Mindful & Expressive: Guidelines for Safe, Productive Conversations

Why are conversations so hard?

Talking can be dangerous, right? It may be what got your family into the situation it’s currently facing over dishonesty, and additional conversations after the initial transgression may have only added fuel to the fire.

So it’s only natural to be wondering: how, exactly, are art therapy and guided discussion supposed to help get us out this conflict?

We’re so glad you asked.

Talking is hard because people so often engage in conversation–as–debate. The point, each of us often thinks, is to get our points across and “be right” while looking for weaknesses in the arguments from other person(s) involved in the conversation. But how much do we actually listen to those other people and try to engage with their ideas?

We here at Mindful & Expressive want every family who uses our program to learn how to have safe and open communication between all members of the family, but it can take practice…

  • practice SETTING OUT INTENTIONS (every member of a conversation should agree to the “ground rules” that will shape the dialogue. Don’t want to be interrupted? Make that one of the rules. Afraid you won’t discuss the truth? Make a rule that honesty will not be punished.)
  • practice LISTENING (not just hearing another person’s words)
  • practice THINKING before RESPONDING (How does a statement make you feel? What feelings might your potential response evoke in the other family members?)
  • practice ACKNOWLEDGING what the other person said. Make it a habit and part of your everyday conversational vocabulary to say “I hear you saying this______. That makes me think/feel this__________.”
  • practice one of our favorite lessons from improv comedy: “YES AND” (no responding with “but”—that shuts people and ideas down). We want to build them up.
  • practice asking OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS (not just pointed Yes/No/Maybe questions)
  • practice THANKING OTHERS for their honesty, bravery, and/or candor.
  • remember it’s okay to TAKE A BREAK when conversations get tough, but always try to reach a peaceful resolution that day. Try not to sleep on your angry and just “hope for the best” the next day, which can build up resentment.

For more, see What’s the difference between a discussion, a debate, and a dialogue? Which type of conversation do you want to be having in your family? (Hint: it’s probably a dialogue, not a discussion or debate in most cases!)

What People Say

It’s hard to be an artist. It’s hard to be anything. It’s hard to be.

Bill Murray

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

J. K. Rowling

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

Dr. Seuss

Let’s build stronger families, together.

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