9.3 Relationship Ruptures


What Is It?

Sometimes relationships move along smoothly, sometimes they stumble, and sometimes they break down. People misspeak, misunderstand, or come from different perspectives. People attach meaning to what others say and do and evoke unintended feelings in others. Some common sources for miscommunications include differences in

  • age
  • education level
  • life experiences
  • professional experiences
  • personal history
  • job role
  • ethnicity/cultural values and practices
  • gender
  • religious beliefs
  • communication styles
  • combinations of characteristics

Relationship ruptures can happen between you and home visitors and between home visitors and families. Repairing a relationship takes skill, patience, and humility, but the effort can significantly strengthen the human connection.

How To

The Home Visitor’s Handbook (see Chapter 11.4, “Relationship Repairs”) addresses how home visitors can approach repairing relationships with families; as a supervisor, you might support home visitors in this sensitive work. Those strategies are similar to the following ones, which can help you repair a ruptured relationship between you and a home visitor.

Your first steps in addressing a problem in the relationship might include the following:

  • Name the issue when it happens but don’t press: “It looks like there’s something you didn’t like about what I just said.” Wait and see. A few days to reflect might resolve the issue.
  • Revisit the issue and gently probe: “When I questioned you last week about telling the mother you thought she was being harsh, you got very quiet. I wonder if you’d want to talk about what happened between us?”
  • Address it directly with an “I” statement: “I feel a difference in the way we are being with each other. I would like to make things better.”
  • Find compassion for yourself and the home visitor.
  • Remember that everyone has his or her own valid perspective.
  • Use active listening skills.
  • Discuss the situation with your supervisor.

Rebecca Shahmoon-Shanok1 offers these guiding principles for repairing a relationship rupture:

  • Allow time.
  • Be genuine and authentic.
  • Reflect, and then reflect some more with others about the rupture or stalemate. What happened before the problem occurred and how are the people involved talking about it?
  • Respect yourself: Focus on your own feelings and ideas.
  • Respect the home visitor: Focus on the home visitor’s feelings and ideas.
  • Look for positives.
  • Discover new understandings about the home visitor.
  • If you had a part in the rupture or stalemate, acknowledge your part.
  • Consider apologizing.

  1. Rebecca Shahmoon-Shanok’s “Guiding Principles for a Repair of Rupture” are shared in the following resource:
    Angela W. Keyes, Amy E. Cavanaugh, and Sherryl Scott Heller, “How Do I, As a Reflective Supervisor, Repair Ruptures in the Supervisory Relationship,” in A Practical Guide to Reflective Supervision, edited by Sherryl Scott Heller and Linda Gilkerson (Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE, 2009). 

Experience It

Relationship Ruptures

Dathan Rush, associate director of the Family, Infant, and Preschool Program in Morganton, NC, and Nancy Seibel, consultant, Keys to Change, perform a role play on coaching in which the teacher experiences a rupture in her relationship with a parent in her program.

To view the full webinar, go to: Webinar D7: Invest in People: The Use of Coaching in Professional Development and Continuous Learning

Reflection Questions:

  1. Describe where you heard the following skills and strategies in the role play:Active listening, Asking questions, Respecting.
  2. Apply the strategies demonstrated in the role play to a situation with one of your supervisees.