Perspectives 15: Navigating Change Together

Issue 15: November, 2018

In This Issue

  • Navigating Change Together – an article and exercise from relationship coaching
  • Workshop on Creative Problem Solving this Tuesday
  • Building Mutual Respect and Trust workshop offered in March

Know somebody who would benefit from reading this eNewsletter?  Please forward it to them using the link at the bottom.  Thanks!

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Navigating Change Together

As I noted in recent workshop announcement emails, I have expanded my coaching work to include relationship coaching.  This article comes from that practice.

When one person in a relationship has the opportunity to, or is wanting to, make a significant change in their lives, it can be hard to navigate the needed conversations about what that change might mean for the other person in the relationship, and for the relationship itself.  Each person involved has their own experience of what’s happening, and those likely include both “I” focused and “other” focused feelings and needs.*

Needs might include things like growth, empathy, connection, autonomy, stability, appreciation, wholeness, support, harmony, being seen and heard, celebration, and clarity.

Feelings might include things like excitement, fear, confidence, worry, curiosity, frustration, sadness, confusion, relief, resentment, and delight.

We may be uncertain about whether it’s ok to be honest with our partner (parent, sibling, etc.) about what we are feeling and needing if we worry that they will read that as trying to get them to do or not do something, or that they might do something “for us” rather than making the best decision for them.  We may also fear that they will just do “whatever they feel like doing” without taking our needs – or the health of the relationship – into consideration.  Or we may simply feel confused and uncertain about how to dig into the real and sometimes challenging questions about how to navigate any significant change with another person.

Regardless of where we start, we need to find ways to have honest, respectful, curiosity-based conversations if we are going to navigate these waters in ways that strengthen our relationship rather than damaging it.

Here is one tool that can help us stay in curiosity as we explore these waters. 

Start by agreeing on a time to talk about the change being considered (or longed for) together (perhaps each read this article first, and agree that you want to do this).  Set aside 90 minutes, when you won’t be interrupted by anything.  Have a timer you can set, so nobody has to be distracted by being the timekeeper.

State your intentions to use this time to deepen your understanding of each other’s experience of this possible change; to stay curious, and not jump to trying to fix things too quickly – this time is for learning and empathy, not making decisions.

Set the timer for 10 minutes (you can check in at the end and add time if someone needs it) to each make your own lists in response to the following questions:

  • What do I want from you if you/I decide to move forward on this change?
  • What do I want for you if you/I decide to move forward on this change?

Be as concrete as possible, and include both action and process/connection needs.  Examples might include:

From you: “I want you to take on cooking dinner 2 nights a week if I commit to this new, full-time job.” “I want you to give up some of your volunteer work if you take this new, full-time job, so we have at least one weekend day together,” “I want you to stay honest with me about how this is working for you.” “I want you to help me turn the storage room into an art studio.” “I want you to understand and appreciate that I am doing this in part to create more (financial security, freedom, etc.) for both of us.” “I want to know you understand and appreciate that, if you do this, I will need to take on more of x and y.” etc.

For you: “I want this to allow you to grow in the ways you’ve been saying you want to grow (and—maybe—I’m worried that it might not do that).” “I want my choosing this to allow you more freedom to do the things you love, too.” “I want (you or me) doing x to help meet your need(s) for y (security, freedom, adventure, etc.).” “I want this to offer us new opportunities to collaborate (which you said you’ve been wanting).” etc.

As you find yourself feeling like you are done with your list in each category, ask yourself “what else do I want?” and write some more.  Don’t limit your list to things that feel “realistic” – this is the time to get clear for yourself about what you really want.

Once you both feel like you have lists that reflect what you want, take a few minutes to restate your intentions for this time – to learn more about what is happening for each other, to both feel seen and heard – and your commitment to not jumping to solutions in this time.

Divide the remaining time in half, reserving 5 minutes at the end to talk about next steps.  (I am assuming only 2 people in the relationship for purposes of this exercise; modify appropriately if there are more than 2.) Then, decide who will share their list first.  That person can share by reading it, or handing it to the other person.  Set the timer for 2 minutes less than the period you determined above before starting to share.

When sharing, remember that the goal is to deepen understanding, and that each person will have a turn to be heard, to be the focus of this curiosity.  When it is your turn to hear another person, you will have your own reactions to what they are saying, but try to stay focused on being curious about what is happening for them.  You can talk about what’s happening for you when it’s your turn to share.  I suggest limiting your responses during this sharing time to:

1. Reflecting back what you are hearing, using different words, to check for understanding (recognizing that you will sometimes not reflect back exactly what they intended, and that they will then clarify, which will deepen understanding – it’s not about getting it right).

2. Asking curiosity-based questions (i.e. “Would you tell me more about that?” “I am feeling confused about x, will you say it in different words?” “What is it like for you when you feel y?” etc.)

3. Offer expressions of empathy (i.e. “That sounds really hard.” “I see you struggling with that.” “It sounds like you are feeling afraid that x might happen.” etc.)

If you feel triggered (upset, angry, fearful, etc.) by what the other person has said, take a minute to attend to that yourself before responding.  Here is a link to an article by my colleague, Vince Gowmon, on one way to reground yourself.  You can also take a few deep breaths, ask yourself “What’s hard about this for me?” or “What do I want?” to try to get more clarity, or use any other ritual you know works for you.  You may also want to express what you are feeling to the other person, being clear that you don’t need them to fix it.  That might sound like “I am feeling triggered here, and I need a minute to reground.” Many folks I work with create a hand signal to use to communicate “hang on, I need a minute here” so they don’t have to find words when they are upset.

