Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Healthy Relationships – Present and Future

Workshop Number: 
Cathy Walling, Scott Bell
Who may register?: 
AYF Only
Experiential Activities: 
full-time attenders only

Tending our interpersonal relationships is tending our web of connection to humanity.  Learning to listen and speak in ways to foster more understanding is a spiritual practice of interpersonal peacemaking useful in our most intimate relationships, with friends and family, at work, and in our communities.  Singles and couples welcome.

Workshop Description

As trained Couple Enrichment leaders we have tended the query of how might we share some of the tools from Couple Enrichment with Friends, whether or not they are in a committed relationship. This workshop will cover communication skills, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness. The goal is to deepen our connections with others by developing listening, self-reflection and speaking abilities, allowing us to more fully understand a situation and convey our thoughts and feelings in a constructive way.

During the course of the week we will:

  •  Discuss the power of listening as a way to understand and validate others, and the importance of understanding each other’s viewpoints on an issue before moving to problem  solving.
  •  Learn ways to speak so we are most likely to be listened to, and how to listen so a speaker feels heard.
  •  Work on increasing our understanding of emotions in ourselves and others.
  •  Learn to identify “the story in our head”; what we are telling ourselves about a situation.
  •  Discuss conflict escalators, and how to avoid them.
  •  Learn about developing a generous heart towards others.
  •  Learn how to use these skills in one-on-one relationships and in group settings. Listening a friend or colleague into clarity on an issue, or validating them through listening even though we may not agree with them, are wonderful gifts we can give them and a powerful method of interpersonal peacemaking.

We imagine beginning our mornings with 20 minutes of worship, incorporating large group and small group time, movement opportunities, worship sharing and discussion. While we have an overall plan for the week, we seek to stay open to the ways the Divine leads us forward.

Leader Experience

We have led Couple Enrichment workshops since 2006, and became fully recognized CE leaders in 2010. To date we have led 16 Couple Enrichment workshops.  This includes leading two at the FGC gathering in 2010 and 2012, both with the theme "Tending Spirit in Your Relationship", five CE workshops in Australia and several in our home community of Fairbanks, Alaska.  In Fairbanks, we have opened up our workshops to the wider Fairbanks community, and have typically had mostly non-Quaker couples participating.  We have facilitated two mini-workshops for junior high students with the title "Listening as a Leadership Skill", again using CE communication skills in a non-couple setting. We have served as elders for others leading workshops at the Gathering and elsewhere over the years.  Cathy has  co-presented workshops in Australia when traveling in the ministry with Elaine Emily, and with Chris Hall and the Way of the Spirit program.

The seed for this workshop was planted at the 2010 FGC Gathering where we led a FGC Couple Enrichment workshop entitled "Tending Spirit in Your Relationship".  During lunch with a young adult couple the conversation turned to our workshop.  The young adults mentioned how cool it could be to have a workshop for young adults focused on tending healthy relationships, specifically "whether or not you are in a committed relationship".  One of the women mentioned she hadn't had many examples of "healthy committed relationships".  We noted how the current media is flooded with all sorts of examples of "unhealthy relationships", and typically the focus is sexual.  We explored some of what a workshop focused on healthy relationships might be like.

We continued to tend this question and have shared it with our Anchor Committee as well as the FGC CE leaders community.  We see this workshop as inspired and informed by our work in Couples Enrichment, but not a specific Couples Enrichment offering as it is open to any young adult, whether or not they are currently in a committed relationship.