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How To Navigate Interpersonal Relationships According to UCF’s CAPS

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Do you often find yourself attracted to the same type of people, dealing with the same problems, and re-experiencing the same situation over and over again? There might actually be a way to fix that.

I recently attended an Interpersonal Relationships workshop with the University of Central Florida’s CAPS (UCF’s Counseling and Psychological Services) therapist Kelly Christensen. She expressed the importance of dialectical thinking, showing yourself kindness, and honoring your boundaries in any relationship we choose to nurture.

Interpersonal Effectiveness is the “balancing act of obtaining and maintaining one’s personal objectives, healthy relationships, and self-respect.” Your objective is to receive what you desire while showing your partner the same consideration. This process starts by showing up as your true self in any relationship, platonic, romantic, or otherwise.

By showing up as your most authentic self, you navigate out of love instead of fear. When people choose to be guarded, they operate out of fear of being judged or hurt. However, the thing is, pain is inevitable whether you have your guard up or not. The only thing you’re doing by hiding yourself is prolonging the process. In any relationship, you need to be willing to feel both love and pain; the only way you can do that is by letting people in. The lows are low, but the highs are higher. Pain is temporary, but the love you achieve by allowing yourself to receive freely without fear is worth the risk.

Relationship effectiveness refers to the “skills which help us to attend to relationships, balance priorities versus demands, balance the ‘wants’ and ‘shoulds,’ and build a sense of mastery and self-respect,” according to Nystrom & Associates. Simply put, being an attentive and kind partner while also honoring your boundaries and immediate goals for the good of the long-term relationship. To maintain a healthy relationship, you need to remember why the relationship is important to you now and in the future. Act in a way where your partner receives what they need out of the connection while also showing yourself respect and kindness. If you do not honor what you are and are not comfortable with, resentment will build, and the relationship will quickly crumble. I’m sure you’ve heard “communication is key” a million times; however, communicating your needs and feelings is vital for a relationship to remain fulfilling and flourish. You do this by putting your needs, wants, and desires on the same pedestal as your partners. You can not give when you are empty. 

Self-respect Effectiveness assists in ensuring you feel good enough to show yourself thoughtfulness and love. It refers to acting in a way that follows your beliefs, morals, and values. Your ethics are always your northern star. If you have trouble determining whether or not something is the right choice, ask yourself, “Does this make me feel good?” Most of the time, it’s that simple. When you are confident about the decisions you make, you make it easier to support yourself. It’s also important to remember we are always doing our best at any given moment with the information we have. You’re human; you’re not always going to get it right, and that’s okay. You are still worthy of warmth.

In any interpersonal relationship, conflict is inevitable. This is when dialectical thinking makes her debut. Dialectical thinking is a skill designed to “help you hold multiple perspectives and viewpoints,” according to Christensen. Life is hardly ever black and white. Conflict arises from a history of each person’s life experiences that has influenced their reality and how they choose to live. There is usually a kernel of truth from every person’s perspective. “Try holding a ‘both/and’ perspective as opposed to an ‘either/or’ perspective,” says Christensen. People can have multiple, even conflicting, reactions to things simultaneously. You must not try to convince the other person that your truth is the only truth as this will only serve to invalidate their experience. Truly listen and empathize with their perspective. All anyone wants is for you to take space and allow them to be heard and understood. Even if you disagree, if someone feels you understand their frustrations, the conflict will start to smooth itself out. To validate their experience, ensure you maintain eye contact, attentiveness, and nod to show you’re listening. Connect on shared human emotions. Find the kernels of truth in both perspectives. Allow the space for differences and accept that others may not treat us as we desire. As I stated earlier, remember to operate through love and an open heart. To help break this down even further, let me introduce you to “Dear Man.”

“Dear Man” is a tool to help you meet your objective. The breakdown of the acronym is as follows:

Describe current situation

Express feelings and opinions

Assert yourself by stating what you want

Reward the person-what will they get out of the relationship

Mindful of the objectives

Appear effective and competent

Negotiate alternative solutions

In the workshop, we used requesting a Saturday night off from work as an example and how that conversation would play out with your boss. You start by clearly stating what you want out of the situation. Then, you explain why you want the day off. Finally, you think of solutions that benefit you and your boss, like working that Sunday instead. Easy enough, right?

The final wisdom Christensen shared might be the biggest takeaway from the workshop: Do not take anything personally.

“Other people are reacting out of their own baggage, and you just happen to be at the crossroads. Often, people don’t truly understand their words or their impact on others. If we start to believe we are victims of life, we lose our ability to direct our own happiness.” 

You give others the power to determine how you feel when you’re operating out of an external locus of control; Things happen to you, life happens to you, and you are powerless. Shift to an internal locus of control to regain your power; “I can manage things, including the bad, and I can prepare for my goals of tomorrow by doing things today.”

Show yourself kindness above all else. Realize people’s reactions to things have nothing to do with you. Listen to your partner. And lastly, always operate out of love.

Caysea Stone is a Journalism major and a Women’s Studies minor at the University of Central Florida. She has been vegan for almost five years and is very passionate about yoga, meditation, and feminism. Her ultimate goal is to write for a women's magazine like Cosmopolitan or Bustle. She wishes to inspire younger women to always show kindness towards themselves and assist in the process of deconditioning any internalized misogyny.