This activity is designed to focus on and emphasize the
importance of the relationship to the client and to articulate those qualities
or characteristics within the relationship that are valued: those that result in the most satisfaction
and sense of fulfillment within the relationship. The activity also emphasizes the reciprocal
nature of these priorities and translates those priorities into behavioral,
doable activities and approaches. To
the extent that the client manifests these behaviors and approaches within her
relationships, she will experience an increased sense of cooperation, loyalty,
caring, sharing, respect, and trust within the feedback loop from others. It is a fairly simple strategy, e.g., if you
are more helpful to others they are more likely to be helpful to you, if you
hang in there with them they are more likely to hang in there with you.
In more specific terms, the client wants to increase the
level of cooperation she experiences in relationships with other family
members. This will best be achieved by
looking for and taking advantage of opportunities to be helpful to others in
big and small ways. Importantly, though, this helpfulness must be something
that is consistent and predictable to develop the optimal cooperative level of
feedback from others.
The same principle applies to increasing the extent to which
the client perceives other family members as being loyal to her. Importantly, loyalty is most clearly
perceived in a direct and personal way and develops in terms of the
relationship. The attitude and approach
comes in terms of, We have our ups and downs, good days and bad days, times
when we are feeling good about each other and times when we are not. Sometimes we handle these fluctuations better
and sometimes less effectively; but our relationship endures. It is also important that this commitment to
each other through the relationship maintains a positive willing quality: a
quality of conscious, voluntary participation in the relationship. The relationship never becomes a have to
type of thing. There is not room for
either the saint or the martyr in the reality of a healthy family.
An illustration may be useful. A young boy came to his father, suitcase in
hand, saying, I am going to run away from home. Somewhat surprised and a little puzzled, the
father said, No, you are not going to run away from home. I do not run away from home, your mother does
not run away from home, and you are not going to run away from home. Running away is not the way we deal with each
other or with our problems. We hang in
there good days, bad days, and all.
The five year old was somewhat taken aback but said, Oh, I thought it
would be okay. The father then said,
Being upset is okay, and sometimes being really mad is also okay. Lets talk about whats going on.
Being cared about is a high priority for the client. She best assures this by understanding that a
sense of caring comes through seeing that others are voluntarily involved with
and interested in her. Again, the
process is reciprocal. The client needs
to focus more time and energy in terms of being more actively involved with
others in her family and demonstrating an increased interest in them and their
activities. Importantly, this increasing
involvement and interest needs to be pursued on a very consistent basis and
should not fluctuate based on the immediate mood or interest of the
client. She must consistently increase
caring behavior if she is to increase the extent to which she feels cared
Sharing is, thus, very closely linked with caring and as the
concept is developed here is primarily pursued in verbal, talking terms. The client needs to talk more with others on
a consistent, daily basis if they are to spend more time talking with her. Talking with each other becomes, then, the
sharing dimension within the caring family.
Respect and trust function in tandem, much like caring and
sharing. They are also similarly
reciprocal. Listening to others is at
least as important as talking with and actively interacting with them. Simply taking in what is said is not enough,
however. The client first needs to
listen patiently, which involves being relaxed, actively trying to understand
what the other person is saying instead of thinking about what she is going to
say, and being sure that the other person has finished before responding. A useful technique is to clarify what the
other person has said before responding to it.
For example, I understand you to be saying If I correctly understand,
(now comes the response). This assures
that the client is carefully listening as well as patiently listening. She will find, over time, that through these
techniques others gradually come to listen to her in more patient and caring
It is additionally important that the response or reaction
to either what the other person is saying or to her behavior reflects a quality
of acceptance of the other person and does not involve blaming, accusing, or
threatening. The goal is for the client
to develop more effective communication.
Arguing and negatively relating to the other person is never an
appropriate approach to meaningful and effective communication. This in no way precludes disagreements, differing
opinions and interpretations, or opposing points of view. It simply reflects an effective approach for
communicating about whatever is going on, whatever the issues are.
The goal is to maximize cooperation, loyalty, caring,
sharing, respect, and trust. Negativism,
arguing, blaming, threatening, and accusing only serve to reduce the presence
of priorities within the relationships.