An individual’s relational health is generally understood as their ability to make meaningful social connections and their ability to adapt to new circumstances and to new people entering their social space. A community’s relational health can refer to a range of things but is generally understood as how well a community can relationally/socially react to newcomers, neighbors, unexpected events, and other circumstances that require social interactions on a somewhat wide scale. This is in a sense an attempt to gain an understanding of how well people and communities socialize and how communicators and communication therapists can aid people and communities in improving their ability to communicate with other people and newcomers or neighbors in a more healthy way that creates and sustains social relationships.
What Does This Have To Do With Peace & Conflict Studies?
When people and communities enter into states of conflict or inch in that direction the ways that people communicate change. Relationships, even individual and intimate ones, can be negatively impacted when communities, families, or individuals enter a state of conflict. Having higher/better/stronger relational health helps to mitigate the negative impacts of conflict states on individual relationships which can make it easier for people to fully enter a transitive state wherein peace is on the table and is understood to be accessible/possible.
Peace communicators understand the importance of relational health even if we don’t always have or use the specific vocabulary I am using in this post. On some level we’re aware of the importance of ensuring that the people and communities we aid have the mental and social means and frameworks to react well and positively to peacebuilding processes and to rebuild or speed up the recovery of relationships that were negatively affected by the conflict state the community will transition out of once the transition begins.
By working to improve a community or an individual’s relational health we are also working to improve their ability to engage with people they disagree with in a more positive way and also giving them the means, knowledge, and attitudes that can help prevent a disagreement from becoming a serious conflict or a conflict from devolving further into actual violence or other negative states.
What Can People Do To Increase/Strengthen/Improve Their Own Relational Health?
There are a variety of things that can be done to make someone or a community improve their relational health. These things include researching other perspectives, volunteering with unfamiliar people/other communities, going to different places and interacting positively with the people and institutions you come across, interacting online with people from different spaces and with different perspectives, and intentionally & genuinely seeking to learn from people with different views than yours as well as different backgrounds.
As a peace communicator I want to help people gain an understanding and awareness of their own relational health and by doing that give them another tool with which they can understand their own reactions to negative situations which could become conflicts or worse if they react impulsively and not introspectively and carefully. It is my intention to show people ideas and concepts from various fields of study that can help them better grasp their own communication strengths, weaknesses, and ways to build upon those strengths and improve their own shortcomings.