Several months ago, my trainee, and a friend shared a beautiful illustration of the power of talking skills paired with compassion. In one of my sessions. This man had gone through many of the popular talking skills seminars even before the act of learning such skills was considered to be of any real importance. He had attended what was then called “Talking your way to success” in Willing Ways, more than two decades ago; and there he had learned the ageless modalities of starting with the heart, designing safety, and sharing his significant view point. He had put those skills to grind in his own life, and yet notwithstanding the prowess of his talking skills, he remained disillusioned from his family.
You see, this young man had been raised in a very conventional upper middle class family and his family had not accepted his gender role distrubance. For many years, their contact had been nervy, aggrieved, and marginal. Hearts on both sides of the strained correlation hankered. This issue smacked at the very center of who these people thought they were, what they cherished most, and the doctrines on which they based their lives. It doesn’t get much deeper than that.
Finally the time came in which this man, this trainee of dialogue and talking skills, knew that he wanted to reconcile his relationship with his family. So, with a gentle, open, and most probably aching heart, he went to see, in love and skill, his brother. His efforts resulted in a discussion which factually stretched to hours.
Think about that. A tête-à-tête that took hours; scratched at each brother’s heart, a mockery of pain and grief. This is a tough conversation. It didn’t get fixed with a simple formula in which both parties simply dug deeper and explored each other’s trail, tossing in a contrasting statement here and there. It was a marathon because two gentlemen wouldn’t give up—on the tête-à-tête or each other.
However in the end, this time they found their way back to one another. They unearthed a way to let brotherhood be more momentous than the forces keeping them apart. They located their way because they were able to talk and hear and listen.
Now, what I don’t want you to conclude in this specimen is that you aren’t trying hard enough with your spouse or that your compassion isn’t good enough. That is the last thing I would ever like to say. My memorandum is that amazing things can be accomplished with talking skills. It is not that the use of talking skills always achieve amazing things.
Essential conversations are always easier when there is already a clear and easily defined purpose that is shared by both parties. So, yes of course, it is easier to have essential conversations with people with whom we share a frame of reference. But, if the talking skills only work when two parties agree already or share a tenacity in advance, then it would not have helped these two brothers.
So, what does it has to do with you and your partner in life? It implies there is light at the end of the tunnel. It also means there is a bumpy road still ahead. I would suggest you can start from this point: you are required to step out of the substance and reconstruct safety by launching a shared tenacity in advance. What does it mean to step out of the substance? It means that you must assign your retirement money a new name and rephrase your talk in a new style. That’s right. The way to discuss this prickly issue of retirement money is to stop talking about it. Not forever. Just as long as it takes you to find a purpose that both of you can share. Think about it this way: if talking about saving money for old age is causing anxiety, there is no use harping on the same tune. Continuing to talk about retirement money would bring no consensus. One spouse’s security may be another spouse’s insecurity. Doing the same thing again and again and expecting different result is insanity, as they say.