About Relationship Coaching

14 February 2024

relationship coaching

A healthy relationship requires the appropriate interpersonal skills and attitudes to build and maintain a lasting connection.

In this article, we explore relationship coaching and offer valuable tools to support coaches as they foster their clients’ personal development in improving relationships.

Relationship coaching vs therapy

Relationship therapy typically explores psychological disorders involved in a client’s complex clinical presentation and requires a detailed understanding of psychological conditions. Such therapy may be conducted by generalist psychologists, social workers, and counselors and requires accurate assessment and understanding of the complex dynamics between people.

On the other hand, relationship coaching focuses less on clinical concerns, issues, and disorders… and more on communication and action skills, attitudes, and learning how to relate effectively to others.

What do Relationship Coaches Do?

Relationship coaching incorporates establishing a clear goal and effective action plan, as well as facilitating personal growth. Therefore, relationship coaches work with clients to identify and increase awareness of gaps in their relationship mindset and abilities… and creating personal development opportunities, which include:

  1. Identifying gaps in relationship attitudes and skills

    Working with individuals to identify areas where they may lack certain attitudes or abilities that can hinder their relationships. A good assessment provides an opportunity for personal development.

  2. Addressing attitudes
  • Helping individuals address specific attitudes or perceptions that may be challenging their relationships, including:
  • Conflicting or confused priorities in partner selection
  • Misunderstandings of how others perceive them
  • Inflexibility and difficulty compromising
  • Struggles with coping with imperfections in a partner
  • Poor conflict management

3) Developing communication skills

  • Working with clients to help them recognize and develop the communication skills required to build and maintain successful relationships.

Techniques may involve focusing on the following:

  • Conflict management techniques
  • Understanding love languages
  • Nonviolent communication methods

4) Encouraging experiential learning

  • Typically focusing on the client’s experiences and prior knowledge, rather than an abstract or academic type of learning.
  • Coaches facilitate exploring and applying new attitudes and skills in practical situations, allowing individuals to learn and grow through firsthand experiences.

Through such methodologies, relationship coaches support clients in enhancing their relationship attitudes, acquiring essential skills, and fostering personal growth in the context of their romantic, emotional, and even working partnerships.

Coaches use several techniques to support relationships:

  1. Use of skills language

Coaches can help clients move from more everyday language to skills language to support relationship growth.

Everyday language: “When John and I disagree, I usually try to calm him down by listening and validating his feelings.”
Skills language: “I employ my active listening and empathy skills when John and I encounter a disagreement. If he appears upset, I utilize my techniques to acknowledge and validate his emotions.”

Everyday language describes the action the person takes when their partner is upset. In contrast, skills language highlights the specific abilities used (active listening and empathy) and emphasizes their conscious application in response to their partner’s emotional state.

The technique encourages clients to think about the skills they use in their relationships and offers a relatively simple way to analyze and work through problems.

  1. Sending effective verbal messages

How we say something is as important as the words we use.

If one partner says to the other, “I think you are right,” but is speaking loudly at a high pitch, it may convey a different meaning.

Coaches should work with their clients to consider how they share their feelings.

The VAPER acronym is helpful and can easily be taught. While it is a general approach to improving communication, it remains vital within relationships.

Adjust your volume to be loud enough to be heard without being overwhelming.

Clear articulation is crucial when presenting how you feel, as your partner may struggle to understand your delivery and content if you do not enunciate properly.

Pay attention to pitch, such as uncomfortable highness, lowness, or narrowness of range, as it influences what the other person hears when you’re sharing your thoughts and feelings.

Highlight your main points and convey interest and commitment.

Speak reasonably slowly when describing emotions, concerns, and problems, allowing yourself time to think and giving your partner ample opportunity to comprehend what you share.
Partners should also reflect on their body language messages, such as gestures, stance, and eye contact.

  1. Managing anger

When one individual gets angry, it can lead to a heated argument or the other person shutting down, possibly even walking away.

Speak to the clients regarding what anger is and how they manage it. Anger can be packaged in many forms: mild, slight irritation, or full-blown rage. It can also be short or present over a long time.

Ask them individually to reflect on the following questions and then discuss them within their relationship:

How much of a challenge do you face in managing your anger?

  • Do you get angry with yourself more often than with your partner or others?
  • Aside from anger, what other emotions do you typically experience, such as hurt or anxiety, when you become angry?
  • What physical reactions, such as tension or other bodily sensations, do you usually experience when you feel angry?
  • How confident would you describe yourself as a person, and to what extent do you believe this affects your susceptibility to anger?
  • How successfully are you recognizing and embracing positive feelings toward your partner or others that could prevent or soften your anger?
  • What kinds of messages do you typically convey when you are feeling angry? This includes verbal, vocal, body language, touch, and actions.
  • Come up with a list of triggers and warning signals. Agree that the couple may need to give one another a cooling-off period when necessary.

Relationship coaches can help couples identify limiting or challenging attitudes, develop communication skills, and support experiential learning. Unlike therapy, relationship coaching focuses on communication skills and action-oriented approaches rather than clinical concerns.

So relationship coaches play a crucial role in personal growth and fostering relationship satisfaction, introducing techniques such as conflict management, understanding love languages, nonviolent communication, use of skills language, effective vocal messaging, and anger management to maintain and build further connections.

by Jeremy Sutton, Ph.D.

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