When Jule Styne and Bob Merrill wrote the song “People” for the Broadway musical Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand, little did they know that the the song would be such a huge hit. Whether it was Barbra’s voice or the way the song touches a deep inner need for everyone is a moot point. The whole idea of people needing people has become big business — mostly focused on romantic relationships. Books, workshops, specialty therapists, cruises, holiday resorts even massage therapists who cater to romantic couples with couples massage rooms.
But what about all the other relationships in life? Family? Friends? Work colleagues? In-laws? Professional relationships? Our must-do relationships like the dentist or doctor? A boss who daily adds nothing to the EQ level of the workplace? Or even good old uncle Charlie, who is a pain the butt but shows up at every holiday ready to drive you nuts? What about your relationship with him — one of the un-loved ones in your life? And then there’s the love- him-hate- her relationships, when your friends choose a partner you can’t stand.?There’s not been much help out there to manage these relationships. Up to now, we’ve muddled through to make them work the best way we can. There’s been no map or guide out there to help us through the relationships we find ourselves in, and relationships can be messy — really messy!
Through working with clients over many years, I believe I’ve found the answer. I realized one day working with a client, that all relationships — even the one with the cashier at the grocery store — have a contract. Albeit an unspoken contract of expectations of what I expect from you, and what you expect from me. This unspoken contract makes the Third Circle — the combining of you, me and the relationship. The Third Circle is the expectations we don’t talk about but automatically react to. What we expect from our partner, our in-laws, our teenager, our hairdresser, our boss and even the person at the gas station. The other person has expectations from us also. And no one talks about that expectation — that contract we have together. You, right now reading this, and I. We have a contract. You expect to learn something useful from this article and I have the expectation that you will read it (hopefully to the end) and learn something from it that you can use in your life.
Eight years ago at my clinic, I coached a young man who had inherited his parents’ business. With the business came the bookkeeper, Joanne, who had been there from the start of the company, and known him since he was 4 years old. Unfortunately the Joanne was still treating him that way. She had taken a mental snapshot of Barry and from her point of view, he was always 4 years old, just bigger. It became very clear during the coaching sessions we had to create a new paradigm for that relationship — he wanted to keep her and his sanity! So a third ‘being’ was created, Barry, Joanne and the relationship itself as a third entity. We worked on what that new relationship would consist of, its values and priorities, the needs and wants of each person, and what each were prepared to give to this new ‘being’ . Their relationship. That was the start of a new protocol in my client practice. The Third Circle Protocol.
The concept worked so well, I now use it with teens and parents, couples, in-laws, employees and employers, warring siblings and other areas where relationships matter. And they always matter!
A recent Harvard study culminated after more than 50 years with many notable findings around the issues of relationships and the importance of people in our lives. Dr. Waldinger lead researcher acknowledged that by following the subjects for many decades and comparing the state of their health and their relationships early on, he was fairly confident that strong social bonds are a causal role in long-term health and well-being.”Our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships with family, with friends and with community.”
Relationships confirm who we are. We act and react to the people around us all the time— so it’s critical to learn how to engage with everyone; our work colleagues, our siblings, parents with teens and even the unloved one’s in life Interestingly enough, we always want people to accept us the way we are, but are reluctant to accept them the way they are. The way to connect with those we love, like and love less, is, I believe, through searching for shared values or life priorities. We don’t have to ‘like’ the person to get along with them. We just need to find out the best way to harmonize and allow a healthy relationship to happen. Although sometimes it might seem impossible, it isn’t.
The key to it all, is to have a healthy relationship with yourself first. Be comfortable in your skin, know your values, priorities, needs, wants and what you’re prepared to give to yourself. More on that next time.
Until soon, live kindly.
Originally published at medium.com