Part 2: The Three Indispensable Conditions for Positive Relationships
Carl Rogers formulated three indispensable conditions that must be present to create a climate of growth and resonance in a relationship. These conditions apply in any and all relationships, whether it is lover or friend, therapist and client, parent and child, leader and group, teacher and student, or management and staff. The conditions apply, in fact, in any situation in which the development of the person is a goal.
The first condition is genuineness, realness, or congruence. The more a person is him or herself in the relationship, presenting no professional front or personal facade, the greater the likelihood for resonance and connection. This requires that we be aware of and open to the feelings and attitudes flowing within us as we relate to another. The term transparent catches the essence of this condition: we are willing to make ourselves transparent to the other person so the other person can clearly see what we are in the relationship. There is no holding back. There is a close matching, or congruence, between what is being experienced at the gut level, what is present in awareness, and what is expressed.
The second attitude of importance in creating a climate for connection is acceptance and caring, or what Rogers called unconditional positive regard. He refrained from using the word love to define this condition, but love is what it is. By love, I mean a positive, acceptant attitude toward whatever the other person is at that moment. We are willing for the other person to be whatever he or she is experiencing, whether confusion, resentment, fear, anger, courage, pride, kindness, or compassion. We value the other in a total rather than a conditional way.
3. Empathic Understanding
The third facilitative quality of the relationship is empathic understanding. Being empathic is to perceive the point of view of another with accuracy, along with the emotional components and meanings. It means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he or she senses it and to perceive the causes of the feelings as he or she perceives them. It is to enter another’s private world so completely that we lose all desire to evaluate and judge it. “This kind of sensitive, active listening is exceedingly rare in our lives,” Rogers stated. “We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change [in a relationship] that I know.”
Resonance proceeds from an accepting, empathic, and honest way of being in a relationship. This way of relating arises naturally in the absence of judging, advising, admonishing, ordering, or directing. It helps us to get in touch with our actual feelings and experience so we can become more real, less distorted, and ultimately achieve a close match between the person we strive to be and the person we are. Resonance means we are alive in the present moment, attuned to its ebbs and flows, open to a state of becoming; rather than being fixed on who or what we think we should be, or how another person should be.
How Mirror Neurons Come Into Play
The more a person feels accepted and prized, the more they tend to develop a more caring attitude toward themselves. Our acceptance literally mirrors in their brain as self-acceptance.
As a person is empathetically heard, it becomes possible for them to listen more accurately to the flow of their own inner experience. Our listening mirrors as self-understanding.
As a person understands and prizes him or herself, he or she becomes more congruent, in ways that feel real, grounded and genuine. Our willingness to be authentic with another mirrors within them as the courage to be authentically who they are.
When all three attitudes are present in a relationship, resonance is inevitable. This is because inevitably, it shifts the question from how can I change or fix this person to how can I provide a relationship which this person might use for personal growth?
Who doesn’t want a relationship with a person like that?