THE ART OF RELATING TO OTHERS

Among the skills we learn early in life is the art of interacting with other people. This guides us in the formation of "relationships" later in life. In the beginning a child comes to believe that he or she is the center of activity.
All things begin and end with "me." People are coming and going, prodding and poking me, shoving food into me-- they are my loyal subjects! As the child differentiates and matures, he notices that other children are apart and a part of him. The sun follows them home from school, too! In order to interact pleasantly with others, a child has to abandon some of his early ideas that once served him so well and incorporate new information.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> At several points in our lives it becomes necessary to revise and update our relating skills. This is frequently difficult, however, despite the fact that the old skills which once produced useful outcomes no longer work. What makes change so difficult is the assumption that these skills are fixed parts of our personalities-- they happen "automatically." In reality, we interact in ways that reflect internal beliefs we have about the world. As these change, so do the resultant behaviors that follow. If the skills you have learned in relating to others do not seem to produce desired results, perhaps you need to reflect on your beliefs and explore other options.
 Men and women typically develop different relationship skills. Quite often, male skills relate to some form of competition. Those who relate successfully are able to compete. They align themselves with those who can expedite their goals, make plans and implement strategies. Friendships among males are frequently based upon competition rather than shared feelings. Competitors relate to others resourcefully-- as a source of power. Their interest is in achieving success either for themselves or their identified group such as a team, class or club.
 A by-product of this type of relating is frequently the development of an aggressive style that may result in one's acting assertively in a variety of situations. When relating in this manner produces a desired outcome, these skills are useful. However, they may, consciously or otherwise, create limitations in some contexts. For example, when a person encounters another for who relating has no goal other than to share experiences, the goal-oriented individual can become very uncomfortable. Can you imagine trying to form a love affair or friendship as a contest? In short, the competitive male needs to acquire new relating skills. The classic female relating skills are based on connecting with another individual; showing concern and helping others in a variety of ways. Women have traditionally been trained to demonstrate "caring"—not competition--as a salient feature of relating to others. Although there are instances in which they compete, this is typically not a woman's strong suit. However, there are occasions in which it ought to be.
 A woman, who has spent an adult lifetime taking care of the needs of family members is suddenly abandoned by her husband. She may have little idea how to help herself-- financially or otherwise. All her relating skills had been in service of helping others. Now she needs to learn how to compete in the single-parent jungle. Sooner or later, almost everyone encounters situations for which their skills at relating to others are insufficient. New ones need to be acquired. To begin adding new dimensions to the way in which you relate to people:


  • 1- Create a play, starring anyone else but you. Consider situations you avoid. Situations where you believe others can succeed, but you cannot. Imagine what specifically you can see them doing to succeed? How do they look to others in the scene? What do they say to themselves? To other individuals? Get in touch with what you sense they must feel.
  • 2- Become an understudy. See yourself being substituted for those successful individuals in the same scenes. Watch as you continue relating in the contexts of the other people.
  • 3- Debut. Step into the scenes! Become the "you" in those situations-- see, hear and feel in those scenarios. Learning new relationship skills is an art. You have to show up for more than one rehearsal. Practice, practice, practice...