Relationship therapy for you and your boss?

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Could relationship therapy make you happier at work? Could it help you and your running partner be faster (it worked for the US Olympic beach volleyball champions)? And could it stop your mum from criticising your fashion choices? The answer is ‘yes’.

We’ve asked Simply Woman contributors First Psychology Scotland and their Glasgow Centre Co-Director Dr Maria Gascon explains why relationship therapy is so powerful.

Most of us think ‘couples therapy’ or ‘marriage counselling’ when they hear the words relationship therapy. However, every single time we deal with people in our daily lives, we enter a relationship of sorts – whether it’s a working relationship or part of our family life. Even neighbours have a relationship with each other.

What that means is that we can apply the principles used to help spouses and other couples to make our daily lives run more easily and smoothly. Why? Because in most relationships there are differences in the way two people understand the same situation. This will be in part influenced by our brain. If, in a relationship, there is one person with a more female and another with a more male brain – and these distinctions don’t necessarily run along gender lines – to understand each other, we need to know a little more about how they function differently.

The ‘female brain’ – not necessarily the female’s brain – will make a person talk about emotions, attend to non-verbal cues and reveal their thought process. Those people will often act more intuitively. In a conversation, they would not just listen to the words, but take in facial expressions and body language as well. The ‘male brain’ – again, not necessarily a male’s brain – however, is more goal-orientated, practical and more focussed on fixing problems. These people are looking for facts and rarely listen for things like the tone of voice used to say something or the emotions behind the words. They’re also more likely to try and solve problems by themselves in the first instance.

Let me give you an example. Some of you may remember a TV programme about adventurers Ben Fogle and James Cracknell racing to the South Pole (together with Dr Ed Coats). Both male, they coped with the stresses of the journey in completely different ways.

Ben, the ‘female brain’, spoke about his emotions and anxieties as the journey became more strenuous. At times, he would sound rather low. James, definitely a ‘male brain’, could be seen talking about how he only had to walk on his blistered feet for another three days. If he was afraid for his life or his health he certainly didn’t voice these concerns. These differences in communication styles led to some tensions between them.

What does it mean for your life? Whether you’re struggling to get on with your boss, your team members on a five-a-side pitch or your partner, first you need to learn about how the other party works – and they need to learn how you work.

Once you understand each other better, finding a way to work, play or live together should be easier. Even after years of working (or fighting) together, applying these principles can help make a new start and value the contribution that different approaches to a situation can have in any relationship.

Principles of relationship therapy used for couples can be adapted to help with any range of relationships. Having said that, for a good chance of success both parties need to agree to learn from each other.

First Psychology Scotland offers a wide range of psychological services to clients throughout Scotland. The company has bases in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and the Scottish Borders.

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