NLP for Love and Relationships
Learning NLP should have an immediate and positive effect on your relationship. I think it’s fair to say that an intimate relationship is the pivot point in most people’s lives and yet nobody taught us how to find or run a great relationship. Our schools did not teach us how to coexist with another human being effectively or harmoniously, and the best we typically have is the model that our parents presented to us. If you are anything like me, that was not one to emulate.
As a result, many relationships become tarnished by animosity, judgement and even contempt. People commonly resign themselves to a relationship that is less than rewarding because they simply have no clue how to create the relationship they actually want or repair the one they have. There are two key reasons for this in my view.
One, most people do not recognize the power of their own actions, and two, people do not understand that everything is a process, a series of steps and success in relationships is like success in any other area of life. Both of these life lessons should be hammered home consistently by any NLP training you decide to do.
Everything is a process
Let’s start with the idea that everything is a process. Your relationship is not a noun. it is not a thing like a book or a car. It is a verb. Indeed love is a verb. It is a living breathing constantly changing dynamic that is fluid and needs constant attention. A good relationship is characterized by both parties engaging in useful thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This starts right at the beginning because a good relationship requires a good choice of partner, in fact, studies show this is arguably the most influential decision of your life. Trying to build a relationship with someone who is not capable of meeting you is challenging. However, assuming your choice was reasonable, the next stage is management. It has to be nurtured and cared for like tending a garden. There will be weeds, insects and climatic variables to contend with.
Most people get married with the romantic but quite naive notion of “heading off in to the sunset to live happily ever after”. Most people spend more time planning their wedding than they do planning their lives together. Some would say “love is all you need.” I am going to say yes that’s true, except when it isn’t! When there are kids, financial pressures and alike, you need more than that!
What is astonishing to me is that given the importance of relationships, we generally pay very little attention to learning about them. From an NLP perspective, if you want to be successful as a coach, you would study coaching. If you want to be successful generally, you would study success. The same is true of relationships. if you want a good relationship you should study what people in good relationships do. How do they talk to each other, what beliefs do they have, what consistent actions do they take to keep that relationship solid. Similarly, there will be certain actions and behaviours you can guarantee they don’t engage in.
A full discussion of these factors is outside of the scope of this article, but let’s look at a couple of related factors.
Respect Your Partner
Let’s start with RESPECT? Aretha Franklin sang about it, and to me, as an NLP Trainer, the underpinning to productive communication is having a respect for the other person’s model of the world. This is one of the key NLP presuppositions you should learn on day one of an NLP Practitioner Certification. This is true for any relationship but especially true for an intimate relationship.
We often reject another’s perceptions, especially when our views differ. This rejection may even be unconscious. We find ourselves ready to dispute the things our spouse has to say, to challenge them, or to hear them as threats. Obviously, such an attitude interferes with two-way communication. The first step to improved dialogue is to manage your own responses and show respect for your partner.
This can be achieved at one level by recognising that a person’s thoughts, feelings, their behaviour, or their values and beliefs are not them. I agree with Eckhart Tolle. We are the presence behind all of these factors. We are the ones listening to our own internal dialogue. We are not the dialogue. We all have moments of irrationality. We all do, say or think silly things sometimes. We are not logical creatures, we are psychological. We frequently respond with a range of emotions and habituated perceptions that are not logical but learned. A person’s view is the best they have come up with given the information they have at hand at the time. When you don’t agree, you are not disagreeing with your partner, but with their perspective in that moment.
Don’t expect agreement with the way you view the world
It is unrealistic to expect another person to respond the way you would. In the literature, this is referred to as Self Referencing. In other words, this is when we use our own views, values and standards as the yardstick for what we expect of the world and people around us. This is one of the many cognitive distortions we can run as human beings. Your partner was not brought up the same way as you. Nor did they make the same decisions or have they had the same inputs or standards across the board. Hence when we expect our partners to think the way we do, we step into dangerous territory. As a clinical hypnotherapist, I have worked with 1000s of people over the years and this is a common distortion that causes a lot of disappointment and frustration.
Among my clients, it is the fast-track to disappointment and frustration because they are effectively asking the world/others to change to meet our needs. People “should” be politer. Others “should show more respect”. Drivers “should be more courteous”, and “my partner should know…” Well, maybe? In my experience, there are times when we can agree to a standard or expectation, but to assume it is presumptive and counter-productive. Sometimes it is valuable to step back from your personal position and recognise that there is no “rule” that people should agree with you, as wrong as that might sound!!
When you are more neutral and less combative you can acknowledge their position and give your partner something that we all crave. At some deep level we all want to be seen and understood. I don’t have to agree with you, but I can “acknowledge”, “accept” or “respect” your opinion, and your right to state it.
Respect allows you to accept another person’s point of view without the judgement. This includes all verbal communication, but also the non-verbal communication. The “look” that tells a thousand words, a grunt or a groan. All of these responses no matter how small are dismissive. This is your life partner after all. You chose them. That means the good the bad and the ugly! Letting your partner be heard is a crucial step towards improving a relationship and negating the frustration and contempt that can creep in when communication is poor. Please note, hearing them is not necessarily agreeing with them, but being heard is sometimes of greater importance than being agreed with.
Communication is the glue that holds a relationship together. When you have to face difficulties as a couple it is your ability to communicate and negotiate that can makes the tougher times manageable. This includes your thoughts and, sorry guys, your feelings. When we stop communicating with respect the bond can start to erode quickly because we cease to matter to our partner, or so we think.
We may not be our views, but we often feel attached to our positions. When your partner’s view doesn’t matter to you, then they will think that they don’t matter either.
Good NLP Training should show you how to go from reactions to responses
Some may say that this is easier said than done. And that is true. However, good NLP training should show you how to go from reactions to responses. It should show you that you get to choose which thoughts and/or feelings you should listen to, and which ones you should ignore. We have over 70,000 thoughts per day, many of which are complete crap. We cannot respond to all of them.
Good communication also requires effort. Work on your part of the communication process. One of the biggest obstacles to productive communication is our emotions. When we feel hurt or angry our communication changes. The tonal changes are obvious. But what is often not noticed is the change in intent. Emotionally loaded exchanges make us age regress and turn our focus away from a productive adult outcome, to demonstrating how hurt we are. Anger is a protest. It is a statement of “you have hurt me” and I am now in payback mode. This is not typically useful.
So here are seven quick tips that might assist you the next time you are in a ‘robust‘ discussion:
1) Take responsibility for your communication (verbal and non-verbal)
2) Put your energy into the exchange (engage consciously)
3) Make a commitment to seeing the process through
4) Decide what you want out of the exchange and then adopt the demeanour and language to support the goal
5) Express your thoughts and feelings fully and encourage your partner to do the same
6) Resolve misunderstandings by asking questions and seeking clarifications rather than by getting angry
7) Look for the positive intention of your partner’s position. e.g. the positive intention of a complaint is to make things better. (N.B. When someone stops complaining, they may well have given up and might be formulating their exit plan)
By putting this energy into communication, you will make a statement to your partner about your commitment and responsibility. It will demonstrate that the relationship is important to you and that you are willing to involve yourself fully in this act of communication.
Intimate communication may not be worth the effort without love. Love is critical to the relationship but alone it is not enough. If there is love, however, and if the relationship is important to you, then you focus on improving the communication.