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Relationship Skills
with
Geoff Paull
Just what is an effective close personal relationship?  This could be in romantic and family situations, at work were close
cooperation is required or in any personal relationship where openness and honesty are foundations of the quality you find with
the other person or people.  .

Some relationship enhancement skills seem to use negative emotions or sensitive confrontation to some extent.  This can be
functional because truly close relationships are robust against challenge and open expression.  In fact, intimacy is unlikely to be
sustained without:


permission to express feelings of ALL types when they arise


courage to admit when you have caused a problem (or maybe to have wrongly assumed something)


sharing of the responsibility to seek solutions (i.e., not just victories over one another)

The success of close relationships comes largely from an understanding of fair fighting (e.g., rule No 1 is to fight for solutions),
the use of celebration to acknowledge and reinforce effective relationship behaviour and good times; and carrying a permission
to get it wrong sometimes.

This is something like living from the heart - that a good relationship follows patterns like a heartbeat.  That is, it has lows that
are a chance to learn and initiate change and growth, and highs that provide for satisfaction and celebration.

The alternative is to fear expression and tolerate irritating or dysfunctional behaviours - settling instead for repressed emotions,
compromise and no chance for change or celebration.  In fact, as many relationships end due to lack of fighting as do because
of conflict.  In terms of heartbeats, these compromise relationships are lifeless!

Here are fourteen characteristics that cover the major areas.  In good, robust relationships, partners exhibit these characteristics
or skills to a greater degree

Assuming responsibility.  Each of you assumes responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts and actions in the relationship.

Showing respect. You demonstrate that you accept and value each other. You listen attentively as well as talk. You do not put
each other down.

Demonstrating affection.  Liking, appreciation and desire are openly revealed by both words and deeds. You gain pleasure
from giving and receiving warm and caring stokes with your partner, colleague or friend.

Showing commitment. Each of you is committed to the welfare of each other and of the partnership. You are trustworthy in
keeping any contract that you have for the enhancement or maintenance of the relationship.

Caring. Each of you shows that you are concerned for the physical safety and psychological wellbeing and development of the
other.

Being open and revealing. Each of you is prepared to risk revealing yourselves openly and honestly. You are prepared to trust
each other with your innermost thoughts and feelings.

Feeling safe to give and receive feedback. Each of you feels safe to comment on the other's behaviour and on what is going
on in the relationship. You work to stay honest and in touch with one another.

Lack of defensiveness. Neither of you feels the need to deny and filter information in order to feel more psychologically
comfortable. And neither of you wishes to diminish the other by defining them in your terms only.

Showing understanding. You understand the other person on various levels - through sensitive intuition, through increased
knowledge of them, and through good listening skills on an everyday basis. 

Constructive use of anger. Each of you owns your anger, tries to understand it and to handle it constructively. You do not hurt
each other needlessly, and, on the other hand, you don’t compromise when fair fighting is appropriate.

Collaborative management of conflicts.  You view conflicts as problems to be worked through together - and you fight for
solutions, not for victories over one another.

Non-exploitive sex. Any sexual relations are based on mutual consideration and affection, with an understood entitlement to
ask for your needs to be met.

Shared activities. You enjoy activities together, but allow each other space to have separate interests as well.  And you arrange
to spend time together - your relationship is important enough that you willingly find time to make it work well.

         Close personal relationships are processes and they involve the continuous application of good skills. 

                                       Their rewards are huge - their price is constant vigilance and energy.