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Figure 4-2. Score Sheet for Dialogue Skills Assessment

to avoid some of your silence or violence habits. Also, when you’re in the middle of a crucial conversation, you can be more conscious of what to watch for.

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Figure 4-2. Score Sheet for Dialogue Skills Assessment
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When caught up in a crucial conversation, it’s difficult to see exactly what’s going on and why. When a discussion starts to become stressful, we often end up doing the exact opposite of what works. We tum to the less healthy components of our Style Under Stress.




learn to look

To break from this insidious cycle, Learn to Look.

• Learn to look at content and conditions.

• Look for when things become crucial.

• Learn to watch for safety problems.

• Look to see if others are moving toward silence or violence.

• Look for outbreaks of your Style Under Stress.





They had ltved together {or so many years that

they mistook their arguments for conversation.


Make It Safe How to Make It Safe to Talk

about Almost Anything

The last chapter contained a promise: If you spot safety risks as they happen, you can step out of the conversation, build safety,

and then find a way to dialogue about almost anything. In this chapter we’ll fulfill that promise by teaching what it takes to restore safety.

To get started, let’s examine a situation where safety is at risk. We’ll eavesdrop on a couple as they try to discuss one of the most delicate of topics-physical intimacy.

First a little background. Jotham thinks he and Yvonne are inti­ mate with each other far too seldom. Yvonne is satisfied with their physical relationship. For years the two have acted out rather than talked out their concerns. When Jotham wants to be amorous and




Yvonne doesn’t respond, he goes to silence. He pouts, says almost nothing, and avoids Yvonne for the next few days.

Yvonne knows what’s going on with Jotham. Occasionally she’ll go along with him even when she’s not feeling particularly romantic. She does this in hopes of avoiding Jotham’s pouting.

Unfortunately, she then feels resentful toward Jotham, and it’s much longer before she feels genuinely romantic toward him.

So here’s the game. The more Jotham insists and pouts, the less

attractive and interesting he is to Yvonne. The more Yvonne suc­ cumbs and then resents, the less she’s interested in the entire rela­ tionship. The more both of them act out rather than talk out this crucial conversation, the more likely they are to end up going their separate ways. Yvonne has decided to broach the subject with Jotham. Rather than waiting until they’re both upset, she’s picked a time when they’re relaxing on the couch. Here goes.

YVONNE: Jotham, can we talk about what happened last

night-you know, when I told you that I was tired?

JOTHAM: I don’t know if I’m in the mood.

YVONNE: What’s that supposed to mean?

JOTHAM: I’m sick and tired of you deciding when we do what !

YVONNE: (walks out)


Okay, let’s look at Yvonne. She tried to tackle a tough topic.

Good for her. She was already uncomfortable and her partner took a cheap shot at her. Some help he was. Now what should she do? How can she get back to honest and healthy dialogue?

What do you do when you don’t feel like it’s safe to share what’s on your mind?




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