Listen for concerns beneath the questions

In the second mini-conversation between the couple, you are asking them to take turns expressing to each other the questions they had after reading each other’s responses on a particular topic.

Sometimes, the questions are straightforward, and can be answered simply.  Luz, for example, may be puzzled about something Fernando wrote because he didn’t express himself clearly.  A few words of explanation may be all she needs.  If she’s satisfied with the answer, she should appear more relaxed, and may say something like, “Oh, okay.  Now I understand what you meant.  Thanks.”

But what if she still seems tense or puzzled?  She asks what sounds like a request for information, and he gives what sounds like a reasonable answer.  But she’s still leaning toward him with a frown on her face—or her arms are crossed, or her lips are pursed.  She asks another question that may sound much like the first one, as if still looking for something.

Couples do this all the time: something is bothering them, but instead of talking about that, they ask roundabout questions, hoping to find an answer that will satisfy them.  They may not even know precisely what their concern is—and imagine the frustration of the partner who’s trying to answer the questions when no answer seems good enough.

Remember what we said in the book about process?  This would be a good time to make an observation like the following: “Luz, I’m getting the sense that you’re not satisfied with what Fernando said, and I’m wondering if there’s something beneath the question that you’re worried about.”

Never mind that you haven’t reached the third mini-conversation about concerns yet; as we said in a previous post, go with the flow.  Help her express what’s bothering her, or the conversation will go nowhere; sometimes it helps even just to ask her to complete the sentence, “What I’m worried about is…”  Moreover, having read their responses to the CJ, you may even have a guess as to what her concern is, and you can offer this tentatively: “I remember you wrote ___, and I’m wondering if what you’re feeling now has anything to do with that.”

Manage the ensuing conversation, helping the partners to speak and listen appropriately as needed.

–Cameron

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