This technique shows the diversity of relationships, and it aims to allow young people to recognize and name the important relationships they have in their lives. The point is to show that we all have different relationships, which are often disregarded when we focus too much on couple relationships.
In our workshops, we have noticed that the word “relationship“ often conjures up direct associations with romantic (mostly hetero-, sometimes homosexual) relationships but not with relationships to family members or friends. By looking at different kinds of relationships, young people will gain a wider and better understanding of different types of relationships. The differences between personal relationships and, in the next step, interpersonal dynamics and the concept of consensus among people in different types of relationships will be discussed.
This technique is quite personal, and sometimes participants who have suffered from violence in relationships or a loss of relationships through divorce or death can show their vulnerabilities. Workshop leaders must be aware of the full spectrum of relationships and able to be responsive to the emotions and verbal expressions of the participants. As with all topics that touch the personal sphere, workshop leaders must be self-reflective and have knowledge about their approach to and experiences with different types of relationships. Questions may include:
Which relationships are important to me?
How do I create them in my daily life?
How much space do I give them and why?
This technique is a good door opener for the group.
The technique is appropriate for groups of different sizes. If the group/s is/are very small, the workshop facilitator has to make sure that participants do not feel pressured to share personal information that they would not want to share in a larger group and with a large group; it is necessary to allow enough space for each participant who wants to share. Generally speaking, at the beginning, the voluntariness of sharing should be emphasized, and the workshop facilitator should give an example of sharing. This openness is needed to further the process.
The technique takes place in three steps: Introduction, self-assessment, and collective discussion.
A possible introduction might be:
“I imagine that you all have an idea of what a relationship is. In the first step, I would like you to collect different types of relationships, before each of you can think of your relationships. My first question is, therefore: What crosses your mind when you hear the word relationship?”
In this first brainstorming round, the facilitators collect all associations and write them down on a flipchart or a large piece of paper. It is advised to use different colours to make the visualization aesthetically appealing and memorable. The participants’ answers should be collected, and if needed, supplemented so that the diversity of relationships is made visible. After this first step, the paper should be attached to the wall so that all participants can see it.
The self-assessment can be guided as follows:
“In the next step, we want to invite you to think about the relationships in your life. Please take a piece of paper and pencils and find a nice and quiet spot, where you can write or draw without being disturbed. You will work for about 10 minutes or if needed; longer. You can start by making yourself visible on the paper first: you can place yourself anywhere you want to and then create your relationships. Please note that this is for you. We will talk about what you have written and drawn, but since it is very personal, we will do this voluntarily only. Therefore, you are invited to share, but only if you want to.“
After this, the participants will find a space and make themselves comfortable, and the instructors might need to support them to get started. Therefore, it is advised to bring an example of a drawing or writing. It is also important to have enough space between the participants, especially with young people, since there might be tendencies to look at what the others are doing and to comment on this, instead of focusing on own work. It is also important to let the participants know that they are the experts on their own lives and relationships.
When everybody has finished their work, participants can regroup and share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Further topics might include: what has been difficult, what has been good, and if it has been easy to categorize or describe relationships, what we expect of different relationships, what we wish for and dream of, and how all relationships (good or bad) influence our lives.
Guiding questions for discussion:
How was it for you to picture your relationships?
What stood out for you?
How many forms of relationships do you have?
Are there relationships that have a stronger influence on you than others?
What makes a good relationship? Which factors are responsible for a good relationship?