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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.


February 2015: “Create Conscious Closures in Your Relationships”

At some point in time, all of our relationships will come to an end, whether by chance or by choice. For those where we have a choice, this month’s practice is dedicated to choosing a conscious, peaceful closure, one that preserves good will for both parties. The first step toward this is an authentic desire for good on behalf of our partner. Regardless of the situation, if we can get to a place where we can see that our partner’s wants and needs are not that dissimilar from our own, we are able to engage in a more enlightened conversation without getting sucked into the details of who said what. From this more spacious perspective, we can acknowledge the relationship for all of the ways it has served us individually and collectively. The final step is owning our own truth about what’s needed now in order for our continued growth and well-being. The more we can engage in this conversation peacefully, without blame, the more we are able to preserve good will and promote acceptance of this new reality.

As you engage in your relationships and particularly those where a closure is eminent, consider this month’s approach as one framework for having a conscious conversation. These conversations don’t have to be dreaded unskillful messes. When done well with thoughtfulness and a heart full of gratitude, they can be gifts for both us and our partner. Notice what happens when you consciously engage in these conversations. How does it shift the energy between you and the outcome of the conversation as a result?


Updated 02/28/14 09:57

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