Tag Archives: IFS

My Top 12 Relationship Skills

Last week I set a challenge, for both of us.

My part?

I’m challenging myself to identify and share the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-did.”

Those key things I’ve had to figure out over the decades in order to be happier in my own skin and behind my own eyes; those things that I’ve needed to grasp in order to understand other people; those things I’ve learned the hard way by all the failed connections, anger, sadness, loss, discomfort and unmet needs. These 12 skills are (so far) my answer to those unspoken “What if I’d known this?”” questions I’ve asked myself as I’ve bumped along on my own. To refer back to my math analogy of last week – what if I’d learned more than basic arithmetic at school before being asked to move into a world filled with calculus problems?

Your part?

Participate! Co-create this list. Here’s how. I’m exploring one skill per month, in one post per week – usually on Wednesdays. Check-in with me each week to see what you think of the ideas. I’m going to tell stories, post video clips, explore my reasons, & maybe share my own goof-ups. I’d love your feedback. Try these ideas on. Take them for a spin. Watch what happens. And remember – these are not exclusively “couples” skills. These are the building blocks for all loving relationships – loving ourselves, our parents, children, friends and yes, of course partners.

My hope?

That you’ll become more aware of what you do that works – what brings you closer to people. And that you’ll become more hopeful and empowered as you consider those relationships that are fragile or cracked. Are there ideas here that will help you build a firmer footing?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After three decades of paying attention to how we connect with one another, I’ve come to believe that the essence of our human interactions can be pretty simply stated: We’re each trying to manage our feelings and meet our needs in the context of one another. And that’s why it gets so interesting.

At one extreme, to paraphrase Albert Camus, is the victim (someone who, for many reasons, is unable to advocate for him or her self) and at the other, the executioner (someone who ignores or crushes the feelings and needs of others). Neither path is satisfactory because the fact is, we need one another.

We need one another to show up with our true agenda more than we need either a resentful capitulation or a one-sided victory. Both these positions are destabilizing. There’s a score to settle. Pay-back and revenge are in the air. Someone has won or lost a battle but Peace has not broken out.

We need to be able to resolve issues with difficult neighbors; judgmental in-laws; stressed partners; angry children; our community – however we define this for ourselves. And, we need to be able to connect with happiness, celebrating the special moments, appreciating the day-to-day.

In brief there’s a whole lot of complexity to nurturing quality relationships and not a whole lot of teaching or guidance along the way.

So, about those skills.

I’ve gathered this list together from a variety of sources. Principally I want to acknowledge ~

My Top Twelve

It might not make total sense to you at first but I hope you’ll hang in here with me. And, because life is a work-in-progress, I may edit this list as the year progresses.


  • Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”
  • Learn how to be pro-active: choose how “y’all” show up.
  • Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity.


  • Master the art of conversation.
  • Discover how to listen with your whole self.
  • Crack the empathy nut.
  • Practice kindness.
  • Negotiate with a win-win mentality.


  • Build (or rebuild) trust.
  • Apologize & “Do-Over” – when you blow it.
  • Forgive and move on – when they blow it.


  • Let go! Relationships end. You’ll learn, grow & carry on.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


The 3 next January posts will be exploring the many facets of ourselves. How come we can be assertive, brave and magnificent with these folks, and yet feel like a blithering idiot with those? What is this constant inner chatter?  Why do we get caught in dilemmas with totally competing arguments racing back and forth in our heads? What’s going on “inside” ?

Featured Image

Did you guess why I chose today’s featured image? This is a community of Bonobos. Considered amongst the most peaceful and egalitarian of apes I figured we’ve got something to learn from them.  Thanks to World Animal Protection for this image.

© Gemma Utting , January 2015

Coming Soon . . .

It’s been over a year since I last wrote.

Indeed,  a year ago almost to the day, Mark and I arrived back into the USA after 2+ years living and working in New Zealand.

We had a fabulous adventure there and are still processing all we learned, undertook and became thanks to that opportunity.

I stopped blogging for this past year because processing all of this precipitated a near-vertical learning curve. I could not keep up with myself. I’d write something and the next day – literally – I’d find myself thinking about the issue in a whole new light.

So, I’ve been allowing the new ideas to take root, put up shoots and flourish just enough to feel I can share them with you again.

Anyway, to let you know I’m alive, climbing back into the saddle and preparing to blog regularly in 2015, I’m sending you a fun little teaser.  Check out the trailer below for a new Pixar motion picture (or emotion picture as they say!)  coming in 2015.  It’s a clue as to how I look at the world, and how I work to (as my updated tag line states) ~

  “Nurture your ability to master the art and science of great relationships”.

If you find yourself a little intrigued, please stay tuned!  If you stay with me (and feel free to invite others to join us) you can be part of this community dedicated to improving the way we relate to ourselves and to one another.  I promise you the conversation will be upbeat, fun, provocative and hopefully that “just right” mix of inspiring and supportive that we need in the face of becoming our best selves.

With gratitude for you all.



I lived with Mother Theresa & Simon Cowell

I used to live with Mother Theresa and Simon Cowell.


Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 11.17.38 AM

Mama T (as I came to call her) prefered an austere cell in the basement. I’m sure she did not mean to do this, but having her around lent an ever-present un-nerving sense of futility to everything I did that was not directed at saving lives.

I mean – it’s hard to have a good laugh over tea and biscuits when Mama T’s off gathering up the starving elderly.



Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 11.19.50 AMSimon took over the master suite. Despite having the best digs, he was never content.

“I don’t  mean to be rude,” he’d say,

Most things (about me) were wrong, flawed, hopeless or maybe salvageable after daunting amounts of hard work.


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Now and again Hilary Clinton stopped by.

She was good value. Elevated the conversation.  She brought astonishing tales of her life-experiences and life-changing accomplishments. She packed more self-possession in her little finger than the rest of us had in our entire bodies.

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Bono, singing “I am the Eggman” from Across the Universe (perhaps my all-time favourite musical) would take to making random, uninvited, utterly impromptu appearances.

He was distracting (to say the least), poking fun at us, hinting at deep meaning, being obscure. His presence  however, was greatly relieving.

Gives the rest of us a break, I guess.


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Bella Swan from Twilight (fess up – you’ve read the book or at least seen posters for the movie) moved into the living room.

She was tough to live with. One always felt she was working hard on something worthwhile – but at the end of the day I’d have to agree with Simon, there was never any evidence of forward progress in any one direction.


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We all loved it when Mary Poppins stayed.

She brought with her a warmth, whimsy and overall sense of all’s-well-with-the-world.

I did, however, notice she tended to help the neighbours more than me so I confess to a little resentment from time to time.



One day, they all went out at the same time.

The saint, the critic, the effective politician, the randoms, the victim, the loving nanny…

All of ‘em.


I was left alone.

Just me, myself, and I.

My Self.

In the utter silence of that place I glimpsed it.

That place of perfect stillness inside.

The bedrock where the “I” dwells.

That still point of calm, clear, compassionate, confident and creative connectedness.


Oh, they came back by and by. But over time I’ve begun to cultivate some boundaries.  Some guests are allowed in for a certain amount of time with certain ground rules.  I find I can hear what my Self has to say more clearly these days. It’s blissfully invigorating.

Are you curious about who is left when all your house guests leave for a moment?

Try it some time.

I’ll help you through the process this week.