Lately I’ve had an increasing awareness of the use of the terms “Relationship Coach” and “Relationship Expert” and it’s got me thinking…
What makes someone an expert? I know there is probably some algorithm out there that states once we have spent 50,000,000 hours doing a thing, then we are considered an expert. And that makes sense to me, if we are solely using a School of Experience approach.
Let me be clear: I am not talking about “establishing authority” or “self promotion” here. I am talking about actual expertise. A depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding rooted in both theory and experienced in practice. When it come to what makes someone an Expert when it comes to relationships, here’s my top five criteria.
- In order to deeply understand relationships, an Expert should deeply understand people: human behavior, motivations, conscious and subconscious processes, the interpersonal dynamics at play in individuals as well as couples, friendships, families, and collegial relationships. They should have an advanced level of understanding and education in psychology. At a minimum a bachelor’s degree in psychology. But, really, the more degrees in psychology, the better.
2. To be an Expert on relationships, you ought to have some life experience under your belt. For a number of reasons. Being able to understand and relate to a broad spectrum of types of relationships is a powerful way to cultivate empathy and truly support others in an Expert capacity. If you have only had a few years of adulthood under your belt, or you’ve spent most of your life in seclusion you are likely not some who has had a significant number of diverse relationships to draw from in your personal experience arsenal.
3. A clear understanding of some fundamental concepts that can be problematic in relationships. Boundaries are one major consideration in all connections: both how to create them, enforce them, and knowing when they have been violated. Codependence, and how to heal from enmeshment, the abuse cycle, a working understanding of emotional abuse, personality disorders, and the impact of relational trauma on individuals and the types of relationships they attract are all incredibly important when it comes to guiding others as they navigate their relationships. I am harkening back to point 1 here, I know. But this stuff is imperative.
4. Successful healthy relationships and failed toxic relationships. Not every relationship we have will be a success. Nor should it be. In life, we best learn from our failures and relationships are no exception. I think that having an experience of profound grief as a result of a lost relationship or the pain of an estrangement are Big life experiences that grow us as people and can cultivate compassion and empathy in ways that nothing else can. On the other hand, having some long-term relationships where there has been time for many ruptures and repairs, adversities, challenges, struggles, and a commitment to stay connected provides the education of the work that healthy relationships can require.
5. A growth mindset in general with a specific commitment to personal growth. Anyone can talk the talk, but unless you are willing to walk the walk and take accountability for your own relationship “stuff” you are just a talking head. When it comes to interpersonal evolution we need to stay awake and tend to our own challenges and limitations.
While this is not a comprehensive list, it represents a few important qualifications that anyone calling themselves a Relationship Expert should meet.
If you are looking for Expert help with a relationship in your life, drop me a line.