Let s take a look at how discussing natural consequences applies to a difficult example.
This is both Gary and Kali s second marriage. She has two children from her previous marriage, ages 15 and 20. When Kali and Gary first met, he was very interested in her children. They ve now been married four years , and his interest is waning. In fact, he s almost always surly with them and has taken to calling them names . They feel like strangers in the house, and Kali is beginning to think she ll have to choose between Gary and her children.
What makes this problem particularly hard to solve is the fact that he doesn t want to talk about it. When Kali tries to discuss their relationship, he accuses her of being unreasonable and storms out of the room. What can she say? One thing is for certain: The first few seconds will be critical. Kali has about 30 seconds to do two things: She has to help Gary want to talk to her; and she has to make it safe so that he ll talk to her constructively. Let s watch her in action. Gary is doing e-mail in the den alone. The kids aren t around, and so they re likely to have an hour or so without interruptions.
Kali: I think the kids and I are making life unpleasant for you. It appears to be getting worse and not better. (Make it safe: She maintains respect and clarifies her purpose.)
I want to find an hour when we can discuss this. And I believe that if we do, we could get back some of the feeling we shared until about a year ago. (She provides more safety and Mutual Purpose.)
If we don t talk, I don t think we ll be able to continue in the same way. (She makes the invisible visible, sharing natural consequences that Gary cares about.)
Kali: No, and I m sorry if it sounded like one. I don t want you to feel like I m attacking you. I just want us to be able to talk openly about something I m really concerned about. (She steps out of the content and restores safety using Contrasting.)
Let s face it, you and I haven t felt affectionate toward each other in months. I think it s been bad for both of us. I think the problems are solvable, but not if we can t talk about them. (She shares natural consequences, links to existing values, takes the focus off short-term pain ”a conversation ”and focuses on long- term benefits.)
The conversation doesn t have to happen now, but I believe it must happen or the things that are wrong are just going to get worse. I fear that s likely to end with us feeling like we d be happier apart than together. (She connects short-term benefits ”avoiding the conversation ”with long-term pain.)
I hate that thought. (She steps out of content and makes sure he doesn t mistake the natural consequence for a threat.)
Gary: Okay, I ll try. But if this turns into you telling me how I can t expect the kids to obey any rules and I just have to put up with their trashing the house I m gone. (He s moving to violence ”making threats ”because he doesn t feel safe. He still suspects this will be a blaming conversation with him as the target. Kali recognizes the lack of safety and avoids reacting to his threat. Instead, she increases safety.)
Kali: I know I ve been doing a lot of that. And I m sorry. I ve been very defensive about the kids lately, and that s come out as me blaming you and not listening to your concerns. I think if we can talk about all of this, we can work together better. Is now a good time?