A series of monthly relationship practices by Jill Weinknecht Wardell, Training and Development Specialist, Training and Organization Development department
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
Let’s face it. We all have personal, negative behaviors that impact our lives and the lives of others around us. When we receive feedback, it’s often easier to defend these behaviors and point the finger at those on the receiving end then it is to take a good, hard look at ourselves. When we look a little deeper, we may find ourselves attached – finding ways to show how these behaviors are justified and have served us over the years. Often though, letting these behaviors go unexamined and unchallenged has also negatively impacted our lives and our relationships. November’s practice is to determine and let go of one negative behavior for the sake of our relationships.
In the coming month, spend some time reflecting on feedback you’ve received over the years and identify one behavior that has created significant problems in your relationships. Regardless of how you feel about the behavior, commit to not practicing it this month. Create a strategy for how you’ll handle situations where this behavior typically shows up and when it does, try something else. If you have a hard time identifying an alternate behavior, think about one that will augment a deeper connection and fostering of good will between you and your partner. Know that being uncomfortable is a sign of learning! Notice how the creation of this new positive behavior impacts how you are received in your relationships and strengthens them as a result.