When people talk about the characteristics of good relationships the words which most often emerge are ‘trust’ and ‘respect’. These are important qualities indeed, however if we are to be more discriminating, then these are qualities held by one person ‘of the other’. What this blog explores are the qualities which need to be present within the relationship which engender trust and respect. It will be these relational qualities that experienced pairs coaches will be mindful of when undertaking pairs coaching.

Each quality of a relationship can be described as a continuum of observed behaviours and what is often well-developed at one end of a particular relational quality is likely to be much less developed at the other end of that quality’s behaviour continuum. For example, a willingness to ask questions in a relationship has at the other end of the continuum a willingness to offer up opinions and thoughts without being asked. The pairs coaching process helps those pairs being coached to identify and appreciate what is well-developed and to become mindful of what is less-developed, so that they can jointly endeavour to extend their range of ways of connecting. The pair can work with the pairs coaches to help them experiment and build muscles in their less-developed areas.

Below we start to explore some of these qualities in more detail:

A willingness to ask questions and to offer up information or ideas

In relationships where people rely too heavily on asking questions of the other there becomes a real risk that important information that each person holds may never emerge as those questions which might have uncovered this information have not been asked. If on the other hand, information is only shared through a process in which each person volunteers what they think is pertinent, their own self-censoring may result in important information not being revealed. It is only where there is a well-developed capacity to volunteer information and a well-developed capacity to ask questions of the other that there will nearly always be a rich sharing from which better discussions and outcomes will emerge.

A willingness to challenge and support one another

Relationships which have a well-developed sense of support, but not of challenge may, on the face of it, appear very harmonious and even desirable, but there is a cost in not being able to create in each other an awareness of behavioural blind spots which might be detracting from their collective way of working. Additionally in such situations, there may be too little push back and challenge of the ideas each person offers up. Conversely, a relationship which is mostly characterised by one of robust challenge without the counterbalance of support, would ultimately lead to a degradation of engagement and trust, thereby stifling the creative problem-solving spark. It is only in those relationships where both support and challenge thrive, that the most robust of outcomes will emerge. Pairs coaching can facilitate an agile use of both support and challenge in a relationship.

A willingness to be disappointed in the other and be disappointing to the other

Although nobody sets out to be disappointing to another person, there is always the possibility that we might. If we are in a relationship where we fear being disappointing, we may unduly censor what we say or do to remain personally safe and that will often detract from the potency of what our joint relationship could achieve. Consequently, if we hold too tightly our demands and expectations that we put upon others, then when they then fail to live up to these, our resultant disappointment is sufficiently significant to knock us off balance and again the potency of our relationship is at least temporarily lost and given the sense of judgement which often emerges trust is damaged and may never be regained. However, if the relationship can withstand disappointment and can use that disappointment to learn from, the resultant robustness creates a real energy for the relationship to thrive. In pairs coaching it is possible to explore and build upon the relationship’s capacity to be disappointing and disappointed.

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