No, I’m afraid this post is not about armpit whiffs and sheets-to-sniff – instead I’ve recently been introduced, by my good friend Tara of Wildfitness fame (and a Watamu neighbour), to a process that helps with some therapeutic friend-realignment.
You see, we often roam around with people we love. But how often do we tell them what we think.
In my case, if you’re trying to avoid conflict, many of the niggles and wiggles of a relationship can get swept unceremoniously under the carpet. Or, in true British form, all irritation and anger comes out instead in the most passive-aggressive form of all – sarcasm, ‘wit’ and general teasing of the subject. Which, unhelpfully, irritates the person you’re trying to inform that you’re irritated.
Tara is one of those wonderful people unafraid to challenge the norm and embrace ways of delving deeper.
I have no idea where the poorly named ‘inter-personal hygiene’ session came from, but it goes like this. Two people who have a business or platonic or romantic relationship sit down separately and write all the things that they think are positive about the other person then all the things that are negative. Then, you have to write all the positive and negative things you can think of about yourself.
Hopefully people willing to participate in an inter-personal hygiene session are open-minded enough to accept constructive complements or criticism and can do it with a degree of dignity, as the next step is more difficult.
You then sit down together and begin by having the first person selected talk about their thoughts on themselves – going over the positives and negatives of their own character. Then, you switch and the other person comments on the positives and negatives of that first person who has started. It probably works best if you let each person speak then leave comments to the end.
Next, you move to the other person. They talk about themselves then the other person comments on that person’s positives and negatives. It’s worth taking notes as you go.
I won’t discuss what was said in our private sessions, instead encourage you to set aside a few hours to do this with people you feel could benefit from this work.
It was supremely valuable for me with both people that I’ve done it with, so to speak. They were better able to tell me when I’d been a prat and in return I could vent some of the inevitable frustrations that build up in the months and years together. In addition, it enables you to find a sensible, constructive space in which to grow closer and, as well as venting frustration, it also enables you to tell someone about their good side and what you love about them. For a compliment-shy Brit like me that will deflect the best praise with some witty quip, it’s a good way to understand more about yourself and come to terms with what you are.
It may take a few hours and dig up some things you don’t want to hear, but in the name of hugely improved relationships, it’s worth making the time.