As I mentioned before I have always been interested in how people interact with each other both for my own benefit and to help others in their relationships at work and at home. This resulted in me writing the People Skills Revolution and the People Skills Revolution Handbook books to share the knowledge I had gained with people who do not have access to professional coaching, management development programmes or communication skills workshops. The ideas in the books were underpinned by a model called the Continuum of Interpersonal Skills.
I am very pleased with the positive impact that these books had on the people who read them. I then turned my attention to romantic relationships. Firstly because I was not in a relationship myself, at the time and wanted to avoid repeating my mistakes in any future relationship. Secondly because although I believed that the People Skills Revolution approach enabled me to interact with people more effectively I sometimes felt that the heart connection was missing. I also felt that this dimension was often overlooked in the work I did with my clients.
I was also curious to know whether the continuum approach that I found so helpful in the People Skills Revolution could be applied to relationships. Since I did not meet anyone to have a relationship with for a very long time what began was an immersive research project around love and relationships. I dated and chatted in real life and online and read extensively around the subject of love. During this period I developed the Continuum of Love model and the Psychological Bingo Board, which is a way of explaining how we become the complex beings that we are and the implications that our decisions have on the type of relationships that we will attract or the people who we will find attractive.
The ideas that developed from this approach form the basis of this book. Then I started to share the ideas with my colleagues, friends and in our less formal moments with clients. I noticed that what I was saying was resonating with them and their own experience. It helped them to diagnose their relationships and understand their relationship history. Days or weeks later I noticed that many of them were changing their behaviour as a result of learning about these ideas.
Many times I would hear the equivalent of the comment ‘I am not looking for a relationship at the moment, I have decided that I need to work on myself first’.
Although I believed that decision was the way forward I was stuck about what to do next or suggest to others about what they did next in order to develop themselves.
Then one day I was talking to a friend Veronica on the phone about incidents in our romantic lives, when we decided to work together to explore what a successful relationship would look like and how we could achieve one for ourselves.
From the outset we decided a number of things:-
- That the understanding of the continuum of love and the psychological bingo board would inform our work.
- We would meet fortnightly on a Wednesday evening to explore relationships and we agreed that we would alternate between our houses.
- When it was at my house I would plan the workshop and when it was at Veronica’s house she would plan the workshop.
- Our sessions would focus on achieving positive outcomes rather than debating what had gone wrong for us in relationships previously.
We started in February 2013 and met in this way for 18 months. During our first evening together we decided to name our sessions ‘The Meetings’ and described our purpose as
‘To explore the subject of relationships and formulate a set of tried and tested workable tools for our benefit and the benefit of others’
We also wanted ‘to communicate that body of knowledge outside the meetings’.
At first our sessions were random but highly enjoyable workshops with the only constant activity being an opportunity to give feedback at the end of evening.
We also often gave each other homework to do before the next meeting. During this time we noticed that we became less interested in talking about men and in fact relationships and more interested in learning about ourselves.
Each session was usually instigated by something that was on our mind or something that had happened to us in the intervening period. We found that the sessions had a natural progression and a unique timeliness about them. We also realised how much our own friendship was deepening as we learnt to value each other and develop strategies to enhance our connection and communication. This was a very real and unexpected outcome of our work together.
In addition both of us noticed that we were beginning to feel more confident, had improved our relationships with the people around us and other people were spontaneously commenting that they had noticed a change in us. When I asked them to be more specific about what change they had noticed in me, the most common response was
‘You are just easier to be around’.
After about 9 months we decided to review our work together and see if the randomness of our meetings could suggest any patterns that were useful to our purpose. We decided that based on the work we had done previously, our exercises had fallen into the following 10 categories
- Being focused – setting goals
- Change – willingness to change and grow
- Identifying and clarifying your own needs
- Communication and boundaries
- Freeing the drama
- Positive outcomes
We then systematically explored what each of these categories involved in terms of relationships
The work we did together forms the basis of the practical aspect of this book. This handbook section will enable you to work out where you are currently in terms of your relationships, work out where you want to be and give you the tools to get you there. It is very much suggested that you do the work in the handbook section of this book with someone else since it is virtually impossible to learn how to love and relate to others on your own.
With thanks to Eleanor Pitman, Stella Pitman and Jo Grant for permission to use their beautiful photographs in this blog.
This is the 31st blog I have written as part of the book on the Evolution of Love. If you would like to read the entire book so far please go to the blog I wrote on the 20th June entitled the Evolution of Love and read forwards.
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