy relationships are those that are capable of movement, transformation, and change.  The way you cultivate healthy relationships is by putting practices into place that raise awareness and create new possibilities for you and/or your partner (whether it be a supervisor, colleague, friend, or loved one). 

What is a practice?

A practice is something (an action, words, or way of being) that you intentionally put into place in order to create or forward positive change.  You may choose to practice for the sake of another without them knowing it or if you have an interested and/or willing partner, you may enroll them to practice with you.  Either way, it is important to pay attention to how the quality of the relationship shifts over time. 

What are benefits of practicing?

We forget that just as we are capable of change, relationships too, are capable of change.  Nothing is the way it is things are the way we design them to be.   Practicing helps us reclaim our role as a co-creator of our design.  Even if our partner is not willing to practice with us, we can create a sense of peace and well being in ourselves and likely change the course of our relationship simply by choosing different ways of seeing, being, and acting. 

Relationships serve not only the two people who are involved but a larger network as well a department, work colleagues, family, friends, and the community.  For the sake of these extended communities and their well being, we need to tend to our relationships to ensure that they are healthy and functioning, providing internal as well as external support to us and to those whom we serve.

Practice Logs

Keeping a practice log is one way of tracking progress.  It is not meant to be a journal and need not be lengthy.  The intention is to succinctly focus on the following:

  1. State the practice
  2. Context in which you employed the practice (at home, at work, etc.)
  3. What phenomena occurred
  4. What phenomena you noticed before employing the practice (in yourself and/or in your partner)
  5. What phenomena you noticed after employing the practice (in yourself and/or in your partner)

Example of how a log entry might look:

January 12, 2009
Practice:  Notice the difference between phenomena (what actually happened and observable through the senses) and story (my interpretation of it).

Today, on my way to the office, I said hello to a colleague who did not say hello in return.  I immediately noticed my shoulders raise and tense up, my breathing halt, and a feeling of resentment well up.  I began creating a story about how rude she was to ignore me, assuming that she had.  I remembered my practice and became curious about what other stories and other possibilities might be true.  Possibly she didn't hear me or maybe she was caught up in an assignment.  As I imagined these stories to be true, I felt my breathing return to normal, a spaciousness return to my posture, and a feeling of peace return.  I was able to let go of my truth and any resentment I felt toward this colleague.


April 2015: “Create Space for Your Partner to Thrive”

We’ve all done it. In an effort to be helpful, we over insert ourselves in situations with our partner and the outcome feels more like control than help. What’s going on here? If we stop and examine our desire to help, often we will find an underlining concern present about how our partner is/isn’t handling the situation. Once we’ve identified this, we should ask ourselves the following questions: “What will the outcome be if I intervene and voice this concern, both for the situation and my partner?” and “What will the outcome be if I don’t intervene and let things play out, both for the situation and my partner?” There are benefits and consequences to every choice we make, and, in this case, there may be larger consequences on our relationship if we try to micromanage the situation. When we give our partners enough space to trust their instincts and make decisions, we create the conditions for them to learn and thrive.

In the next month, as you coordinate action with different partners, notice your desire to help and take a deeper look to identify any underlying concerns. Ask the above questions and determine whether or not you will intervene. If you choose to intervene, consider how you might do so in a way that preserves multiple perspectives and gives your partner enough room to learn and thrive. Notice how this practice shifts the dynamic between you and helps you both learn and thrive.


Updated 02/28/14 09:57

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