Monthly Archives: March 2016

Relationship Skills: Overview

There are, at a generalized high level, 3 forms of relationships.

1. Parasitic: One person benefits while the other person loses.  A robber steals money from a victim. The robber gains money and the victim loses money.

2. Co-Existing: Either person is unaffected by the other person and they co-exist. Two people are eating at a restaurant at separate tables.

3. Mutualistic: Both people benefit from being in the relationship with each other.  Two friends doing an activity they would individually enjoy, together.  They derive pleasure both from the activity and from the shared experience.  Two people playing tennis: a sport that cannot be played alone with as much fun. Two people working together to move a table from one place to another so that it can be used by the two later.


For each form of relationship, there is a direct mapping form and an indirect mapping form of relationship.  A direct mapping means that the exchange in question exists within the same category as seen from both sides of the exchange, such as in the above example where a robber steals money from a victim.

Let’s take a look at an example of an indirect mapping, parasitic relationship. If I don’t value my wallet, but I value my safety, then when a robber steals my wallet by force, I am more affected by the loss of safety than the loss of my wallet.  From my point of view, I lost my safety, and the wallet was a side effect.  From the robber’s point of view, the primary gain was the wallet, safety was a means to the end. Thus, the exchange in question is not within the same category as seen from both sides of the exchange.

A direct mapping, co-existing relationship would be the restaurant example above, two people eating at separate tables. An indirect mapping, co-existing relationship would be two people working within the industry of Bio Engineering but physically in two separate cities.

A direct mapping, mutualistic relationship would be the examples above, two tennis players playing tennis together. An indirect mapping, mutualistic relationship would be two tennis players of drastically different skill levels playing together. The weaker player benefiting from the direct exposure to tennis skill and learning about tennis, and the stronger player benefiting through the gain in self confidence or self purpose through educating and training the weaker player. Again, the exchange is across two categories, learning from one perspective and teaching through another.


These 3 forms of relationships also serve as benchmarks for maturity.  Everyone starts out in this world in a mutualistic, indirect relationship with their caretaker.  As the caretaker imparts wisdom and the child grows up, and can begin developing co-existing relationships.  They have classmates, clubmates, co-workers, etc.  That child eventually gains the skills necessary to engage in direct mutualistic relationships.  Being an employee and getting paid for labor, or taking responsibilities from others and providing those services.


Weaving through all six forms of relationships is another kind of relationship.  The personal relationship.  This is the record or ledger for all interactions between you and the entity in question through all time.  Nurturing that into existence, keeping it alive, and making it flourish is one of the hardest things to do, and one of the most rewarding.  I’ll get to that in another post.