Updated: Oct 3, 2019
by Jenny Leclezio
It is my deep belief, and indeed experience, that there is very little that cannot be solved with a well-structured conversation. This may sound trite and overly simplistic, but I believe it is both that simple and that difficult. Let me elaborate.
Most tensions that occur between two people happen as a result of misunderstandings and assumptions. I have numerous examples. Here is one; my husband arranges for my son to go to a friend instead of joining us on a family weekend. I assume he is being selfish, and not taking my needs into consideration and I end up annoyed. Little did I know. that he was trying to help me because he knew I had a pressing deadline and this would give me some space.
The Three Steps
We use a very simple process in our business and professional practice called ‘a clearing’ which I learnt many years ago. It is powerful and effective. The rules are very simple:
1. Each person answers three questions:
a. What is working? (in the relationship or situation)
b. What is not working?
c. What am I carrying? (things that are on my mind or concerning me that may be impacting how I show up)
2. Each person speaks until they are done with no interruption.
3. The only response is to thank you for sharing (there is no conversation or interrogation).
This process requires doing your best in the two wings of conversation: speaking and listening. It is helpful to spend a few minutes thinking through what you want to say, and then to speak succinctly and give examples. Honesty is essential. The listening skill is a bit more challenging and the best advice I can give is to sit on your hands, to remind yourself not to interrupt. The attitude of curiosity, together with a conscious effort to suspend your agenda to really listen is required.
Borrowing from Nancy Kline’s profound work ‘time to think’, two other essential elements are required: ease and place. Ease means having enough time and space, without rushing, and the place is ensuring privacy and freedom from interruption.
The clearing is not a silver bullet for everything, however what it does is provide clarity – for people to really see each other and reconnect. It is astounding how powerful this simple process is, and how often misunderstandings occur because we make judgements and we don’t take the time to check our assumptions.