The Relationship Protocol is a basic and practical framework for how to think about and communicate with the people who are close to you. Here are my top five tips to ensure healthy communication and build long-lasting relationships:
1 – Value your relationship.
The relationship between you and your partner is more important than each of you individually. This is the essence of the Relationship Protocol model: the relationship itself is bigger than both of you! Picture in your mind a big umbrella that extends over you and the other person. Think of that umbrella as protecting the relationship while the two of you are nestled underneath it. When you value your relationship and the other person, you are protecting it, safeguarding it and keeping the relationship healthy and strong; you are not taking it for granted.
2 – Let the other person know that you appreciate them.
The bottom line is that what matters most is how both of you feel in the relationship. This feeling comes from what happens between you and the other person. If they are important to you, make an effort let them know by your words and your actions that they matter to you and that you appreciate them. Behave in ways that show them they are an important part of your life.
3 – Set a positive framework for dealing with conflict.
When there’s a conflict, tell the other person, “I want to get along with you and I don’t want to fight with you.” This allows for more open conversation and it helps the other person to feel less defensive. Step #1 of the RP model encourages you to say those words out loud to the other person. When we state our intentions directly and sincerely, it cuts through all of the emotional clutter. The messaging is: “You are important to me and we don’t have to engage in this argument, conflict, etc.” It lets everyone off the hook, and can immediately change the trajectory of a conversation.
4 – Be KIND!
Kindness builds trust and it creates a safety net for the relationship. I believe kindness should be “a given” in all close relationships and it should be how we relate to others in general. It is also Step #2 of the model, “I will be kind, not mean or sarcastic.” This step is critical to having and maintaining a healthy relationship. Think about this: if the other person doesn’t experience you as kind, they won’t fully trust you, and trust is a fundamental part of our significant relationships. Intimacy and vulnerability occur when we feel the other person “has our back.” Yet, as soon as trust is broken due to an unkind word or act, we immediately retreat, feeling that the relationship may not be safe. On the other hand, kindness brings hope to struggling relationships and it enables trust to build over time. Don’t underestimate the power of kindness.
5 – Don’t worry about “winning.”
It’s never about winning or being right when it comes to your close relationships. You're both on the same team and your relationship is the team! When one person is focused on being right, or making a point, or winning the argument, he or she is not focusing on the relationship. That person is instead thinking about himself or herself and what he or she is saying or doing. The other person’s feelings have somehow become irrelevant in that moment. Both people need to be keyed into each other, paying attention to not only themselves but also to the other person. If you’re one of those people who tend to focus on what you’re saying, and you don’t pay attention to the other person during the interaction, it’s time to shift your thinking to more of a relationship perspective.
These tips apply to your romantic relationships, but you can also use them with your children, other family members, close friends and work relationships.
Communication doesn't have to be so complicated. Go team!
For more in-depth information about relationships and communication, read The Relationship Protocol book. Click Here
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