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.
This month‚Äôs practice comes from author and consultant, Stephen Covey. In his book, ‚ÄúThe Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,‚ÄĚ Covey uses the metaphor of the Emotional Bank Account to describe relationships. This metaphor works with any relationship ‚Äď coworkers, family, friends, etc., and the idea is simple. We enter into relationships with a neutral balance and over time we can make deposits or withdrawals. Instead of using dollars, we view these deposits and withdrawals in terms of ‚Äėemotional units‚Äô that are centered around trust. In the book, Covey outlines six ways that we make deposits: understanding the individual, keeping commitments, clarifying expectations, attending to the little things, showing personal integrity, and apologize sincerely when we make a withdrawal. We will be delving further into each of these over the next six months but for now wanted to lay the groundwork for the overarching philosophy of relationship as emotional bank account.
Over the next month, look at your relationships in terms of this concept. Pay attention to those that have a positive balance. What deposits do you make on a regular basis to tend to these relationships and what difference does it make? Similarly, with relationships with a negative balance, how did they get there? What withdrawals do you make regularly and what difference do these make? Write down what you observe and keep this list handy for next month as we begin exploring the first of 6 major ways of making relationship deposits.