Resilient relationships – starting to master the art of interaction
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Keith Abrahams Dip.HG.P
30th March, 20170 Comments
Some people find it easy to be in relationship with others. Some find it challenging. Those who feel challenged may have various reasons to explain why that might be. It could be, they may say, due to their personality type. Perhaps they feel introverted, clumsy, awkward, or even very anxious. Some might be able to describe past experiences that have been discouraging or even traumatic. Others might simply explain that they don’t have the ‘operating manual’ of what to do, say, think or feel around other people. They may feel stuck.
Those that decide to address their challenges may do by, for example, exploring how their personality type can help them get their social needs met. This often involves some form of questionnaire such as Myers-Briggs, Thomson International and the Emotional Capital Report. These generate insights for them which they are then able to sensitively explore with their counsellor, seeking ways to be able to build more secure relationships with others. That can be work relationships, career development, life partners or simply in the day to day meeting of acquaintances maybe even strangers. The healthy relationships we need to make are many, varied and will, by their nature, be unique to us.
Others may address past traumatic relationships by seeking out a gentle and non-invasive form of therapeutic intervention. The ‘rewind technique’ advocated by the Human Givens Institute, is a good example of a gentle and straightforward approach. Once the trauma is resolved, clients often find they can explore ways to develop their confidence in forming relationships that work for them even more easily. They start to build the ability to trust.
Those that wish to construct their ‘operating manual’ may find that a course of instruction or workshop based on a pragmatic approach, like the ‘emotional resilience in action’ model approach delivers fast and effective results, from the client ‘not feeling good enough’ through to them feeling ‘resourceful and ready to interact’.
All such forms of intervention are helpful in getting the client to level one of ‘how to interact’. At this level the client will have developed a set of tools and techniques which they then apply in a very formulaic manner. They tend to be overly focused on applying the tool correctly, so much so that they are unable to pay very much attention to other people around them! A combination of both those factors might leave the client feeling self-conscious. It's often termed ‘performance anxiety’ where our focus is on doing something perfectly. If the client is not supported properly at this point, they may well feel they have slipped back, when in fact they have made progress. It is a delicate phase of growth.
It is, therefore, helpful if at this point there is a counselling intervention that supports (in learning and developmental terms it is called ‘scaffolding’) the client to enable them to have the courage to tolerate their frustrations, take on board learning, adapt their tools and keep acting, that is keep interacting.
The whole point of this learning phase is to inspire calm, confidence and persistence in the client, so that they move from being overly self-conscious to suitably self-aware and with enough confidence to pay appropriate attention to the needs of the other, i.e. the person they want to be in relationship with. Instead of being focused on using the correct tool or perfect response, the client becomes focused on handling a two-way exchange with interest and kindness.
As the client starts to master the art of interaction, they will start to think and feel differently. This calm ‘inner stance’ becomes the bedrock for mastering relationship building.
About the author
Keith Abrahams is widely experienced and trained in various psychology models. He has practiced as a therapist both privately and as a volunteer, with a specialism in working with trauma. He lectures in business and leadership for professional development organisations.
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