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 He believes her concern in one small area reflects her total

feelings toward him.

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So she’ll apologize and use Contrasting to rebuild safety.

YVONNE: I’m sorry I said it that way. I’m not blaming you

for how I feel or act. That’s my problem. I don’t see this

as your problem. I see it as our problem. Both of us may

be acting in ways that make things worse. I know I am at


laTHAM: I probably am too. Sometimes I pout because I’m

hurting. And I also do it hoping it’ll make you feel bad.

I’m sorry about that, too.

Notice what just happened. Since Yvonne dealt well with the

safety issue and kept focused on what she really wanted out of

this conversation, Jotham returned to the conversation. This is

far more effective than if Yvonne had gone into blaming.

Let’s continue.

JOTHAM: I just don’t see how we can work this out. I’m

wired for more passion than you are-it seems like the

only solution is for me to put up with it the way it is or

for you to feel like a sex slave.

The problem now is one of Mutual Purpose. Jotham thinks he

and Yvonne are at cross-purposes. In his mind, there is no pos­

sibility of a mutually satisfactory solution. Rather than move to

compromise or fight for her way, Yvonne will step out of the

issue and CRIB to get to Mutual Purpose.

YVONNE: [Commit to seek Mutual Purpose] No, that isn’t

what I want at all. I don’t want anything with you that

isn’t great for both of us. I just want to find a way to have

us both feel close. appreciated. and loved.




laTHAM: That’s what I want, too. It just seems like we get

those feelings in different ways.

(Notice how lotham is leaving the game behind and joining

the dialogue. Safety-specifically Mutual Purpose-is making

this possible.)

YVONNE: [Recognize the purpose behind the strategy] Maybe

not. What makes you feel loved and appreciated?

laTHAM: Making love with you when you really want to

makes me feel loved and appreciated. And you?

YVONNE: When you do thoughtful things for me. And, I

guess, when you hold me-but not always sexually.

laTHAM: You mean, if we’re just cuddling that makes you

feel loved?

YVONNE: Yes. And sometimes-I guess when I think

you’re doing it because you love me-sex does that for

me, too.

JOTHAM: [Invent a Mutual Purpose] So we need to find

ways to be together that make both of us feel loved and

appreciated. Is that what we’re looking for here?

YVONNE: Yes. I really want that, too.

laTHAM: [Brainstorm new strategies] Well, what if we . . .


Reading a complicated interaction like this one might lead to two

reactions. First, you might think, “Wow, these ideas could actu­

ally work ! ” And at the same time, you could be thinking, “But

there’s no way I could think that clearly in the middle of that

kind of delicate conversation! ”




We admit that it’s pretty easy for us to put all the skills together

when we’re sitting at a computer typing a script. But the good

news is, that’s not where these examples came from. They came

from real experiences. People do act like this all the time. In fact,

you do on your best days.

So don’t overwhelm yourself by asking whether you could

think this clearly during every heated and emotional conver­

sation. Merely consider whether you could think a little more

clearly during a few crucial conversations. Or prepare in advance.

Before a crucial conversation begins, think about which skills will

help you most. Remember, when it comes to these high-stakes

conversations, a little progress can produce a lot of benefit.

Finally, as is the case with most complicated problems, don’t

aim for perfection. Aim for progress. Learn to slow the process

down when your adrenaline gets pumping. Carry a few of the

questions we’re suggesting with you as you go. Pick the ones that

you think are most relevant to the topic at hand. And watch

yourself get better a little at a time.


Step Out

When others move to silence or violence, step out of the con­

versation and Make It Safe. When safety is restored, go back to

the issue at hand and continue the dialogue.

Decide Which Condition of Safety Is at Risk

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