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When people come on the Dialogue Road Map training course, one question I get asked is this;

‘When I try to talk to my partner or children in this more compassionate way, they tell me not to try this stuff on them. If I’m trying to make things better why would they do that?’

Phrases like ‘Don’t technique me’ or ‘I’m not one of your clients’ or ‘Stop trying this stuff on me’ are quite usual. Indeed, back in the late 90’s when I started trying to change the way I communicate my children were very small and they just thought I was mad. They really didn’t trust it and I could understand that because looking back, I wasn’t very good at making the changes I really wanted to make.

Here are several reasons why family members might give this kind of a reaction:

1. You haven’t asked their permission to try something new so you don’t have their buy in

2. You are imposing a change on the framework of the relationship without having gained consent to do so

3. It’s hard to trust something new if you are not party to it and don’t understand it

4. You are asking for a leap of faith without finding out whether the other person wants to take that leap

5. Even if the regular communication is dysfunctional, it is familiar and everyone knows where they stand. Something new challenges everyone’s position

6. You are trying something out and failing to hear the feedback that it isn’t working

7. You are being seen as changing the dynamics of the relationship positioning yourself as the expert/teacher

A more authentic way of beginning change is to talk about the current communication and discuss what works and what doesn’t work and genuinely hear your partner before trying anything new.

Timing and consent matter. If the other person agrees to try something new, involve them in your thinking, explain that it will seem unfamiliar and that without practice it won’t change. Listen carefully to their feedback and don’t take them out of their tolerances.

If you can get that far, you have already begun the change process so both of you can celebrate, instead of one of you congratulating yourself on your new skills.

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