Meeting new friends, developing enriching friendships, and exploring romantic relationships are an important part of your time at college. Sometimes, building and nurturing relationships may come easy and will provide support while coping with the everyday stressors of college life. At other times, relationships can be stressful, conflictual, or unhealthy. Such relationships can make the difference between a positive and negative college experience. It is important to know the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The Drexel University Counseling Center can provide assistance in helping you understand your friendships and romantic relationships through individual therapy, interpersonal group therapy, or couples therapy.
What do Healthy Relationships Look Like?
While no relationship is perfect, healthy relationships have a solid, supportive foundation that can withstand conflict by both partners showing mutual respect, care, and compassion towards one another. When the above are missing, it is important to address the problem. Steps to address problems can involve assertiveness, boundary setting, and effective listening and communication. If you have any questions about relationships, or would like to consult with a counselor about your relationships, please contact us.
- Mutual respect – healthy relationships don’t invalidate, or belittle
- Healthy conflict resolution- healthy relationships don’t stonewall, escalate into personal attacks
- Openness, trust and honesty- healthy relationships don’t hide true selves or emotions
- Support one another
- Comfort one another
- Shows reciprocity, or “give and take”
- Respects individuality and boundaries – both partners still have freedom to pursue their own interests and friendships
- Shows appreciation, fairness and gratitude
- Patience, flexibility and support
Tips for Effective Communication
“I” Statements vs. “You” Statements
Most of the messages we send to people are “you” messages. These messages may make others feel defensive, make them feel guilty, make them feel their needs are not important, or make them resist change.
Here are some examples of you statements:
- “You’re acting like a baby.” (Blaming, name-calling, belittling)
- “You should….” (Giving your idea of the solution, not compromising)
An “I” statement, on the other hand, allows a person who feels impacted by the behavior of another to express the impact it has on them and, at the same time, leave the responsibility for modifying the behavior with the person who demonstrated that particular behavior. An “I” message consists of three parts: 1) the specific behavior, 2) the resulting feeling you experienced because of the behavior, and 3) the effect of the behavior on you. Therefore, “I” statements build trust between people and, in turn, build their relationship.
A commonly used communication model is below:
When you ___________________, I feel _______________________.
For example, "I feel ignored when you don't look at me while I'm talking." This is much easier for someone to hear than "You're ignoring me."
Identify and Use Feeling Words
Specifically and clearly identifying feelings is also important in communication. Review the feeling words list below to learn about more feelings than the typical happy, mad, or sad.
full of dread
filled with hate
filled with grief
Use Assertive Communication
Being assertive means that you honestly and directly express yourself without accusing, blaming, name-calling, etc. Here are a few ways you can communicate assertively:
- Be specific, not general, in your communication.
- Don't become overly emotional or bring up past grievances.
- Be calm and steady. If your voice is soft, whiny, shaky, sarcastic, or threatening you won't come across as effectively.
- Don't confront someone in front of other people, and be sure to discuss sensitive issues in private.
- Tone matters! If what you say doesn’t match your tone, then the message is usually not heard because mixed signals are given. Consistency is important in communication.
Listening/Attending Skills and Body Language
"Pseudo-Listening" vs. "Real Listening"
What's the difference? Pseudo-listening is when a person looks as if they are listening, though they are not. Typically a lot of head nodding and "uh-huh’s” occur, even though the person isn't following a word that is being said. Real listening is when one thinks about what the speaker is saying and is engaged in the communication.
When one is truly listening, this is nonverbally communicated to the speaker, and the listener uses body language to convey this. The most common body language signals include the following:
- Making eye contact with the speaker
- Facing the person
- Keeping the body open
- Making appropriate facial expressions towards the speaker
- Keeping a relaxed posture without interrupting or fidgeting
Paraphrasing and Reflecting
After the speaker is finished talking or takes a pause, you can then show the speaker you were listening by paraphrasing or reflecting back to the speaker. This means that you restate, in your own words, the message/main ideas/feelings, etc. that the speaker has just conveyed. (i.e. "So you had a pretty bad evening after your hard day at work.") This allows the speaker to feel understood. You may also reflect feelings and/or offer support for the speaker's feelings. (i.e. "Wow, that sounds really tough. Let me know if I can do anything for you.")
Autonomy vs. Intimacy
The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.