Originally published 29 June 2019. Updated 11 October 2022 for accuracy and relevance.
This post on building healthy relationships explores personal and professional connections and includes two practical exercises to help you look into how you connect with yourself and others.
Healthy relationships help us discover self-love
Relationship experts tell us that human connections offer us one of the best opportunities for healing. Experience of any healthy relationship confirms this.
Relationships are like mirrors. They reflected back to us who we are and how we show up. In this way relationships help us:
- Grow and understand ourselves.
- Heal and integrate.
- Improve our future relationships with others as we begin to connect actions with impact.
This means that as long as we’re paying attention to what is happening in our relationships, we have a very useful barometer to know how we’re doing.
Recently I had a conflict with a colleague who also happens to be a friend. I was deeply disappointed by how I felt he was letting me down and I told him as much. But on reflection, I realized that the person who was letting me down was none other than myself. It was I who:
- failed to set clear expectations for our working relationship,
- tolerated repetitive errors and even paid for them,
- excused poor work on the grounds of being compassionate and kind.
As I value this person and care about relationships, I made time to sit down to reflect on this experience. Doing this helped me realize the massive gift our conflict brought to our lives. The experience helped us both grow.
Improving through learning
The experience and reflection helped catalyze a vital change in my approach to working partnerships. It helped me:
- Dissociate compassion from professionalism. Beforehand I was collapsing them together into one.
- Regain healthy self-respect. I was able to respect myself and my standards and be someone who could hold them with others.
- Genuinely softened toward my friend and colleague in my heart. By separating our professional relationship from our friendship, I could stop seeing him as someone who let me down. Instead, I began to regard him with fresh respect as someone who was teaching me how to develop strong boundaries and learn to navigate work relationships that cross into friendship in a clean and respectful manner.
Paradoxically it was the feeling of being let down that had kicked off my initial resentment and caused my heart to close.
Exercise 1. 5 questions to improve your personal and professional relationships
1. How do I feel in this relationship?
Noting how we feel is an important step to being honest in our relationships. And being honest with ourselves is the first step to deepening connections or stepping out of relationships that are not working. Be honest: deep down, how does this relationship really make you feel?
2. What are you giving or bringing with you?
It’s a cliché, but healthy relationships really do take two people to make and break. Ask yourself, What do I bring to the table? Is the balance between what’s given and taken right? Am I taking this person for granted?
3. What value(s) ground the relationship?
Whether we’re talking about an intimate personal relationship or a professional connection, there’s a reason we linked up. Be clear on what you value. Work out what your shared values may be. Are your expectations reasonable?
4. Are you capable of handling/dealing with internal conflict when it arises? And, are you able to be with the conflict that may arise in the other person or people?
Separating internal and external conflict is a real skill. Do you know how to spot when different parts of you can’t seem to quite agree? Internal confusion and conflict often transfer into our relationships. Similarly, if others are or feel conflicted about something this state will affect their actions and behavior. Here are a few questions that I find helpful to answer:
- Have I always felt this way or is this feeling new?
- What’s changed recently to cause me to change how I feel?
- What are the key points of difference?
- What’s really important to me about this situation?
- How would I like to be treated in this situation?
5. Are you prepared to listen and find a nurturing resolution to the situation?
Listening and being listened to are the bedrock of good communication. And yet, so often we listen less to hear what is being said and more to know when we can interject or say what we want or need to say. How are your listening skills? Do you tend to summarize what you just heard to check your understanding? Do you tend to readily assume things or jump quickly to conclusions?
And, how does it feel when you are heard and given an opportunity to explain your thinking or actions? How does it feel when others are curious about you and want to learn more?
We can all practice being patient and openly curious in our conversations.
Lack of self-love is often the root cause of many problems
There are many ways in which we can sabotage our progress, growth and relationships. These factors often boil down to two key mechanisms:
- lack of self-love and/or
- lack of self-respect.
Does this sound familiar? Then you may want to seek professional help to address this situation.
Healthy relating starts from a place of being able to:
- recognize and acknowledge how we truly feel,
- take ownership of what belongs to us and what does not, and
- know effective methods to calm and soothe painful feelings and emotions,
- ask for what you need from others,
- repair conflict to allow us to return to healthy relationships.
Exercise 2. Talk to your body: a guided mindfulness exercise for better connection and improved wellbeing
This video supports the Body Talk book and encourages you to build a healthy relationship with yourself and your body.
Take a dive into the relationship you have with yourself or another
At the heart of healthy relating is a person who feels aligned inside. I have established a unique approach to help individuals become and stay whole based on the mind, heart, body, and spirit integration. Based on this framework, I have also developed simple and effective ways of communicating one’s needs to others.
The process and practices I use form the basis of our heart and mind retreats. In these gatherings, we gently get to work with these four critical parts to strengthen the whole person, surface and transform internal conflicts and teach the person how to tap into their different strengths for greatness.
Our retreat returners are a joy to watch.
People who engage with this work move with greater ease, grace, and confidence. Their lives seem to flow more. I’m not surprised. When we untangle and release internal conflicts, we make room for life and release energy that was tied into keeping things stuck.
Discover for yourself how you too can create more possibilities in your life.
Start forging beautiful emotional connections
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