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Continuing Conversations to Continue Life-Giving Relationships by Jeff Williams

Nov 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: Family Coaching Center

If relationships go as well as possible, they won’t go smoothly.  From marriage to family, work and ministry, at some point our relationships are bound to hit the rocks of misunderstanding, frustration and disappointment.  A coach approach to conversations is a great way to reconvene a relationship after any period of silence or frustration. How did dad say?  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And then there’s Confucius, “The Glory of Life is NOT never falling, but RISING every time you fall.”

Think of Rocky Balboa, the boxer, pummeled to the mat by his opponent,   “Stay down, fool.  Why do you keep getting up?” Why indeed?  Why come back to try to continue a conversation when it’s not gone well previously?  True, it’s possible that it will go poorly again, and that it will be just as frustrating, painful and unproductive as it was previously…BUT, it’s also possible that you’ll experience a breakthrough of shared understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation…especially if you do it differently. In the end, trying to re-engage a conversation is the only way for a relationship to continue.

Stay down and the outcome is guaranteed.  Get up to try again, and a good outcome is possible.  Good skills and a good-will in our hearts make all the difference.

Often we tell married couples, “If you can’t have a conversation in a good way, don’t have the conversation.  Instead, privately reflect and pray, call your coach(es) and brainstorm ways to have the conversation in a better way.” In our own marriage experience one of us will initiate conversational recovery by asking,  “Would you be willing to try again?  I have an idea about how to talk in a better way (e.g., commitment to reflective listening, and/or use of an exercise to facilitate venting of strong emotions or to identify ways we have hurt each other, and to ask forgiveness, etc.).”

If the quality of our relationships is a function of our conversations, then it is imperative that we continue conversations, especially when they’ve not gone well previously. How to do this?

Tactical Time-outs

Ideally, at the point a conversation begins to disintegrate one of the participant’s requests a time-out to regroup through prayer, reflection and emotional de-escalation.  It just takes one to stop destruction. Such discretion and self-control can prevent the build-up of more pain and frustration that contribute to hopelessness, “I would like for us to take a break to protect our relationship.  Let’s each privately take time to pray and think through what has been said, and to plan a way to continue our conversation.”

Maybe you’re thinking, “That sounds hokey, or that would be impossible.” Well, why not give it a try if your current approach to challenging conversations isn’t working as well as you’d like.  Remember, it was Einstein who offered this poingnant definition of insanity, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.” If you want something to change, you might need to change something.

Steps to Stopping a Potentially Destructive Conversation

You think to yourself:

  • “This isn’t going anywhere.”
  • “I’m getting frustrated.”
  • “She/he is becoming upset and doesn’t understand what I mean.”
  • “I’m having a hard time listening because I’m upset.”
  • “This is how it went last time.
  1. You are aware of desire to do your part to protect and to build/recover the relationship.
  2. Verbalize your desire to do the conversation in a better way.
  3. Ask if your spouse/child/parent is agreeable to pause the conversation so that you can think and pray about what has been said, and how to have the conversation in a better way, and estimate how long you’ll need (We recommend 10 minutes to 24 hours). For example: “I don’t like how this is going, and right now I would like us to pause to protect our relationship.  Would that be ok with you?”

How to Maximize the Value of a Time-out

  1. Pray. Tell God how you’re feeling, and ask Him to speak to you about what you have heard and your words and behavior.  Expect Him to provide insight and understanding.
  2. Reflect on your feelings. Ask yourself what you are mad, sad, scared and glad about.  Ask yourself about each feeling in order as many times as it takes to de-escalate your emotions.
  3. Get Perspective. Ask yourself what you are understanding from the other person’s perspective, and ask yourself what they might be hearing from you. Prepare to share what you are hearing from them.  This is often a great way to re-engage a conversation, “Could I share what I’m hearing from you?”
  4. Envision the End in Mind. Ask yourself, “If our conversation goes as well as possible from this point forward, what will be the outcome?” For example:
  • He/she will feel understood
  • I will be clearly understood
  • We will both calmly, rationally and patiently attend to everything that each of us want to share with each other
  • We will re-affirm our commitment to our relationship, and express gratitude for the way we worked through the challenging conversation.

Notice that this is basically a self-coaching process through which you ask yourself a lot of questions (#2-#4).  The purpose of this is to develop insight and understanding to apply to the conversation when you reconvene.  At that point, rely more heavily on effective listening to provide time and space for the other person to share. Your listening posture will communicate humility to hear what is in the other person’s heart.  Understand that as you listen you are building relational equity, and that the quality and sincerity of your listening will likely be reciprocated.  You too will be given an opportunity to be heard extensively.

Kingdom Conversations

Finally, understand that continuing conversations is imperative for building the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit have uninterrupted communion with each other, and they would that we would have such communion with each other.  So, there’s more to continuing conversations than working out relational challenges.  They’re actually about establishing the Kingdom of God one conversation and one relationship at a time.

Jeff and Jill Williams write and speak about Marriage Coaching.  Together they privately coach couples and train groups of couples that want to coach marriages through a series of tele-classes that are accessible for any couple (globally) with a phone and internet connection.  Write to Jeff.gtre@gmail.com or call 937-717-5591 , or visit, www.graceandtruthrelationship.com for more information.

Copyright 2010 Jeffrey J. Williams | Grace & Truth Relationship Education | Springfield| OH | 45503

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