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the psychology of relational connection in conversation

According to Relational Cultural Theory, when we leave conversation with someone and feel rundown, we have experienced "disconnection." Conversely, when we leave conversation energized, we have experienced "connection."

When we have more disconnections than connections, we can feel condemned to isolation (Condemned Isolation). BUT when we keep trying and work toward mutual empathy, we can grow with others (Mutual Growth).

So, if you feel tired by many exchanges in your day-to-day life, work on mutuality (the exchange of responsiveness from all parties during connection). Surprisingly, sometimes all we have to do is model what we want to get more of it. Try being more accepting of differences, working toward resolution rather than winning, encourage vulnerability in the self and others (that means deal with your uncomfortable feelings if someone begins to cry), be authentic (speak from a place of SELF and don't internally criticize everything you say or do), and finally be empathetic (put yourself in the other's shoes).

When these ways of relating become more common for you, it feels better to be around others. You get feelings of empowerment from exchanges, maybe even inspired by others! Plus, your feelings of self-worth go up and getting more desirable relationships gets easier.

RTC rests on some novel assumptions for a Western approach to understanding relationships. Most importantly, RTC posits we get more (not less) relationally complex as we develop across the lifespan. That is, we do not trend toward towards individuation, rather we trend towards creating, sustaining, and deepening connections with others. So it is imperative that we strive for mutual growth rather than isolation or we stunt our development. Here it reminds me of Erik Erikson's stage of emotional development Intimacy vs. Isolation, clearly a battle that would need to be won in terms of RTC.

For more on RTC, check out http://www.jbmti.org/Our-Work/relational-cultural-theory

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