Stop Yelling! Learn how to have Safe Conversations

Volume 1 – No. 3

When we consider what parents need to succeed the list gets long in a hurry. Parents need good jobs, good housing, clean water, good schools, and the list goes on. So, we’ve decided to “start where we are, use what we have, and do what we can do.” Beginning with the relationship between mom and dad. Whether the family is nuclear, blended or extended… relationships matter. What better place to begin than having a safe conversation.

In this article from Forbes magazine our friend Helen Lakelly Hunt is interviewed and explains a simple method of having that safe conversation that leads to well-being. We’ve been friends with Helen and her Husband Harville for years, having worked together in what’s called the healthy relationship movement. Harville developed a relationship wellness model called Imago which millions of people around the world have benefitted from. Bottom line: Relationship education works. Parents can improve their relationship skills one step at a time.

A question to consider when reading this article: How do you see listening?

From Forbes Magazine Ginger Gentile, Contributor October 2022 

Life is full of difficult conversations but most of us have never been trained on how to have a productive conversation to express dissatisfaction with another person, whether it be a co-worker, employer, child, or spouse. As a result, we avoid these conversations or talk about difficult topics in a way that makes us feel attacked or that causes fights with the other person. There is a method to ensure that we protect our valuable relationships and use conflict as a way to grow. Safe Conversations® empowers you to talk without criticism, listen without judgment, and connect beyond differences.

Already over half a million people have been trained in this method, founded by Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix who have been married together for over 40 years. Together, Hunt and Hendrix have been working with couples for decades and their work inspired them to have authored several New York Times best-sellers including Getting the Love You Want, Keeping the Love You Find, and Giving the Love that Heals. “When we fall in love afterward there is a power struggle in the couple, and only by resolving this tension can we have real love,” said Hunt. “People have trouble experiencing differences; it is natural to love and even seek out differences. You can disagree but learn to cooperate.” Political polarization, demonizing of the enemy, and cancel culture have invaded our daily lives.

Younger generations feel lonely due to a lack of relationships while older generations continue to get divorced at high rates. The solution according to Helen is, learn a structured approach to talking about differences, disagreements, and disappointments that make both participants feel safe. “Conflict is growth trying to happen,” says Hunt. “By applying zero negativity and using the three-step process of Safe Conversations, we can learn to approach conflicts with gratitude and wonder, while feeling safe.” Safe Conversations teaches a script to follow, which may feel forced, or unnatural, at first. But that is the point–to teach a radical new way of listening and talking. First, ask if this is an acceptable time to talk about an issue and then you compliment the person who will be receiving the information. Then the person receiving the information repeats everything the giver has said.

They keep asking “is there more?,” not “did I get everything?” The receiver repeats back what the sender said until they confirm that there isn’t more. The sender also only used “I” statements.Read More “These methods can be practiced by two people who learn them together, but you can bring these techniques into any difficult conversation and create a safe space even if the person receiving the information hasn’t been trained,” said Helen. Here are the top 5 mistakes people make when they are having a difficult conversation.

  1. Violate boundaries by not asking if this is a good time to talk. Instead, ask if this is an ok time, and if it isn’t ask if it is possible to schedule a time in the future.
  2. When someone says something we don’t like we react or replace what we think should have been said. Instead, simply mirror what you are being told. Sometimes all a person needs is to be heard and understood.
  3. Saying “I got it, let me tell you more about me!” Instead, be curious and ask “is there more?” Let the person who needs to send a message be completely heard and understood, you can schedule your own time later.
  4. Using judging words when talking. Instead, simply listen.
  5. Criticizing and offering advice. Instead, focus on making the person feel safe and come up with solutions together.

“We actually only hear 30% of what is being said, at best. This method increases it to 60% The method is stiff on purpose, it is a skill, not a process to play around with. Like tennis,” said Helen. “Listen, don’t evaluate. That is also why our method of Safe Conversations starts with both people simply looking into each other’s eyes and taking a deep breath together.”

The method has been used in work places and the home, and according to the founders has stopped divorces–including one instance where a man actually tore up the divorce papers in front of his wife after using the method only once. It is a method both to feel safe when having difficult conversations but also a way to build bridges and empathy. To feel connection while honoring the space between two different people. Next for Helen and Harville is a program to expand Safe Conversations trainings so millions of people can have these tools and there will be a critical mass in societies around the world who can use them.