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I came to a realization that Relating to one another is an art. I have learned that many of us have difficulty in Relating to others. This difficulty includes listening to others’ ideas and beliefs, responding preferably to others, accepting differences between ourselves and others and finally learning about the notion of ‘otherness’.

It seems that Relating is possible when we intentionally select and practice a few principles when interacting with one another. To me, Relating is a mutual process. Relating is not felt in vacuum; it is experienced when two persons allow themselves to be open to and influenced by one another.  The important principles that support the formation of experience of Relating to one another are ‘prohibition of judgment/ criticism in relationships and self/other awareness’.

When we enter into a relationship, our conversations are the points of entry to receiving or giving reflections to one another. This process of exchanging ideas lead to self-awareness and eventually to otherness.  Without relationships and conversations, Relating to one another is not experienced. We are products of our relationships and our identities are formed in relationships. Thus, principles are not constructed in relationships automatically or by accident; they are constructed by mutual attention, intentionality and commitment of both parties in relationships. Relating to one another is possible when we creatively tune into each other and we deliberately pay attention to practicing relational principles in relationships!

Relating to each other is an intentional act.  The experience of Relating is not possible when the relational principles are neglected or impoverished in relationships. People experience emotional safety when both parties decide to exclude or put limits on the presence of judgment/ criticism.  When judgment/criticism is not practiced, people feel more comfortable to relate to each other and experience safety in relationship.  Experiencing emotional safety in relationship, therefore, invite understanding and further connections among people.

Relating is not possible without act of listening.  Listening makes people attune to ‘what and how’ things are exchanged in relationships. It increases people’s ability to change or modify the direction of conversations. Listening is overly talked about in relationship building books but it is underused in our daily conversations. What might possibly contribute to its difficulty to be practiced is some think listening means minimization and invalidation of their ideas. This way of thinking, which promoted in our cultural and social discourses, reinforces and invites judgment/criticism’ to our internal dialogues and consequently to our way of positioning ourselves to each other.

Listening, to me, is a practice of holding onto our own ideas loosely as we actively pay attention to what a person says. As actively listening, we may notice some differences/ similarities between our ideas and others’ and we may find out some gaps in our own thinking or others’.   In this process of identification, it is important not to feel threatened by differences but remain open to examine and re-view our own ideas.

Being OK with differences is resulted from a habit of ongoing reflection and willingness to re-view our own ideas and beliefs; it is an expression of viewing other ideas as valid, real and possible. Accepting differences is linked to the idea of multiplicity and multiple realities which is contrary to the dominant idea of searching for Truth. Truth seeking practice leads to elimination of other realities; it prevents people from Relating to one another; it encourages people to hold strong positions against others. Truth seeking practice limits the possibility of talking, exchanging ideas and understanding different point of views; it brings judgment and criticism to our lives and create divisions among us.

I wonder how often we find ourselves to re-view our own ideas and how often we tend to question the dominant ideas such this one.  Would you view your ideas as one idea among many or do you view them as the only truth? How do you think this way of thinking affect your relationships with others?

I found questions that deconstruct and shed light on the history of our ideas/ beliefs be useful to consider; for instance, questions such as: where my ideas/beliefs come from, why I chose this particular set of beliefs about others and so forth. Reflecting and questioning our views might open up space for new possibilities in our thinking and might lead to further self/ other awareness.

Self- awareness requires openness, practice of listening and understanding other’s point of views. We are not able to learn about our belief system without allowing others to shed light and reflect on various aspects of our ways of living/ our ways of responding to matters.  Self- awareness is somehow formed by our ability to listen to other views on us and by our willingness to reflect on our own ideas/beliefs.

What is important to keep in mind is ‘how’ we talk to each other. Do we deliberately pay attention to the importance of emotional safety of the other party when talking to a person? Do we make any effort to increase our awareness when interacting with others? Do we prohibit presence of any sign of judgment/criticism in our thinking when conversing with others?

It is also crucial to reflect on ‘how’ our talk makes a difference. Does our talk encourage us to re-think, re-view and have clarity on various matters or does it make us distance ourselves from each other?

With listening, sharing ideas and accepting differences, we may become further emotionally available to others and experience the joy of Relating to one another.

Happy possibilities,

Tahereh Barati, M.A, RMFT