Well Functioning Relationships

Characteristics of Well Functioning Relationships (Barrett-Lennard, 1998)

  1. There is an openness to communication in the relationship, a free flow of information, and an expressiveness and general clarity of meaning in communicative interchanges.
  2. A climate or attitude of trust tends to pervade the relationship. The participants are not in fear and guarded; their individual identity is not at issue and they behave in ways expressive of mutual acceptancei and felt safety.
  3. The participants provide openings and make way for each other, less as a matter of deference or polite consideration, more as an expression of mutual interest and positive expectation of one another, and of a sense of their “we“ as having resources additional to the “I“ or “you“.
  4. Self-trust on the parts of the members fosters interdependence in the relationship rather than promoting a “self-contained“ stance. Each one finds meaning in their own experience, looks for it in what the other expresses, and draws on both jointly and separately discovered meanings.
  5. In other words, the relationship is a living, open, adaptive system, self-regulating and growthful in quality, aware of itself through the consciousness of participants and in dynamic motion through feedback both from within and from persons and systems outside of itself.
  6. The substantial presence of well-functioning relationships within the same larger community, organization or other encompassing system, interactively contributes to and benefits from the health of that larger system.

Reciprocity and the tentative law of interpersonal relationship

The importance of reciprocity in the relationship is explicitly expressed in the reciprocity of the need for positive regard (Rogers, 1959, p. 224) and can be implied from the characterization of realnessi or congruence. Rogers writes: “It is only by providing the genuine reality which is in me, that the other person can successfully seek for the reality in him" (Rogers, 1961, p. 33). Elaborated further in the context of communication in interpersonal relationships, Rogers took the feature of reciprocity as an essential asset of his “tentative law of interpersonal relationship”. “Assuming (a) a minimal willingness on the part of two people to be in contact; (b) an ability and minimal willingness on the part of each to receive communication from the other; and (c) assuming the contact to continue over a period of time; then the following relationship is hypothesized to hold true: The greater the congruence of experience, awareness and communication on the part of one individual, the more the ensuing relationship will involve a tendency toward reciprocal communication with a quality of increasing congruence; a tendency toward more mutually accurate understanding of the communications; improved psychological adjustment and functioning in both parties; mutual satisfaction in the relationship.” (Rogers, 1961)