10 Relational Skills I Learnt from The Practice of Authentic Relating

I attended a hippie retreat in Guatemala where we sat in a circle, eye-gazed, and cried together for two days.

The Party Scientist
8 min readFeb 7, 2022

In this article, you will learn 10 social and leadership skills which will deepen your empathic connection with others. Read on to become more interpersonally intelligent and conflict savvy.

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You know what I believe is the most relevant skill for improving human well-being?

It’s the ability to connect deeply and nourishingly with other homo sapiens.

If you feel alone, it doesn’t matter how much money you have. You’re poor.

This is why, in the last two months, I have spent more money than I ever thought I would… on interpersonal development. From tantra workshops to darkness retreats to relational skills trainings. I’ve felt aligned with my values: health, personal relationships, and community. This is exactly how I want to spend money.

Recently, I invested in a two day course known as Authentic Relating Training Level 1. Led by Ash and Keith, it was one of the most valuable leadership trainings of my life. Here are 10 principles I am applying immediately. Mark my word 😉

“I’m all for honesty for the sake of relationship. Not honesty for the sake of honesty.” — Ash, Instructor

1 Reject default relational outcomes.

You can claim ownership and control over your relational outcomes, or you can surrender to the organic outcomes. If a relationship doesn’t flow, like my relationship with my sister, remember that you can use your skills to enrich it. To make it better. To cultivate more closeness. It’s a learning process. It’s a choice to reject the default organic outcome and use your relational intelligence to generate a better outcome.

You have the power over your relational outcomes.

2 When authenticity threatens belonging, belonging wins.

If you walked around without a filter, you would hurt a lot of people’s feelings. Eventually, they would ostracize you. They would regard you as inconsiderate and demeaning. Living in relationship with others is a balance between making our own voice heard and creating space for others’ voices. Modulating our authenticity is necessary to avoid harming others and to be kind. Being authentic in a manner that preserves connection is my aspiration.

It’s possible to be authentic in a modulated way, in a way that preserves relationship.

3 Do not blame yourself for your experience.

When a difficult emotion or reaction emerges in your body, you don’t have to identify with it or reject it. One of the practices of authentic relating is welcoming everything. This means accepting our own emotional experience and watching it — being with it. When you realize your emotions are largely out of your control, you can start to get back into control.

Let me explain that once more. When you acknowledge that sometimes emotions just emerge from your subconscious or environment (it’s not your fault), it takes you one step closer to responding instead of reacting to your reality. It is when you react to others that you disconnect from others.

Welcome your experience with self-compassion.

4 Do not blame others for their experience.

The same applies for others. You have no idea what’s going on for them. You don’t know what psychological patterns were established in them during their childhood. Their emotions and reactions are mysterious and multi-causal. Welcoming others’ experiences is about accepting the following truth: humans are emotionally unpredictable creatures, and almost always, their emotions cannot be attributed to their character or personality — it is usually the environment.

When you give more humans the benefit of the doubt in evaluating their reactions and behaviors, your connections will become smoother, richer, and kinder. When you welcome everything in others, it shows them that it’s safe to be to be vulnerable, unfiltered, and expressive with you.

5 Give people your manual.

The world does not have the manual for you.

How do you like to be nourished? What type of breakfast-in-bed do you prefer? How do you like to communicate? How do you want to be loved? What nicknames or adjectives do you like?

People don’t know the answers unless you tell them. You need to stop expecting others to get you. Help people understand your unique needs and desires. In my own life, I like to reveal a lot about myself. It gives people peace of mind because I like to do things differently.

Here’s an example. Phobias. If you don’t tell people about your phobia, they may buy you a pet snake.

6 Make people feel like you’re on their side.

In conflict, there is one thing that matters: the other person feels like you are on their side. They feel like you care about the connection. Often, conflict gets tangled in facts and stories. Ultimately, the successful navigation of conflict depends on how each party feels.

When you engage in a conflict conversation, you can get on their side by expressing remorse, by sharing the negative impact of your actions or their hurt-ness on you, and by communicating explicitly the importance of your relationship in your life.

After making people feel differently, that’s when you can dive into the requests and solutions to the conflict. But keep in mind…

Conflict is not resolved. It is managed.

7 Create the social norms you want.

When you set up and contextualize a social interaction (i.e. conversation, workshop, party, date), you give people a new set of acceptable behaviors. What’s happening is that you are priming your social partners — you’re giving them a manual for the social interaction. Leaders can prime their social participants by being forthright with the 4Ws: who, what, where, and why. The most important W is the why.

Why do you want to initiate this type of social situation? Why should participants want to engage? Answer these questions and communicate the answers to cultivate investment from conversational partners or gathering participants.

The greatest virus within a social environment is participants not wanting to be there.

8 Make the implicit context explicit.

So often, there’s something that has not been said. When agreements are assumed, it can lead to the inadvertent transgression of those agreements. And this is when you and I can get upset. “I thought you knew/you said/you agreed!” But so often, our friend or partner did not.

Don’t assume people know your preferences or feelings or discomforts. Communicate it explicitly. Don’t assume your participants know that it’s not OK to swear or look at a smartphone at your event. Don’t assume someone knows they like you.

9 Share your emotional and cognitive impact.

Warning, this is a transformational practice. It’s simple. When someone shares something with you that stirs up a vision, thought, or feeling, you share with them what was stirred up.

“When I heard you say…, I felt…”

Sharing impact is about intentionally responding to what was shared. It’s not about changing the subject or asking a question rapidly. It’s about sinking in to what the person in front of you shared. It’s about revealing to this person how they made you feel, in the moment.

Cognitive impact has to do with what they reminded you of, what visions or thoughts emerged for you, or what curiosities or clarifications you need. “I had a flashback when you said…”

Emotional impact has to do with the bodily sensations they evoked in you. “When you paused there, I felt this poignancy… It made me really sad because…”

10 Prioritize connection, then problem-solving.

Conflict can be transmuted into deeper connection. But not if you’re attached to having it your way. When you zoom out and focus on feelings, you realize the success rate for transmuting conflict depends on the strength of the connection. Once the connection is re-established is when you can focus on stories and facts, requests and solutions.

Focusing on connection looks like listening intently, reflecting back what was shared, and apologizing for (owning up to) your ‘contribution to the conflict.’ This is what you did to negatively impact the other person. You do not need to validate someone’s delusional story. You just need to acknowledge what you actually did within it, and the impact it had on them.

After they feel like you’re on their side, the conflict conversation can evolve into problem-solving.

  • What should we do the next time this happens?
  • What can we do to prevent this from happening?
  • How do you want to be notified when our dialogue is dissolving?
  • What are the root cause behaviors for this conflict?

I don’t start any conflict conversation with problem-solving anymore!

Can you comment below with a relational skill or principle I missed?

If you’re feeling thankful, can you comment and like this article? It may benefit your network to share it as well.

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The Party Scientist

Human Connection & Belonging Strategist | Professor of Shared Joy | I help leaders reinvent how they connect their people and build community