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What is Relational Thinking?

Who we are and who we are becoming is born in the relational. Relational is the space that gets created in interaction between people. Such a space exists in the experiences and their meanings. I’m often asked if one is not mindful about the relational space or what is created, does it exist? I think there are a number of ways to engage that question. Firstly, nothing exits within our landscape of meaning until we acknowledge it by our responsiveness. Secondly, even if we mindfully do not craft it, that which is created between people is a relational space. Thirdly, our lack of acknowledgment or mindfulness is not the absence of the relational. Lastly, but not the least, the relational is what grounds us, grows us and gives us meaning (both joy and suffering). The relational is the net that we grow with each other in the course of living our lives. It is our lives, stories and culture.

Relational Thinking is the mindful practice of designing life from within the spaces between people. In business, it is the space between the company and its customers.  In a couple relationship, it is the space between the partners. In teaching, it is the space between the teacher and the students. In research, it is the space between the researchers and the participants. And so the list goes on for any role or practice that you habituate or occupy in your personal or professional life.

Relational Thinking relocates focus from the “me” to the “we,” engendering mutual priorities and partnerships that grow satisfaction and fulfillment for all parties. That does not imply there is no unhappiness or suffering. Rather, it is the view that what we deem as “good” and “bad” is created in the relational space. And as I have been indicating, thinking is not a cognitive activity but a social activity. In referring to it as Relational Thinking I am attempting to move thinking out of the “mental” realm to the “social” realm. Rather than claim to locate thinking in our heads, what shifts for you if you shift it within the social?

Our thinking is born in the relational! We are born in the relational! Who we are becoming is relational!