It is important for the person who shared to be willing to clarify and correct the person responding, in service to clarity and understanding.  And, regardless of how good the initial reflecting back is, it is usually the case that the person sharing ends up feeling better seen and heard than they have in a long while at the end of their turn.

When the timer goes off, you have 2 minutes to (a) bring your last thought to a close, (b) acknowledge that there is probably more exploring to do here but that it is time to shift to the other person sharing, and (c) take a moment to both ground yourselves in your switched roles.  You may not be through your whole list yet.  That’s ok.  You can make an agreement to spend more time doing that later (today, or another day), but it is important to switch roles so that both people can have both experiences.

Reset the timer, and go through the process a second time, with the second person sharing.  That person may want to share, in addition to what they wrote, things that rose for them during the first person’s sharing.  If so, please try to do that using some version of the nonviolent communication feelings and needs approach.  If what rose for you is hard, this might sound something like “When I heard you say x, I felt y* because it triggered a fear that my need(s) for z* would/might not get met.” If what rose was joyful or affirming, it might sound something like “When I heard you say x, I felt y because it gave me a sense that you were focused on (meeting need z for yourself and/or me).”

When the second person’s turn is done, take the last 5 minutes to reflect, together or separately, whichever seems best, about what has changed in your perceptions of yourselves, each other, and the situation, and then decide together if there are next steps you want to take.  Next steps could involve adding more time now if you both have energy and want to continue or setting a clear time to do more work later.  That work could include revisiting/continuing sharing your lists, focusing in on some particular piece of the conversation to dig deeper, exploring some concrete things you could do that would help meet the needs that might otherwise go unmet if choosing to do or not do the thing in question, or many other things. I suggest you commit to at least one specific next step, being clear about what you will do and when.

I invite you to close by saying one thing each of you is grateful for in this moment.

*It is also sometimes hard to identify what our own feelings and needs are, especially when we are upset.  I like having a list to refer to. You can download a list of the universal feelings and needs used by nonviolent communication at WiseheartPDX.org.

Related Articles

Working with Shoulds

Steering from Our Centers

Softening into Change

Join the conversation…

  • What was your experience trying this out?
  • What other tools do you use to navigate change with the people you love?

You can ask questions, share your experiences, and be part of the conversation at the bottom of the page.

Creative Problem Solving Workshop this Tuesday, November 6th

Creativity is never more important than when you’re searching for an answer. Come spend three hours in this highly interactive workshop learning some ways to tap into your most creative self when tackling any problem.

Logistics: The date is Tuesday, November 6th from 6:30 to 9:30p.m. at PCC’s CLIMB Center in inner SE (near OMSI), room 301. (Please note that the location is wrong in the print catalogue.) The cost is $29 and the CRN is 47550.

Pre-registration is required.  To register, go to www.pcc.edu/community.

Building Mutual Respect and Trust Workshop

Mutual respect and trust are essential parts of healthy and productive work/team environments, but how do we create that?  Learn concrete tools for cultivating trust and respect as a foundation for nurturing successful work/team relationships.

Logistics: Tuesday, March 5th from 6:30 to 9:30p.m. at PCC’s CLIMB Center in inner SE (near OMSI), room 307. The cost is $29 and the CRN is 16780.

Pre-registration is required (but won’t be available until the winter term schedule is posted). To register, go to www.pcc.edu/community.

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What People Say About My Groups and Workshops

 “Emotional, rewarding and life changing”

“The group was inspiring, stimulating, helped me shift out of negativity toward optimistic ideas. I love your style – welcoming, supportive.”

 “This workshop has changed how I think about my life”

“I now have LOTS of tools to help me make shifts in my life that I’ve wanted.”

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Coaching

Are you reaching for some kind of transformation in your life, work, or relationship?

Whether you are clear about what you want to be different, or just clear that something needs to change, coaching can help you move through the process of identifying and letting go of what’s in your way, getting a clearer, more useful sense of what you want, and developing new frameworks, tools and habits that will get you there.

We will focus in on what is most alive for you, most stuck, most confusing, and discover ways for you to access your own deep wisdom and to release old patterns that have stopped serving you and are preventing you from making the changes you want to make.

Coaching is practical — learning and action are integrated, so you are actually taking the steps you want to be taking while getting more clarity about what makes these changes challenging and how to make it easy. The cost for three months of individual coaching is $585. The three-month package for relationship coaching is $915.

You will find information about my coaching work on the coaching and relationship coaching pages of this website.

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Quote from relationship coaching clients:

“I appreciated the concrete tools Tasha provided. In contrast to couple’s therapy, where we would get caught up in unhealthy narratives, we found more productive movement and commitment to the process in a short amount of time.”

“Through coaching, we learned how to become less triggered and reactive with each other, making it possible for us to see, hear, and engage with each other with compassion, curiosity, and resilience.”

“Tasha’s support has made us more resourceful listeners and collaborators in our partnership, as well as in other relationships with family, friends and colleagues.”

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Happy Fall!

Tasha

PS: Pass it on

If you know someone who’d benefit from this newsletter, please pass it on to them.  Thanks for helping me connect with the people who want what I’ve got to offer.

 

© Tasha Harmon, November 2018. All rights reserved. You are invited to share this eNewsletter with friends and colleagues as long as it stays intact, with all acknowledgements and contact information in place. If you’d like permission to reprint articles from my eNewsletters, written permission is required. Please do contact me about this if you are interested. Thank you.

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