When relationship conflicts arise we become troubled & preoccupied. It can be painful. The stress can creep into and permeate other aspects of our day to day existence. With a problem that doesn’t seem to have an immediate or obvious solution, we can begin to feel helpless and hopeless—like there’s no solution.
And yet, there probably is a solution. In fact, there may be a quite simple solution that’s fairly easy to implement. Two willing people have to participate. If that’s a challenge, and at least one of you is clear you want to make headway, be persuasive and persistent or involve a therapist as facilitator. I’m going to tell you how this process works so you can go ahead and turn things around with no further ado. This process optimally employs a therapist/facilitator guide, but do go ahead on your own if you are unable to employ a therapist to assist you.
Agree to the process and commit dedicated time in each of your schedules to seeing this process through. You must agree to the rules and agree to trust the process. You’ll need at least three 1-2 hr. blocks of uninterrupted time and privacy. Phones and other distractions should be switched off.
Begin each session by quietly and consciously acknowledging to yourself that the habits and patterns of your thinking and behavior have been established as a response to your unique circumstances. So, each of the communicators is recognized as inhabiting a unique little ‘bubble’ or ‘culture’, and doesn’t perceive or experience things exactly as you do. This is a good time to think of ‘the telephone game’.
A point of conflict, conversation, or issue is chosen as the ‘work’. The first person to have their turn (A), will use their session to articulate their point of view, the conversation or the issue as they see it, describing the situation as fully as possible, aiming to capture and express their own thoughts meaning, understanding and experience as fully as possible, starting from the beginning, moving to the middle and finishing at the end. The partner (B) listens intently, staying focused and undistracted, and attempting to temporarily inhabit the speaker’s bubble, with an intention to recapture the experience as if they had been A. Listener (B) is not allowed to interrupt speaker (A).
When A is finished, B’s job is to retell the story as if B is now A who has just told it. B is to recapture (act and tell) with as much of the same language and expression as possible, in an honest attempt to recreate in as much detail as possible. The point is to elicit a precise match with A till A feels B ‘got’ them, till A senses that as the speaker A was fully understood.
A can help B recapture A’s experience till it’s complete and A agrees with the retelling. Where there is discrepancy and mismatch, it is A’s job to clarify their meaning to B, till B tells it in a way that accurately captures what A was trying to describe. (“not exactly”, “that’s not quite what I said”, “I described how I was feeling like this…..” “I used these words…..” would be examples of clarifying).
There is no time frame which is ideal for this process. With 90 minutes set aside there is more flexibility when the time taken is much less, or lengthening it to 120 minutes if need be, or moving on to the next step. Longer than 2 hrs. at a stretch is not advised.
For the 2nd part of the process the roles are reversed, and B becomes the designated person to capture in words their point of view, and experience of the same situation. Now A listens, and is not allowed to interrupt B,
as B tells their story with a beginning, a middle and an end. B will help clarify for A when it has become A’s time to recapture B’s view and experience and parrot it back exactly for B.
The third block of time in this process can serve for both A & B to appreciate the effect of inhabiting separate ‘bubbles’, and to consider potential areas and avenues for compromise. It can also be a time for expressing gratitude and appreciations.
Potential benefits: empathy, reconnection, building trust and intimacy, deeper ‘knowing’ of the other, lifting the sense of being burdened, empowerment, supporting intuitive knowing and inner wisdom, grounding, and potential for greater lightness of being.