National psychology week aims to increase public awareness of how psychology can help people and communities lead healthier, happier and more meaningful lives.
One of the most common issues that people seek support from a Psychologist for is relationships.
Just to give you an example, the other week the primary issue for 80% of my clients was relationships. Specifically, my clients were experiencing the following:
- Work relationships: feeling excluded from social events at work; feeling bullied by the way a manager had provided work direction
- Family relationships: feeling pressured to be the sole carer of an unwell parent; siblings arguing about the best care for an elderly parent
- Intimate and sexual relationships: not feeling physically attractive or receiving sufficient levels of intimacy from a partner; wanting to end a relationship but not wanting to hurt the partner’s feelings; feeling alone within an intimate relationship; feeling sexually unsatisfied
- Triangulation and fidelity issues: developing feelings for a person extraneous to the relationship; recently discovering a partner had been cheating for months.The common theme seems to be this issue: how do we nurture our relationships with others (pleasing our partners, ‘keeping the peace’, being available) whilst balancing our relationship with ourselves (respecting our own needs, wants and desires)?One of the first steps to resolving relationship issues is communication. In fact, we can take this a step back and say one of the first steps in preventing relationship issues, both personal and professional, is communication.
Steps to building healthy relationships through communication:
- Make time to connect with those you are in a relationship with: text messages and Facebook posts don’t count. Consider scheduling regular ‘catch ups’ or ‘chats’ with those in your life.
- Open and honest dialogue: be aware of secrets that fester and derail any genuine opportunity for repair within relationships
- Respect for self and others: demonstrate respect with appropriate body language and considerate use of words and tone
- Active and reflective listening: avoid distractions, be present, and reflect back in your own words what you think your partner/friend/colleague is saying
- Stick to the topic: avoid digging dirt up from the past
- Use ‘I statements’: it is much more effective to use an ‘I statement’ to communicate your message rather than a ‘you statement’ which tends to sound blaming and activates the defences in your listener. Compare the following statements and think about which one might be more effective: “I get the feeling that you don’t want to talk about this issue at the moment. When might be a better time for us to sort this out?” vs.: “what’s wrong with you? Why won’t you listen to me? You need to talk about this with me now!”
How can Psychologists help?
Psychologists are experts in human behaviour, having studied the brain, memory, learning, human development and the processes determining how people think, feel, behave and react. With respect to communication, Psychologists are trained to help you articulate your needs, wants and desires in an assertive way.
Psychologists are trained to coach you to develop clear, clean and concise ways of getting your point across that still respects the needs, wants and desires of the receiver of your message.
Psychologists can also teach your conflict resolution skills to help you iron out disagreements with others in constructive ways. Furthermore, Psychologists can also provide relationship and couples counselling if you want a safe space to discuss concerns as a couple, team, group or family.