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Your Relating Quotient is 0.

As with any self-report technique, your "score" on this exercise is really your rating of yourself. Self-reports don't "tell" you anything you did not already know, though they can summarize it in ways that help you understand yourself better. In this case, the lower your score out of a possible 25 points, the lower you rate yourself on a small sample of social skills, ranging from forgettable chitchat to the most personal of interactions. The questions help illuminate some basic relationship skills:


Here are the skills behind your scores in the self assessment:
1. Being able to converse with strangers not only helps you to enjoy yourself more, it also broadens your social circle and gives you more relationship options.

2. People often lament that it's so hard to "find" someone they like--but it does no good to find him or her if you can't do something about it. Most people like to be liked. Being able to express liking, whether romantic or platonic, provides at least an opportunity for further interactions. Nothing ventured, nothing gained: not saying anything means you miss your chance.

3. It works both ways: it would be nice to like everyone who liked you, but it doesn't always happen that way. Suppose someone expresses liking for you, but you don't return the sentiment. If you don't want to send the wrong signals, or simply don't want to "waste your time," you need to say so -- in the same civil but clear manner you yourself would want. No one likes to hear bad news, but early in an acquaintanceship the news of "no interest" isn't really that bad -- and telling the truth (nicely) means you don't have to remember what you said. In other words, if what you mean is "Sorry, I'm not interested at all," say so, don't say, "I'm really busy next weekend . . . and the next . . ."

4. What two people do in a relationship -- any relationship -- is communicate. In some relationships, communication only gets so close, and stops there. But in close relationships, talk and action move from superficial to personal levels. You can't keep on talking about sports and weather and expect to achieve intimacy. As you do disclose more personally to each other, you'll find it easy and enjoyable to share the best of yourself. But the good stuff isn't the whole story. Be prepared to share "the bad and the ugly" as well. And be prepared to hear it in return, and to show you are accepting and trustworthy.

5. In fact, only half of "communicating" is talking; the other half is listening. Even if you're not a great talker, you too can find companionship if you start by listening. This requires not only an open ear and a willingness not to interrupt, but the body language and eye contact that show interest and empathy. Listening well is not easy. Many people who describe themselves as "lonely" wrongly assume that the key to social success will lie in reciting icebreakers or pickup lines. In fact, even by wordlessly indicating your interest, and asking questions that show it, you'll make a better impression and a more genuine interaction.

Why Relationships Matter

In the simple company of others, we find information and reassurance. Friends provide us with assistance and support, someone to bail us out or provide a listening ear. Romantic love is celebrated in movies and CDs as it has been in song and story since the 12th century -- new in human history, perhaps, but pervasive now in its influence. Studies confirm that married people actually are healthier and happier than those without committed partners. Look around you, look at your own life and tick off the many ways other people can offer you what you need.

Or on the other hand, consider the "bad examples," instances of what happens when people do not get adequate social or intimate contact. Infants who are not cuddled, physically touched and held will fail to thrive or even to survive. Prisoners in solitary confinement may become disordered, increasingly unable to deal with social contact. The self-exiled hermit Ted Kaczynski hides in his shack in the Montana woods, types out his paranoid fantasies and launches attacks on total strangers, earning his terrible fame as the Unabomber. People who live without relationships often fail to be fully human or even to function in human society. When neighbors describe a criminal suspect as a stereotypical "loner," that simple cliché is a condemnation. But being without just the simplest relationship skills may make an individual feel maladjusted, self-defeating and unhappy.

The above exercise should help you see that different skills are needed for different degrees of social closeness. Some relationships are superficial, others are deep; the different degrees of closeness require different types and depths of skill. Once you have become close to someone, for example, the quality of your party conversation shouldn't matter as much. A wide variety of skills -- in talking, listening and expressing -- will be useful in a broad spectrum of relationships. But becoming good at any one type of interaction won't guarantee success in others. And relational "disabilities" can certainly block opportunities, prevent intimacy and produce loneliness.

In an affluent culture, it's easy for people to isolate and insulate themselves. The gap between you and someone else can become a gulf if you aren't ready, willing and able to take action, and make contact. The more we hesitate, the harder it gets. For some people, this hesitation is a way of life, a pattern we call shyness, a topic we will cover in a later session.


A Course on Closeness
The psychology of close relationships is a growing discipline, based on observations of real partners' interactions, on people's responses to interviews and surveys, records and archives, and experiments that examine smaller parts of the larger relating process. Most college-level courses are offered in departments of psychology at the university level, but many are also developed under the heading of sociology, counseling, communication or family studies. And a few secondary schools have recognized how supremely useful it would be if teenagers knew a thing or two about intimacy beyond its personal appeal.

This seminar series from TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow presents information to help you with some of the central issues in people's relationship experiences and motives.
Meet Your Virtual Instructor


Actually, I am not virtual at all! I am Ann Weber and I am a Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I've been teaching classroom-based courses on the Psychology of Close Relationships since 1982, one of the longest continuous offerings of the course in the nation. I earned my doctorate in social psychology from The Johns Hopkins University in 1978, and have been teaching at UNCA ever since.

On my own and with distinguished colleagues, I've written and co-authored numerous books, chapters and articles in psychology, on topics ranging from grief and bereavement to relationship "thinking." I'm an active member of both the International Network on Personal Relationships (INPR) and the International Society for the Study of Personal Relationships (ISSPR), the latter having awarded me its second-ever Outstanding Teaching Award. In sum, I'm an experienced teacher and writer on the subject of the psychology of close relationships. My UNCA course on the subject is quickly enrolled, successful -- and enjoyable. It's time for me to venture outside the classroom and into cyberspace.

 
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