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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.


March 2015: “Master the Art of Polite Disagreement”

Most of us have experienced the power of social influence. Think about a time when you’ve been in a meeting and when asked to respond to an issue, you have gone along with the rest of the group instead of staying true to your feelings and thoughts on the matter. In the field of Psychology, the Asch Paradigm were a series of experiments that demonstrated the degree to which one’s own opinions were influenced by others in a majority group. Many times in these experiments participants would go along with obviously poor choices or bad decisions even if the consequences of doing so might diminish their social status as a result. Social influence is tough to offload but there is good news. David Maxfield and Joseph Grenney, authors of Crucial Conversations, recently found that learning the skill of polite disagreement provided the courage for participants to speak their truth and as they did, others followed suit:

Here’s how to do it. In the next month, as you find yourself engaged in group conversations where your opinion is different from the majority, try one of the following sentence stems to politely disagree. For a situation that requires one answer: “I might have seen it differently. I think it’s X.” For a situation where there is no one answer and more complexity exists: “I can see how your solution might work AND I have another to suggest since we’re on the topic.” One of the keys to doing this skillfully is to check your attitude beforehand and find out your intention. If you intend to make others wrong or show that your answer is the obvious only solution, this will come across loud and clear. Even if you feel this way, try to think spaciously and see multiple solutions as legitimate. The more you deliver your solution as only one possibility of 10,000, the more likely people are to listen and your suggestion and still see you as a team player. So, this month’s practice is really two-fold: 1) detaching from the idea of you have the one right answer; and 2) delivering our suggestion in language that disagrees politely, in a way that doesn’t make anyone else wrong. Try this practice in the next month and notice how it changes the dynamic of the group conversation and the outcome of the meeting as a result.


Updated 02/28/14 09:57

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