A few years ago the Feds called and asked if I would do a forensic evaluation on a young man on the Indian Reservation in Southern Utah. I said “Yes” of course. Then they asked if I had any Native-American Culture training. I said “Yes” of course. (I remembered taking a class back in graduate school.)

I drove to Southern Utah and began the interview the young man. During the interview he was always looking down making no eye contact. I interpreted his lack of eye contact as resistant and challenged him about this resistance. Well things got worse as this young Native-American began to become more withdrawn during the interview.

Before the next interview I did a little homework and learned:

Most Native American people avoid prolonged direct eye contact as a sign of respect. It is also a simple matter of being courteous to keep one’s eyes cast downward.

Boy did I feel stupid!

If I wanted to develop a relationship with this Native-American I had to accept his relationship rule of having “no eye contact”-
– whether I liked it or not,
– whether I thought it was right or not, or
– whether it was psychologically healthy or not.

Believe it or not

Most are unwritten – But usually easily recognized.
You want to get along better with  your mother-in-law, your spouse, your child,  your boss, or anyone else – best to learn and follow the Must-Follow Relationship Rules.

Think about it.
Are there “rules” I need to comply with if I want a personal relationship with the Savior? God?
Of course!  Pay tithing, read the scriptures, pray, etc etc.  In fact, James E. Faust identifies this as the world’s greatest need:

‘What is the greatest need in the world?’ One wisely responded: ‘Is not the greatest need in all of the world for every person to have a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with the Savior?Having such a relationship can unchain the divinity within us, and nothing can make a greater difference in our lives as we come to know and understand our divine relationship with God. (“A Personal Relationship with the Savior” General Conference, Oct 1976)

Wouldn’t it be tragic if you spent your whole earthly life being “religious” but never actually followed the Savior’s Must-Follow Relationship Rules – and on judgment day He says,

“… I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:23)

There are millions of resources telling us about healthy relationships. For example: What Happily Married Couples Do (Ensign, Jan 2012); Spiritual Roots of Human Relations (Stephen R. Covey); or The Fine Art of Raising Teenagers (Ensign, July 1981).
That’s not what this blog is about.

If you want to get along with somebody 
     FIRST: Identify their Must-Follow Relationship Rules.
     SECOND: Follow those rules or expectations.
When you follow their relationship rules there will be LESS conflict.

     THIRD: If you want to change the relationship rules of somebody else

     (Sometimes, this is a good idea.)
Be prepared,
When you don’t follow their relationship rules there will be MORE conflict.
Doesn’t matter.
Relationship rules can be a result of: core values, early childhood experiences, trauma, conscious decisions, mental illness; etc etc.
The “Must-Follow Relationship Rules” principle still applies-if you want less conflict in a relationship.

Here are some samples of “negative relationship rules” as we look at a variety of different aspects of a relationship:

Privacy: Can’t keep anything private. Even when they promise not to tell, within hours everyone knows.
Resolving Conflict: Nothing ever gets resolved. No matter what you do or say. On the next visit it’s like you start all over again-from the beginning.
Communication: Never get a straight answer. No matter how clearly you ask the question.
Physical boundary: No touching. No kissing. No hugs.
Intimacy boundary: No talking about feelings. Never say “I love you.” 
Honesty: Don’t tell the truth. Even if they ask.
etc etc

Of course there are “positive relationship rules” too.  Doesn’t mean you always have to obey the rules. 🙂 But it does mean your relationship will be more conflict-free (not necessarily healthy) when you identify and follow the “Must-Follow” relationship rules.

Get away from everything that runs by electricity (including a battery).

Identify three “Must-Follow Relationship Rules” others must follow to maintain a relationship with YOU!

dr rick

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