Jill: I think it’s accurate to say that most of our conversations as Mark & Jill 1.0 (before our crisis) were not very emotionally-safe conversations. But now as Mark & Jill 2.0 (since we have been intentionally investing in our marriage), our conversations have been so much safer than they used to be. What made the difference? We learned that there are some important steps in order to have a safe conversation with each other and that’s what we want to share with you today!
Here are the 7 parts in order before we explore them in detail:
- Ask your spouse, “Is now a good time?”
- Share initial communication from talker with receiver repeating-back.
- Share what you are feeling.
- Share something about this communication from childhood–what was your experience in childhood with this topic?
- Thank the talker for sharing.
- Long holding hug. (Trust us on this one!)
- Switch roles.
By the way, if you prefer to watch a teaching, check out the video below for a sneak peek at the type of resources our No More Perfect Date Night members receive regularly. Membership is closed right now, but you can join the waitlist to be notified when membership goes live again!
Mark: Absolutely. These have made such a difference as we started to put these into practice and that’s why we are laying them all out here so you can begin to practice them little by little or all at once. The first step you can utilize to have a safe conversation is asking your spouse, “Is now a good time?” This is important because we often have conversations when our spouse is stressed, distracted, or just not in a good mindset to have the type of conversation we are looking for.
Jill: So this might look like you saying, “I have something I want to share with you. Would now be a good time?” or “I had a realization about myself. Would now be a good time to share that with you?” or even “Last night was really hard. Would now be a good time to revisit that?” Safe conversations are not just about conflict; they are about sharing things that you want your spouse to hear.
Mark: And if it’s not a good time and your response is “No, now is not a good time.” it is also your responsibility to communicate when it will be a good time and to follow through with having that conversation.
Jill: The second step is what we call the first communication. There is always a talker and a receiver and the first communication will come from the talker, who shares what’s on their mind that they want their spouse to know.
Mark: That’s right. The receiver will then repeat back what they heard from the talker and follow up with “Is that correct?” The receiver will not agree or disagree. They won’t respond or debate. They will just listen to understand. Repeating what we heard is important because it shows our spouse that we were listening and understood what they were trying to communicate. If we understood incorrectly, it provides our spouse with the opportunity to clarify. Now, this isn’t the time to communicate whether you agree or disagree with what was said. You simply want to make sure they know you understood and were listening to them.
Jill: Next comes step three and four: Share what you are feeling and something about childhood. This is still coming from the talker and the receiver again should repeat by summarizing what they heard. The receiver may even dig deeper by asking, “Is there more?” When we do this, we are making sure the talker has shared everything before we move on. Sharing how we feel drives connection deeper. Sharing something about childhood experiences with the topic at hand helps the other person understand why this is important to you personally. (See the above video for two examples of how this works in a real conversation!)
Mark: Once you have done this, we can move on to step five, which is thanking the talker for sharing. This acknowledges that you appreciate hearing your spouse’s point of view, feelings, thoughts, and concerns.
Jill: Exactly. Then we get to go to the best part in step six—a long holding hug. This can feel uncomfortable at first for many couples. The truth is that we can get into the habit of not touching enough, so that long holding hug can be a beautiful gift and a reassurance that our spouse is a safe place to hold and accept who we are.
Mark: The final step is to switch roles and start at the beginning so the receiver is now the talker and the talker is now the receiver. From here, you go through that full process again, ensuring that both spouses share what they are thinking and feeling about the topic.
Jill: That’s what a safe conversation looks like. Breaking it down step-by-step can make it feel long, but with practice, this style of communication can become your new normal. Safe conversations ensure that one spouse doesn’t dominate the talking in an important conversation, both spouses are heard, and connection is maintained.
Mark: This is just one of the tools that we share with couples through our Marriage Intensives and with our No More Date Night Community. If you want to see this in action, check out our post on this topic on Instagram. We hope this is helpful as you approach conversations with your spouse. Remember, your marriage matters and is worth prioritizing!
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