The “Big Three” Relationship Skills

The “Big Three” Fundamental Relationship Skills PART 1

Many of our clients have had limited opportunities to experience healthy relating directly as they were growing up.  Their role models were absent, ineffective or abusive.  As a result they are at a genuine loss to know what to do when trying to form or be present in a relationship.  They simply lack the tools.

Giving them the tools – helping clients to understand and learn the skills that are required to relate – is an important part of what we can offer as relationship therapists.

Part of that job is to be clear what tools are appropriate for a particular client and their specific situation. We consider that there are three core groups of tools that all relationships require.

The Three Fundamentals Skills:

  1. Connection Skills – You can’t have a relationship by its very definition unless you Connect. There are a vast array of ways people connect from being silly together to sharing a moment of profound awe, from hanging out in a comfortable silence to opening up about their deepest fears.  In other blogs we have talked about different domains we can connect through and also the different levels our connection can occur across.  At all levels and across all domains there are key skills, such as listening with an open mind and heart or of sharing your concerns without judgment or blame that need to be cultivated.
  2. Repair Skills – We all make mistakes and we will continue to do so in our lifetimes.  However, mistakes do cost and messes require cleaning up.  Repetitive mistakes usually hurt more and as such require bigger effort and attention to heal.  So, a set of skills to help repair the emotional hurt is vital to enable a couple to heal, move on, learn and continue to develop.    Without repair skills resentment builds, connection weakens, hurts are ruminated over and relationships stagnate.  Recognition, responsibility and remorse are important components in forming an effective couple specific repair process
  3. Negotiation Skills –  Wherever two (or more) people are relating, differences will eventually emerge and, where there are differences, conflict is inevitable.  In intimate relationships, negotiation not only requires  identifying and defining your position but also sharing a deeper understanding as to why it is matters to you.  You need to share this in a way that does not claim you are “right” nor imply that your partner is “wrong” because they think differently.  Negotiating well in love relationships involves  the generosity of being interested in and caring about what your partner thinks and feels about the issue at hand.

Our discussions of these “Big Three” skills with clients allows us to assess what is and is not known alongside what is and is not able to be applied.  This assessment needs to be on-going throughout therapy as new skills are taught and experimented with.

In Part 2 of this series we will discuss more fully some of the HOW of working with these “Big Three” skills in the therapy room.