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Jul 7, 2014

Dependent or Inter-dependent? That is the Question

When we think about being ‘dependent’ on someone to enhance our well-being – or strive to be ‘independent’ with the same goal of maximizing well-being, our thoughts usually jump to our most intimate relationships – often our spouses or partners. How often do we think about our dependence on work colleagues – those people who we tend to spend a significant portion of our waking time with?

Our professional relationships at work can also be very important to our well-being, as well as our productivity and our personal growth. So what do we mean by an dependence scale within relationships?

1. Dependence - you are dependent on the feelings, thoughts and actions of someone for approval and your general well being but they are not dependent on yours.

2. Co - dependence - you are both dependent on each other's feelings, thoughts and actions for mutual approval and general well being.

3. Counter-dependence - you hold an intention to deliberately demonstrate and prove to someone you are not dependent on their approval or agreement for your general well being.

4. Independence - you are not dependent on anyone's feelings, thoughts or actions for approval or your general well being.

5. Interdependence - you have both chosen to be open and committed to exchange feelings, thoughts and actions that support your mutual learning, growth and general well being.

This scale is not suggesting that there is an optimum dependence level – relationships are unique, co-created and also subject to the environment and culture in which they exist. What’s interesting is that when we are aware of where a relationship falls on the scale we start to understand it better, the impact it has on us and we can start making conscious choices about the level of dependence we have.

We have probably all had a difficult colleague or boss at some time in our lives. If this relationship had a significant negative impact on your well-being it is possible that you were dependent upon them. Now before you say –‘but he/she was my boss, I had no choice but to work with him/her!’ – the point about your well-being using the scale above is your dependence upon the person emotionally. You may be dependent intellectually – sharing thoughts and ideas, working on projects together.

Physically you have to occupy the same space together, and intentionally you may be dependent upon each other professionally sharing the same goals and ideals. However your emotional dependence may be something that you have allowed to creep into the relationship, when really you would be better served keeping your emotional-self independent within the relationship. Sometimes of course we experience joyous, emotionally intelligent working relationships where we feel safe to allow our emotional selves enter into the dependent or interdependent realm. It may be in fact that a work relationship with someone you respect and admire is undeveloped emotionally and you could both benefit from a higher level of co-dependence or inter-dependence. What’s exciting is using this scale to better understand the relationships you have at work, and looking at the dependence on certain relationships in your 4 dimensions to allow those relationships to serve you in the best way possible for your own well-being.

Posted by Penelope Waller