Stop Talking to Your Partner!

Well, not entirely… maybe that should read stop talking AT your partner!

Sometimes with coaching the client starts in one place and together we end up somewhere completely different. Thus, a session that begins with an overview of a work related problem can end up being much more about personal issues.

Communication Breakdown

And so it was with Coral*. Coral came to coaching for help with issues communicating at work; as we worked together we discovered that many of her fears stemmed from a break down in communication with her partner. This had resulted in a loss of confidence in other areas of her life which was affecting how she related to her colleagues.

Root Cause

With her permission, we headed back to the main cause of her loss of confidence. Communication between her and her partner had degenerated into a series of instructions for household management, along with a plethora of repetitive, inconsequential, circular arguments.

A minor issue would develop into something larger with neither listening to the other. Instead, each would launch into their own well rehearsed argument. During our sessions, Coral realised that she didn’t actually listen to her partner as she was sure she knew what he was going to say. So, instead of giving her partner any attention she was busy using his talking time composing her next riposte. She heard him talking but she wasn’t connecting to what he was saying. Their was no communication, more a series of ‘positions’ offered with each interrupting and cutting across the other. And she was equally convinced that he ‘never’ listened to her.

The Plan

Together we worked on a strategy for breaking this cycle. She couldn’t change her partner’s behaviour (at least not directly) but she could change her own.

First, she had to overcome her feelings of resentment (childlike ego state) and move to a more adult perspective of her partnership. Coral began to realise that attributing her feelings to her partner was counter productive; he didn’t MAKE her feel anything. She felt the way she did because of all the myriad things that had made her the unique person she was. Her feelings were her own responsibility and she could exercise some control over how she felt. This freed her up to make the first move as she moved from a combative mindset to one focussed on improving her relationship.

And her first task was to listen, really listen to what he was saying. To listen without judging, without feelings of resentment, without feeling a need to justify. It’s easier said than done (or actually not said!) but with the support of coaching she persevered. Instead of coming back at him with her own snappy retorts, she paid him attention. She was respectful and acknowledged his views, without necessarily agreeing with him.

Cease Fire

As her partner realised he was being listened to, his behaviour began to change too. Gradually they began to talk as adults, each taking responsibility, about the future of their relationship.

Happy Ever After…?

Of course, it wasn’t just happy ever after immediately, this is a true story, not a fairy tale! But it did break the cycle and it did give Coral a feeling of being in control of her life. And that percolated through to her working life. Taking some control of issues at home allowed her to see work issues with a fresh eye and she applied some of the listening techniques to her professional life, with good results. And feeling better about work helped her at home…a virtuous circle.


If you have an issue you think our working together could help, give me a call on 01761 438749 or email me if you prefer.

*Of course, Coral is not her real name, and several details have been changed to maintain client confidentiality


Posted on August 19th, 2010 by

2 Responses to “Stop Talking to Your Partner!”

  1. Jackie Walker says:

    Nice work Jane! Don’t you often find that business issues reflect home issues .. and vice versa too?

    I love that all coaching is holistic – whether clients have asked for it to affect other areas or not.

    • Jane says:

      Yes, it’s great to be able to work with the whole person, although I obviously always respect the client’s wishes! Thanks for stopping by Jackie.

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