- Andre Maurois
I love this quote for a few reasons. First, let’s look at a couple of definitions:
“The noun conversation comes from the Old French word of the same spelling, meaning "manner of conducting oneself in the world." When you have a conversation with another person or a group of people, you listen closely and respond appropriately, so that your conversation is a true exchange of ideas, not just people waiting for their turn to talk. A good conversation makes you feel heard, satisfied, and maybe even more informed.”
“Conversation, discussion; these two words generally indicate a mutual exchange between two . . . people; with this difference, that conversation is commonly used for all talk between two individuals, whereas discussion is for talk concerning a precise subject . . . The rules of conversation are, in general, not to dwell on any one subject, but to pass lightly from one to another without effort and without affectation; to know how to speak about trivial and serious things; to remember that conversation is a way to relax, and is neither an armed attack, nor a game of chess . . .”
- Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert, University of Michigan
My experience is that most couples don’t have nearly enough conversations, and conversely have way too many “discussions” that are just shy of heated--or all the way to--out and out arguments.
These “discussions” range from logistics, to parenting, to work/life balance (or the lack thereof), to resentments, into often taboo topics of sex, money, power, and in-laws as the most contentious topics.
Do you know how to have discussions that lead to resolution and mutual satisfaction on the topic? The basics:
1. Ask for time to discuss _________. Please don’t just jump in and catch your beloved off guard.
2. Both of you need to ask for discussions; don’t put it all on one person.
3. Begin with a belly hug for two minutes. This will calm you down and help you feel more connected before you start. (If you have difficulty with touch, start with 15 seconds, progress in 15 second intervals.)
4. Make eye contact.
5. Do ‘Personal Weather Report’: taking turns, share three feelings using “I” (e.g., I’m anxious, I’m relaxed, I’m vulnerable, etc.). This lets you know how you’re feeling as well as how your partner is feeling. It helps to create connection, too.
6. Now begin the topic. Maintain eye contact. Be kind when you’re bringing up a topic.
a. If you think you’re the only one thinking about it, please don’t say, “You aren’t paying attention” or any equivalent of that.
b. Try, “One thing on my mind these days is . . .” I promise it will go better.
7. Set a limit of 20 minutes to talk. Don’t beat any dead horses.
8. If you feel you’re not making progress, try, “I don’t feel we’re making progress. Is there something else on your mind?”
Is it possible that you have a lot of unfinished “discussions” to the point where you find it hard to envision yourselves hanging out in a conversation, holding hands, or making eyes at one another? If so, please don’t let that persist. Also, let your kids see you have conversations. Kids learn by example, not telling.
I’d love to have you share how you have successful discussions.
When is the last time you hung out together without an agenda and had a conversation about light or meaningful topics to you? When was the last time you had playful “laugh time” together?
1. Make time for conversations, even put it in your calendar if need be (chores will still be there later--they are never-ending.) Choose time with each other. Make your relationship your top priority.
2. Bring a beverage and/or snack (take turns getting them).
3. Belly hug for two minutes.
4. Make eye contact.
5. Start with ‘Personal Weather Report’.
6. Sit comfortably in a relatively quiet place. (Or go for a walk together, or sit in the hot tub. Find what works for the two of you.)
7. Ask: What was your high today? Both share that.
8. Ask: What was your low today? Both share that.
9. Let each other know what you heard and give empathy. “I heard you say ___________. Did I get everything?” If so, continue, if not, the speaker will say the part not included (Be KIND, always). Then give empathy: say, “That sounds amazing, tough, sad, exciting, etc. We are wired to be seen and heard.
10. Hold hands now and then, or touch a knee or shoulder.
11. Let your conversation meander.
12. If a discussion comes up, jot it on a pad to discuss later.
13. Have fun together. Remember what you love so much about one another.
14. Breathe. Exhale slowly.
I realize many of you aren’t especially comfortable with feelings. Do it anyway! Your life will be better. Practice doesn’t make “Perfect” yet it does make improvements.
I spend a lot of time in conversation with my husband. Lately we’ve been talking about a powerful dream I had this week, imagining our adult kids’ futures through their eyes (after conversations and discussions with them), where we’d love to travel once enough people are vaccinated so we have herd immunity (CDC guidelines), to our love of nature, to our sadness and concern for the people, animals, and land that is burning. Of course, mixed in are logistical, planning discussions.
I love our weekends together; we have more time for conversations.
Our conversations will be cut short when we die, as they are endless.