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What does it mean to be “relateful”?

connection in-person personal growth relateful tucson relatefulness Jun 09, 2023
    Written by Joshua Zader


If you've attended our events in recent months, you've probably heard us using this word “relateful” now and then. And now we're in the process of changing the name of our group to “Relateful Tucson”.

So what does being relateful really mean?

In her seminal book Getting Real, psychologist Susan Campbell makes a wonderful distinction between "relating in order to relate" versus "relating in order to control”.

"Relating in order to relate" means seeking to understand and be understood. It means being willing to share our experience without trying to change another’s experience. We’re relating for the sake of knowing each other more fully, including the truth of our connection in this moment, wherever that may lead us. This presupposes a certain level of trust and self-awareness.

In contrast, “relating in order to control" means being more attached to an outcome than committed to our connection. In truth, it’s often surprising how much of human communication is a subtle or overt attempt to control another person’s feelings—if not to control one’s own.

What would it be like if we genuinely relinquished those efforts at control?

With that in mind, lately to me being relateful means (a) we’re present together in connection and (b) we’re relating in order to relate, rather than to control.

This could look like:

- Our attention is at least partly anchored in the present moment together—in our bodies, sensations, and feelings, and in the connection between us.

- We’re genuinely interested in one another’s experience.

- We're willing to reveal and be seen in our experience, even when it feels vulnerable to do so (and willing to be seen in feeling closed, when we feel that).

- We’re owning our experience, rather than seeking to blame the other, or impose a projection or story onto them.

For those with a mindfulness practice, relatefulness builds upon it. In mindfulness, we keep awareness on our present moment experience—our sensations, feelings, and thoughts. In relatefulness, we share these experiences and tune into the co-created connection that arises in the sharing.

In all of this, we’re in full explorer mode. Each moment of connection is new. And we each have a unique perspective on those moments—making our exploration itself, and the sense of newness, potentially endless.

I was introduced to the word “relateful” by my friend Jordan Myska Allen, shortly before he changed the name of his organization to The Relateful Company. Jordan introduced me to circling in 2014. And the organization he’s built recently is a marvel of leadership development and relational skill-building. If you have the opportunity to take one of their trainings, I recommend it highly.

Jordan was always an advocate for seeing circling as not just a practice we do for an hour or two, but as a life practice we bring into every waking hour and every relationship.

I now see “relatefulness” as the name for that wider life practice, which both transcends and includes circling and authentic relating, as skill-building exercises.

I look forward to exploring these practices more together with all of you in the coming months and years.


Come and meet us in-person here at Relateful Tucson.



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