Dorada project logoEuropean Union
The hands of three people touching each other

Read an article

Building a relationship

As Aristotle wrote a long time ago, humans are social creatures. Relationships between people may be a source of both the greatest happiness and despair, as well as the theme of many songs, books and films.

Yet relationship building became the subject of greater interest only in the late 1980s when the journal Science published a study on social isolation as a risk factor for premature deaths (House, 1988). A report by a special government commission found that as many as 9 million Britons were lonely. As a result, in 2018, the UK Ministry of Loneliness was established (Kossobudzka, 2018). The impact of relationships on our health and well-being is confirmed by research, including the results of the Social Diagnosis (Czapiński and Panek, 2007), which show that the well-being of Poles is influenced by such factors as marriage and friends, with friends having the greatest impact on stress relief and marriage indicated as one of the main values by 56% of married people. 

Most of our behaviour and what is important to us is related to the family, fellow students, neighbours or friends from work. Closer relationships such as friendship or love are determined by mutual attraction or simply the fact that people like each other. A favourable factor is the closeness and frequency of the relationship: the same place of work or study, or shared friends. We are attracted to people who are similar to us and who make us feel empowered. That is why partners are often encouraged in therapy to appreciate each other. The situation is slightly different in social relationships, such as early-stage friendships, where engaging with each other’s needs is a bonding factor.  

A photo to an article "Building Relationships". Two persons holding hands

It is very likely that if we like a person, they will also reciprocate our feelings, because the principle of reciprocating affection works in interpersonal relationships. This is because so-called mirror neurons mirror not only the behaviour but also the emotions of other people. The ability to read a partner’s behaviour is of great importance. People who are able to guess non-verbal signals, such as kind facial expressions or the tone of voice of the other person, experience a higher degree of relationship satisfaction than those who are less good at it. (Rostowska, 2008).  

It is worth noting that, especially at the beginning of a relationship, the emotional state of the chooser may be a factor of influence.

It means that if A is in a good mood and meets B, it is quite likely that A will like B. This is why the place, time, the temperature of the room and the aesthetics of the place are important. Maybe because of it, on so many occasions friendships and love have been born during holidays, at parties or concerts attended together. Another factor that influences mutual relations is self-disclosure, which signifies a dynamic process when people decide to gradually discover themselves, their views, feelings, experiences and opinions. People begin to disclose themselves as trust grows between them and there arises a conviction that the other person will not use this information against them or to gain an advantage over them. 

An integral part of interpersonal relationships is good communication. This means listening openly, clarifying what you have heard, speaking about your expectations and needs, receiving and giving feedback, sharing your feelings, thoughts in a non-aggressive way, with good intentions. The clarity of communication also depends on the emotional attitude: with a positive attitude it is possible to be interested in the partner, while with a negative attitude there is a danger of selective listening and misconceptions and therefore misinterpretation in the reception of messages. The most common reason for couples to come to the therapist’s office is the lack of communication. It is not uncommon that during the therapy partners gain insight into and change their communication patterns (Plopa M.K., 2012). This applies to relationships between family members, partners, friends as well as professional relations.  

A person is relational in relation to a particular acquaintance and people’s actions are usually a reaction to someone else’s actions. It can be said that an individual is not one person, but a different person each time, depending on a particular relationship. It means that one may be dynamic or passive, comfortable in a family or friendship and shun away from people in another social or professional group, i.e. they may be sociable in one group and separate in another. People in a relationship react (or not) to the wishes, needs and emotional expressions of their partner, take into account the fact of interdependence in organising their daily life. Mutual influence says much more about a relationship than nominal (e.g. mate, spouse) or static (e.g. duration, status) categories.  Interdependence is important in this context, as everyone is an active person in the communication process (Duck, 2007). It is worth remembering that every relationship requires hard work, flexibility, patience and sensitivity to the other person’s needs.  

Reference literature 

Agryle, M., Psychologia stosunków międzyludzkich, PWN, Warszawa 1999. 

Czapiński, J.P. Diagnoza społeczna 2007,  downloaded from: 

Doroszewicz, K., Bliskie związki a jakość życia. Psychologia Jakości Życia, 2008. 

Duck, S., Human Relationships. Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage Publications, 2007. 

Harwas Napierała, B., Komunikacja interpersonalna w rodzinie, Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznań 2008. 

House, J. L., Social Relationships and Health. Science, 1988. 

Kossobudzka, M., Samotność groźna jak rak, [in:] ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’, 26.01 2018. 

Plopa, M. K.  Komunikacja w bliskich związkach. Teoria i badania.  VIZJA PRESS&IT., Warszawa, 2012. 

Reis, H., The relationship context of social psychology. [in]: P. A. Lange, Briding Social Psychology. Benefits of Trandisciplinary Approches., Mahawak, New Yersey: London: Lawrence Erlbum Associates, Publishers, 2006. 

Reis, H. T., Relationships, Human Behavior and Psychological Science, ‘Current Directions in Psychological Science’, 13(6), 2004, pp. 233-236. 

Rostowska, T., Małżeństwo, rodzina, praca a jakość życia, Oficyna Wydawnicz Impuls, Kraków, 2008. 

About the author

KATARZYNA PODGÓRSKA is a psychology graduate and a psychotherapist in the process of certification by the Polish Psychologists’ Association. She completed a 4-year comprehensive psychotherapy programme at the Systemic Training Centre and the Art and Science of Coaching programme organised by the Jagiellonian University Training Centre in collaboration with Erickson College. On a regular basis, she works in her private practice as well as at the Jagiellonian University Student Centre for Support and Adaptation, where she runs the Mindfulness group. In her free time, she travels to places off the beaten tract.