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.
We’ve all been there. A colleague, friend, or loved one shares some devastating news with us. In this moment, we are caught off guard and offer one of the following clichés or canned responses: ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ ‘Let me know if you need anything,’ etc. Think of a difficult time in your own life where you’ve heard the same words. Did you feel connected and comforted as a result?
The goal is not to get rid of using clichés entirely. If we truly believe and mean what we’re saying, then continue to use them. However, if upon examination, we’re using them to recover from an awkward moment (i.e., it’s more about us), then instead pause and allow the discomfort in. See this moment as a gift to authentically communicate and be of service. You don’t need to have the perfect words. Be present and simply asking how your partner is feeling. Simply listening and reflecting back your own authentic words of encouragement or finding out what’s needed most and then delivering support can make a world of difference. Practice authentically communicating in the next month and notice what shifts occur in you and your relationship as a result.