What is it about relationships? We all want them, and we all have them, they can give us much pleasure… and sometimes much pain. How simple life would be without relationships… we could get so much done. Or could we?

Humans are social beings. We are not designed to be alone. Humans are not capable of developing their full individual potential in isolation. And yet, does our culture not prize ‘being independent’, ‘doing it on my own’? ‘If I depend on you I see myself as needy….’

This then is a conundrum. Personal fulfilment, and particularly the full development of human potential, requires that one focuses on oneself, for only I have full control over how I respond to all opportunities and challenges, which come my way. On the surface, this is what a coach helps me achieve.

But to equate this to being alone is a mistake. A better definition might be to have a sound relationship with myself, so that my relationships with others can be strong. This then is the true focus of coaching.

So what does it mean to have a healthy relationship? It all seems to boil down to communicating. Using the above argument, we therefore need to master communication on at least 2 levels: with ourselves and with those around us.

Lets take the easier first. Any healthy relationship between two friends or partners seems to rest upon trust and open and active communication. The opposite is true also – sitting as an observer in a divorce court for one morning will prove this conclusively. Seems so simple: we just have to communicate effectively to enjoy the blessings of living happily with others. Then we will have wonderful, lasting and nurturing friendships, marriages and relationships with children. Perhaps simple, but not easy. This is where relationship coaching becomes powerful, life-changing.

So what about the relationship I have with myself? What do I mean? Well, do I forgive myself for making mistakes, am I accepting of who I am, am I gentle and compassionate with myself? These are ingredients of a healthy relationship with myself. Or am I constantly seeking some state of perfection, typically defined by others, the media, adverts, TV…? I am I therefore critical of myself (‘for not being perfect’). Be honest when you ask this question.

Another example: Can I hear what my body tells me when I get a cold or am tired, or do I grab the nearest coffee, Aspirin or antibiotic? Since stress and burnout comes up so often in coaching, we have to wonder… The problem is that when my body needs a rest, whether I choose to hear and listen or not, that need does not go away – one of the irrefutable laws of nature. My body will get its rest, one way or another – hopefully not the ultimate rest!

From a coach’s perspective, almost all coaching is in some way aimed at building healthy relationships. This could be a healthy relationship with my boss or customers, with my friend or partner, or with myself. The latter, ironically, is the foundation, and yet seems the hardest to cultivate.

Part 2 will focus on the role of body language in relationships.

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