We all have key figures in our lives, people who either held or hold great importance because of their positive impact on our professional and personal lives. They may have been people who we are either personally or professionally connected to, such as parents, siblings, friends, family members, or teachers, bosses, coaches, therapists and work colleagues, to name a few.
These people become so important to us because we internalise their qualities and also their positive messages to us, whether they were implicit or explicit, verbal or non-verbal.
Therapists are keenly aware that some key elements need to be present in our work in order for a positive relationship to form. We know that many who come to therapy do so because of breakdown or absence of relationship early on, which we can also understand as a scarcity or total absence of some key elements listed below:
Interest and Curiosity
To feel seen, heard and to perceive sense of curiosity towards oneself from another, which is engaged, honest and encourages mutual trust. Delight, enjoyment and even surprise in the exchanges that take place.
Usually used in the context of a parent-child relationship, but the word is also used in other contexts. Attunement is a quality where the other person ‘tunes in’ to another, almost as if trying to absorb and understand what the other is communicating on a deeper level. Attuning entails putting oneself aside to hear how the other views and experiences the world.
Consistent love and care is something children need in order to feel emotionally and psychologically safe. This continues to be the case for adults, albeit in a different way. The consistency in the care of others is what gives us a sense of belonging and therefore a sense of safety in the world.
To feel the commitment of another to a relationship is another form of consistency, but also one that affirms that “I am here for you” or “You can count on me”. This doesn’t not mean that the other won’t disappoint at times or will always be available. But they let you know that you can rely on their commitment to you as a friend, partner or in an ongoing professional relationship, such as the regular long-term commitment of psychotherapy, for instance.
Related to the two above in that there needs to be a consistent time commitment in order for any relationship to work. The gift of time cannot be underestimated, especially in today’s world. With time, important conversations take place, people get to know one another and things are allowed to unfold. We feel valued and important when others make time to be with us.
Of course this can’t be forced. We either feel connected or we don’t. However, all of the qualities above are conducive to developing a connection with another. Some people are better than others at connecting, both to themselves and therefore to other people. But there are times when the chemistry between individuals exists in a way in which can’t be explained. Some of these formed connections stay with us for a very long time, if not forever.
What are other qualities that you see as essential to forming a positive bond with someone? I look forward to your thoughts.
Sam Jahara is a UKCP Registered Psychotherapist with a special interest in working with issues linked to cultural identity and a sense of belonging. She works with individuals and couples in Hove and Lewes.
Further reading by Sam Jahara