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 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, speciality therapists, cruises, holiday resorts even massage therapists cater to romantic massage for couples.
But what about all the other relationships we experience every day?
Think work colleagues? In-laws? Siblings? 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 Harry, 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 life? There’s not been much help out there to manage these relationships. We’ve had to muddle through and make them work the best we can.
The Third Circle Protocol
I believe I’ve found the answer, and I call it The Third Circle Protocol. The third circle is the unspoken contract we have with each other. The expectations we don’t talk about but automatically react to. What we expect from our partner, our in-laws, our teenager, even the clerk at the grocery store. The other person expects from us also. And no one talks about that expectation – that contract we have together. You, the reader 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. Or even better, be curious enough about the Protocol that you would like to learn more about it, from my website or the book.
Eight years ago at my clinic, I was working with a young man who had inherited his parents’ business, which included the bookkeeper who had known him since he was 4 years old. Unfortunately the bookkeeper was still treating him that way. As if he was four-years-old. It became very clear during the 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, it became him, the bookkeeper and the relationship – itself a third entity. We worked on what that ‘entity’ was made of, the values and priorities, the needs and wants of each person, and what they were prepared to give to this new ‘being’ . Their relationship.
The concept worked so well, I now use it in the clinic with teens and parents, couples, in-laws, employees and employers and any other area where relationships matter. I have also taught it to psychologists and coaches who use it with their clients.
Relationships and the importance of people in our lives
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 – so it’s critical to learn how to engage with everyone; our work colleagues, our siblings, parents with teens and even the unloved ones in our 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 does seem impossible, it isn’t. Find a value you share, a priority which connects and work with what you can get. It makes life easier, kinder and more enjoyable.
Next time I’ll investigate the relationship with in-laws and parents when you’re joining families. Until then, live your values. They are truly the who you are.