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Relationships: A Space for Mutual Growth

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Relationships: A Space for Mutual Growth                        


Anja Marković

Throughout life, there is a multitude of different situations in which we are called upon to relate not only to ourselves but to someone or something beyond ourselves. When we are attempting to relate to someone we are at the same time, creating a certain kind of space between us and the other person. What is curious is that the same process of space creation is not an isolated, or self-centered process. In other words, the other person that we are trying to relate with will inevitably contribute to the creation of the same space between us. How does that happen? The response is simple: each one of us will try to project our unique hopes, expectations, judgments, intentions, and plans. In that sense, the space between two people who are relating to one another is similar to the process of a light prism. That is to say, the two people are relating to one another by transmitting and receiving various verbal and nonverbal messages; each one of these messages is received through the spectrum of one’s hopes, expectations, and judgments; or simply through the spectrum of one’s projections. 

As it is well explained and stated many times in the works of Viktor Frankl, Elisabeth Lukas, Teria Shantall, and other great minds in the field of logotherapy, life is given to one so that one became what one ought to become. The - ought to - is one of the highest transcending principles and goals, that we are, at moments so desperately trying to reach in different kinds of relationships that exist, starting from family relationships, friendships, companionships, and colleagueship, and finally, ending with romantic relationships and marriages.

According to the logotherapeutic approach, one of the possibilities for a man to become what he ought to become is exactly through relationships. In other words, relationships are the opportunity to create a space in which one always has a choice to act from a deep sense of inner values and humane principles of kindness, clarity, humility, and respect for another human being. As the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas in his writings elaborates, the presence of the other one and, thus, the relation to the other one are necessary components for instigating not only a healthy process of distancing from ourselves but a noetic process of self-expanding or self-transcendence. Once we start to act by the self-transcending process, we are then able to contribute to the creation of a space of growth when relating to the other one.

Finally, among many virtues and faculties that the reader can think of as essential for the creation of the space of mutual growth in relationships, the two can be identified as the fundamental ones: active listening and with it, the ability to respect the silence. Moreover, the noetic process of self-transcendence can already begin to evolve only by applying these two skills in relationships.

Active listening alludes to one’s willingness to be open to hear verbal messages and to be receptive to the nonverbal cues that the other one transmits, to put judgments and inner ego voices aside, and to show a genuine attempt to “enter into someone else’s shoes” in the moment of interaction. Likewise, by showing genuine interest in the other’s position, one is also showing respect and unconditional acceptance of the other human being involved in the interaction. As the quote from the movie Hector and the Search for Happiness form 2014 says: “Listening is loving.”

In this whole process, a man’s biggest ally is exactly silence, and that’s where the need to respect silence comes from. In other words, sometimes the best response or reaction we can give to the other one comes exactly in the form of silence. Therefore, respecting the silence when the other one tries to communicate with us, is a simple gift and a helpful tool that helps both sides involved in the interaction to create a safe space for mutual growth.

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