Management & Leadership

Cultivating connection is the key to healthy relationships

Apr 18, 2018

Relationships are vital, hence the amount of attention we give them. So how can we best use that attention to cultivate healthy relationships?

Everything, from the basics of our day to day survival to the achievement of our loftiest dreams depends on our relationships.  They are so vital that relationships certainly warrant the incredible attention we give to our interactions with others, and to others’ interactions with others.  

But the attention that we generally give to relationships might not be the kind that actually helps us to change the ones that cause us despair or to balance relationships that are out-of-kilter or boost an okay connection into a great one.  To a large degree, we buy into the ideas that relationships are difficult, demanding and fraught; and that finding fulfilment in them is exceedingly rare, happening only to ‘the lucky ones’.

But, even if we don’t expect it, we certainly constantly crave relationships that deliver peace, love and understanding; as if we know innately that this is what we need to transcend surviving lives of quiet desperation and rather thrive.

Johannesburg-based coach, Steph Dawson-Cosser, who is speaking at the upcoming SACAP Festival of Learning, is a relationship specialist with over thirty years of experience in child and family care who advocates a smart and consistent focus on the quality of our connections in our relationships.  We inherit most of our connection dynamics and capabilities. Strategies such as passive aggressiveness, co-dependence or other controlling behaviours diligently pass through generations unchecked so that we can easily become bewildered about why we do relationships the way we do them.  

According to Steph, it doesn’t have to be this way.  “As a Time to Think® accredited coach, I help people create a Thinking Environment® for their relationships where the quality of the connection is of paramount importance,” she says.  “Whether personal or professional, relationships with poor connections are characterised by the lack of love, disrespect, frustration, competition, anger, passive aggressive behaviour, growing apart rather than growing together, as well as the lack of care and attention for self and others.  If you recognise any, or many of these attributes in your relationships with your partner, child, parent, boss, friend or colleague, you can change this by applying the ten components of the Thinking Environment® devised by Nancy Kline.”

Steph explains that the Thinking Environment® is a set of behaviours that enables people to live and work together in respectful, collaborative and connected ways by being highly aware of themselves and others.  When these behaviours are present, people feel respected, heard and appreciated. As a result, they feel they are in trusted relationships and that ignites generative thinking, creativity and enthusiastic participation for the good of the whole – whether that’s a relationship, family, team, organisation or community.

However, this is not all about feel-good ‘soft skills’; Steph points out that the Thinking Environment® is rooted in the latest neuroscience.  When we learn and practice the behaviours, the chemistry in our brains changes, which in turn impacts on how we show up and relate to others, and they to us.  It’s a profound transformation from the typical loaded and charged experience of unsatisfying relationships. “When we feel safe, loved and valued, we want to contribute from our skills and strengths. We get a much-needed break from being on the defence or trying to control others. When we believe we are truly on the same side, we are empowered and free to go the extra mile, to take risks, to stretch and try new things.  We move into a way of being where we are always learning and growing.  This leads to a general life experience of being happy and fulfilled.”

SACAP’s Festival of Learning takes place in Johannesburg on 17th and 18th of May, and in Cape Town on 24th and 25th of May 2018.  Stephanie Dawson-Cosser will be presenting her talk, ‘Connection is to relationships what oxygen is to breathing’ as part of the Johannesburg programme on Friday, 18th May.

Tickets for the 2018 Festival of Learning are available through Webtickets.  Costs are R200 for the full-day programme which includes dialogues and panel discussion. Tickets for the short-talk evening programme which includes catering and networking opportunities is R200.  There is a special offer for students at R80 per ticket.

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