This is the Single Most Important Skill for Healthy Relationships

Adriene Cobcroft
Apr 17 · 3 min read

It constantly surprises me how people can be both so simple and so complex at the same time.

Daily in my work I see people together and alone who seek solutions to their relationship frustrations. The details of their stories are rich and varied. The nuances of their pains and passions, tender and revealing.

The human spirit is uniquely constructed in each and every one of us, and yet at the core of this wondrous diversity are some common truths.

A hunger for connection lies in the space between people. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we all want to belong with our people. We want to be connected to those we love, admire and respect.

It’s easy to observe the need for connection in children… “look mum, see what I did!”

Children who have healthy relationships with their parents experience an interaction that goes something like:

“show me darling… ah, I see what you did… is there anything else?”

And that child knows that they are loved, and that they belong because they are witnessed by their parent.

This need to be seen and heard stays with us all the way until we reach a state of enlightenment or breathe our final breath, whichever arrives first.

We crave to be witnessed, to receive attention, to be validated. We shine brightly when we know that we are not alone.

We all desire to feel witnessed and connected to others in our unique and special ways.

We discover ways of reaching out for the attention of others as the process of life shapes our understanding of relationships. We become increasingly sophisticated in the ways we request attention. We protect ourselves from the rejections we believe we will experience based on past hurts.

We forget how simple are our needs.

We forget that what we want in relationship is the simple attention of the other.

And we forget how to offer this gift to each other.

In its simplest form what we crave is to be heard, to be seen. But not only this, we want to be witnessed accurately. We want to see proof that the other understands us. We want them to show us who we are, that we exist.

The solution to healthy relationships lies in offering your time and undivided attention to the other. The greatest secret to connection lies in putting aside our own needs and focusing on the other person, even if only for a moment. Truly witnessing the other in a non judgemental offering of generosity is the key to connection.

The not-so-secret secret to witnessing can be achieved with relative ease using the following steps:

  1. Focus your attention on the other person when they are speaking to you.
  2. Reflect back to them what you heard them say.
  3. Allow them to correct you and/or add any additional information.
  4. Pay attention to what they said, and respond with comments that interact with their perspective.

Voila! Your attention is a simple gift to bestow on the other. It is a mutually rewarding gift, because people who feel understood are people who feel connected in their relationships. Connection increases satisfaction, and inspires reciprocation.

Marvellously, the act of giving attention is as rewarding to the giver as it is to the receiver. Generosity sparks a flood of awesome brain chemicals, including dopamine and oxytocin, which bring feelings of euphoria and peace. These feelings inspire in both people a sense of togetherness, which carves an oasis of love in a sea of complexity.

Adriene Cobcroft

Written by

Addy is a somatic relationship therapist. She is passionate about supporting individuals and couples to move beyond survival into extraordinary thriving lives.

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