Essential qualities and skills for developing positive relationships with others by Dr. Catherine Buchan
It is perceived that there are a number of qualities and skills relating to mindfulness and compassion which are essential for the development of positive interpersonal relationships. Goldstein and Stahl (2010) identified six qualities they considered essential. These included “openness”, which I would describe as open-mindedness and an open heart, regarding the viewpoint of others; “compassion”, namely compassion for others’ suffering and a desire to relieve them of it; “loving kindness”, which is wishing others positive aspects, such as health, safety and happiness; “sympathetic joy”, that is rather than being jealous or resentful of someone else, you take pleasure in their happiness instead; “equanimity”, that is calmness and composure, particularly in challenging situations and “empathy”, which is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings.
However, more recently, Pratscher and colleagues conceptualised an actual scale to measure what they describe as “interpersonal mindfulness”, that is having present moment awareness (of internal and external experiences) whilst simultaneously paying attention to what the other person appears to be experiencing, as you interact with them (Pratscher, Wood, King & Bettencourt, 2018). Pratscher et al. (2018) subsequently grouped the qualities and skills they identified in their research into four categories “presence”, “awareness of self and others” (i.e. noticing), “non-judgmental acceptance” (that is accepting internal reactions and choosing to respond in a non-judgmental way) and “non-reactivity” (e.g. not reacting emotionally). Some of these qualities appear to parallel those identified by Goldstein and Stahl (2010), such as non-reactivity which seems similar to “equanimity” and it could be argued that to practice non-judgemental acceptance, one needs to practice “openness” and “empathy”.
Empathy appears to be the quality considered vital according to a large body of research with regards to developing positive relationships, and there is also much research to support the association between empathy and mindfulness (Wachs & Cordova, 2007). Aspects of mindfulness that have been found to most strongly relate to aspects of empathy, (e.g. perspective taking) are non-judging and non-reactivity (Kingsbury, 2009). Self- compassion has also been found to be an important factor with regards to the perspective taking aspect of empathy (Kingsbury, 2009).
Goldstein, E. and Stahl, B. (2010). A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger.
Kingsbury, E. (2009). The relationship between empathy and mindfulness: understanding the role of self-compassion. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 70 (5-B), 3175
Pratscher, S. D., Wood, P. K., King, L. A. and Bettencourt, A. (2018). Interpersonal Mindfulness: Scale Development and Initial Construct Validation. Mindfulness, 10 (6), 1044-
Wachs, K. and Cordova, J. V. (2007). Mindful relating: Exploring Mindfulness and emotion repertoires in intimate relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33 (4), 464-481.