This page gives you information about building and maintaining positive relationships.
It includes the following sections:
1. Stress and the potential consequences on our close relationships.
2. Support resources to help us maintain positive relationships.
3. Some tips from interpersonal effectiveness skills for tending relationships.
We can focus our attention on the close relationships in our lives, and tend to them.
1. Stress and the potential negative consequences
on our close relationships.
Challenging times bring many stresses. The emotional consequences of stress can create negative impacts on our positive relationships with others. This means that the quality of our everyday sources of relational contact and support begin to erode, more tensions arise, we have less sources of strength we can draw upon, and so our situation worsens.
This can all lead to an increasingly negative cycle, which can spiral out of control, making it difficult for us to regain our balance. If we live with others in close proximity, such as in the current coronavirus situation, it also makes it challenging for us to take our own physical space away from a stressful home situation, to regain our equilibrium. Personal boundaries may become blurred, so that it is more challenging to have respectful interactions with others. Personal insight may become clouded leading to intrusions into personal and psychological space, that then cause conflict. We may become entangled and enmeshed.
If we are supporting others, stress can erode our ability to have the strength to carry or support the people we care about. We may need to provide extra support, as well within challenging situations. We may become worn out from all of these stresses. We may have a long journey ahead for each of us.
The resources on this page deliver strategies and skills for each of us to practise, to act as protective factors to help maintain our positive relationships in challenging times.
2. Support resources to help us maintain positive relationships.
To maintain positive relationships, we can use the following resources:
1. We can understand the impact of stress from the change and uncertainty the current the current coronavirus situation is bringing. Use the understanding stress page.
3. We can use mindfulness and relaxation strategies to recover from the mental and physical consequences of stress and emotional distress. These strategies are foundational resources to help us to be less emotionally reactive, as in the fight or flight response, and become more robust. Mindfulness and relaxation also can strengthen our capacity for being more creative, flexible and adaptive, so we can increase our problem solving skills that are needed in challenging times. By attending to our own needs, for example, through practising mindfulness and coping skills, we are then in a stronger and more positive place to recognise and attend to others’ needs. We can nurture ourselves. We can keep our personal boundaries, and respond effectively to the give and take in our relationships. Use the foundations in mindfulness, the coping skills page and the well-being activities page. Also look at the interpersonal effectiveness tips at the bottom of this page.
4. We can give our attention to the relationships in our lives, and tend to them. We can provide support for others, whilst ensuring we nurture our own needs. There are resources and advice from the relationship charity RELATE that focus on maintaining good relationships with others. Here is the link to these resources: Relate’s advice for positive relationships
3. Tips from interpersonal effectiveness skills
for tending our close relationships.
In challenging times, we can draw upon the range of skills in interpersonal effectiveness to help improve our relationships with others. These skills are drawn from Linehan’s Dialectical Behaviour Therapy skills training (2014). Interpersonal effectiveness means attending to the relationships in our lives, and keeping them in balance. Unattended relationships can cause friction, difficulties and challenges. The ability to tend to, repair and keep relationships from breaking down, is important. Balancing demands and priorities is a basic task for structuring one’s life so that it is not too empty and not too full.
SHAPING POSITIVE INTERACTIONS WITH OTHERS: We can help shape positive interactions in any of our relationships. For example, within the current coronavirus situation we may be in close physical proximity to others in a home space where individuals are feeling stressed. This creates the potential to respond in unthinking ways. So we can choose to shape the way we respond to others by: being gentle, acting interested, validating the other person, and using an easy manner within our interactions. Validate means that we acknowledge the other person’s wishes, feelings, and opinions.
RELATIONSHIP REPAIR: We can repair our relationships when things go wrong in them. Repair is something you do for someone else as a way of repairing the relationship if it has been damaged in some way. The relationship we have with each other is central. Positive relationships are based on trust, respect, and cooperative work on both common and individual goals. In order to interact flexibly, in responsive partnership, we can establish a shared dialogue to achieve self chosen or common goals using a dialogue structure, which the paragraph below briefly summarises.
Interpersonal effectiveness focuses on doing what works, rather than what is “right” versus “wrong”, or “fair” versus “unfair”. It is understanding and playing by the rules, to achieve goals and objectives. So we can agree a dialogue structure with the person we are interacting with, so that both parties can explore some common ground together and positively interact to achieve goals and objectives. The dialogue structure can help to ensure trust and cooperation. This is the dialogue structure (see steps 1 to 7). STEP 1. We describe the situation in concrete terms and without judgement. STEP 2. We express our feelings, conveying to the other party how the situation makes us feel. STEP 3. We each assert our wishes, i.e. we clearly state what we do or do not want. STEP 4. We explain why the desired outcome is desirable to us. STEP 5. We stay mindful and present in the moment, focused on the current goal. STEP 6. We adopt a confident posture and tone, and maintain eye contact. STEP 7. We are both willing to negotiate, and to give in order to get, with the understanding that both parties have valid needs and feelings.
Brodsky, B.S. and Stanley, B.S. Chichester. 2013. The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Primer. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
Linehan, M.M. 2014. DBT Skills Training Manual (second edition). New York. The Gilford Press.
Swales, M.A. and Heard, H.L. 2017. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. London and New York. Routledge.