An Easy Guide to Having Safe Conversations When the Stakes Are High
By Traci Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC
Couples Coach, Speaker, Author
Starting a Conversation:
- Set the context rather than ‘kidnapping’ your partner into the conversation you want to have. Accomplish this by saying: “Is this a good time to talk about___________?” If your partner says no, say: “I’d really like to talk to you about______. When can we do that?”
- Prepare: sit down, follow the fair fight rules, breathe, speak evenly, make eye contact.
- If this is just venting and you want understanding and a shoulder to cry on, versus solutions, you must cue your partner. Help them to understand what kind of conversation this is so they can get in the right headspace. If you’re just venting and don’t want to problem-solve say, “I just need to vent, I just need to you to listen, I’m not looking for a solution.”
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Using the Communication Tool When You Are the Speaker:
- Say this next: “I feel (use a word to describe your emotion) because (describe why you feel the way you do).”
- When you have expressed how you feel in one sentence, pause and say: “I want you to____________”. Or “I need to _____________”.
Be very specific here about what you need and want. Instead of saying “I need you to help more”, try saying “I would like you to take over doing the dishes each night”.
- While your partner is speaking, note how you feel and breathe through the emotion. Zip your mouth. Turn your attention to what your partner is saying and when they are done speaking, INSTEAD OF REPLYING like an average person, use a reflection, which means you restate what your partner just said: “So you’re saying that you feel ____________ because_____________. Is that right?”
- When you get the reflection correct (your partner states you’re getting them), seek to understand more! Ask your partner: “Is there more?”
- Keep the conversation safe with your actions – don’t roll your eyes, check your phone, fidget, stand up, walk away, act bored, sigh. Show an attitude of curiosity/concern.
Summary of Communication Between Speaker & Listener:
Speaker: I feel ____________because__________. I want you to______________.
Listener: So you feel__________because_________. Is there more?
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Traci Baxendale Ball LMSW, CAADC is the founder of Vibrant Health Company LLC
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