It was the bookkeeper who started it all. Robert, my client, had recently inherited his family business, and that included the long-time loyal bookkeeper along with other employees.
“She’s been with us for over 25 years, and she still treats me like I was 4-years old!” he complained. “She still calls me Bobby-boy.”
Robert had been endeavoring to install new systems and services into his lighting design company, and was meeting with resistance from the bookkeeper at every turn. “Helen is a sweetheart, and she carries the company history with her,” he explained, “which is good and bad news! She hates change and laughs every time I bring the staff together to discuss a new design process or ordering and invoicing system. It doesn’t matter what it is, she keeps reminding me that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. And she brings cookies for me. I don’t want her damn cookies!” Banging his fist on my desk. At that moment he looked — and sounded — like an 4-year-old boy having a tantrum!
I started working with Robert on both his version of himself and his version of Helen and over the first few weeks, the idea for a new protocol was born; a protocol that allowed new rules and boundaries for their new relationship. Robert and Helen were in a relationship, whether they liked it or not. A relationship exists between any two people who work together, live together, play golf together, or engage in a simple transaction like buying and providing coffee and donuts.
The new protocol involves examining expectations, unwritten or unsaid mind contracts, assumptions, previous patterns of bullying or victim-hood — whatever ends in disruption, discomfort, and discord. Some of these are learned behaviors from childhood, some from previous lifetime patterns, and some from careless ignorance of what it takes of have a healthy relationship. However, we know, at our deepest level, that the relationships we create are absolutely critical to our success as a human being on this planet at this time.
Hence the need for a new process or protocol. Over the following years this protocol has been refined and developed by working with different levels of relationships: a teenage daughter with her mother; friends who had drifted apart but still loved each other; a middle-aged daughter and her father who is showing signs of dementia; lots of married or living-together couples — both straight and gay; a teenage boy who felt like an outsider at school, where I used the protocol to develop the relationship with himself.
Sometimes I am fortunate enough to work with both sides of the relationship; other times I work with just one person, who takes the worksheets, ideas, and behaviors into their relationship, and endeavors to make it work that way. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. At the very least, the client has a clearer idea of what they want, can give — and get — from their relationships.
Since developing this protocol, The Third Circle Protocol, I have used it myself — in the office at the clinic, in my relationships with my sister, my clients, my students, lovers, colleagues, and friends. It works brilliantly every time there’s a misunderstanding or miscommunication. In the beginning, I used it as I needed it. Today I use it with every new client — to help define their relationship with themselves — before we move on to other issues and other relationships. I also use it personally at the start of every relationship — making sure we’re both on the same page and have a common understanding of what this relationship is, and how it will unfold with a vision of the final relationship circle.
If your interested in the how-to — the book, The Third Circle Protocol has all the worksheets and guidance you’ll need to develop healthy, life sustaining relationships — in person or over Zoom!
Let me know what you think.