A simple framework for building better relationships


Relationships are key to mental health.  If our relationships are strong, then we more than likely will be healthy.  If, however, our relationships aren’t strong (or worse), then there’s a strong likelihood that not only will our mental health be compromised, but our physical health could also come under attack.

The thing is that, really, relationships have to be developed and maintained.  Too often, I hear stories of people who want their relationships to be “how they used to be” and don’t put much energy into how those relationships are right now.  One of the many things that I appreciate about my formal training and education is that the “hows” of building relationships were constantly addressed.  Because I studied Leadership from an educational psychology perspective, I learned a great deal about student and colleague motivation and performance.  The core idea was that building relationships between people can lead to success in various educational and clinical contexts.

For example, within the mental health treatment field, it’s almost become common knowledge that the main predictor of treatment success is the client-therapist relationship.  That is, if the therapist and client relate and communicate well with one another, then treatment is more likely to be successful.  The difficulty is that, while clinicians train in relationship building, the average person does not.

Which is why I provide the tools I provide: I believe that we can all lead our own lives.  It may sound silly, but building strong and positive relationships will be a predictor of how healthy and successful we are at leading our lives.  I provided the graphic, above, as a framework for strengthening our relationships in any given context.  If we can build a “mutual context” by first, asking ourselves the questions in the graphic. If we answer “no” to any of the questions, then the next step is to find and execute things until we can answer “yes” to all four questions.

I didn’t make this up.  An expert in adult learning, Malcolm Knowles, did.  He’s written several books about how to best train adults and he said (in a book called the Adult Learner), that building an educative environment is the foundation.  He says that if adults are respected and allowed to freely express themselves, and if they have access to necessary information and share in outcome responsibility, then adults will learn.

Sure, I stole this concept and applied it to everything that I do because, really, life changes constantly and we must always learn in order to adapt to changes.  When we don’t adapt together with those whom we share our lives, our relationships will suffer.

So, if you want better relationships, try building a “mutual context” as demonstrated in the graphic within your relationships.  It does take work and self-awareness, but really, work and self-awareness are the main ingredients to success in any aspect of life.  I can’t guarantee this will work, but I can guarantee that if you do nothing, your relationships will not only NOT improve, but they’ll probably degrade over time.  You have everything to gain…