Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Principled Commitment: An Adult Program on Building Strong Relationships

Activity 4: Communicating Honestly And Openly

Activity time: 45 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint with prepared questions (see Preparation)
  • Easel
  • Tables or hard surfaces for writing
  • Writing paper (at least one sheet per participant)
  • Pens or pencils
  • Clock, watch, or timer
  • Bell or chime

Preparation for Activity

  • Set up tables, or find books or other hard surfaces for writing.
  • List the following five questions on a sheet of newsprint:
    • What was the situation?
    • How did the quality of the communication make you feel?
    • How do you think your partner felt?
    • How could you have communicated more openly?
    • How might this interaction have affected the level of trust within your relationship?

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

In an intimate partnership, the creation of "we," or a sense of mutuality, is extremely important. One of the best ways to achieve that state is by communicating openly.

Communicating openly includes stating your thoughts and feelings genuinely and respectfully. It means sharing and listening in ways that balance honesty with respect for your partner's feelings. Open communication is not just about the openness of the speaker - it's also about the openness of the listener. When a listener's feelings are hurt, that openness can become closed.

Effective communicators are good at observing, listening, and interpreting nonverbal information. They also understand how and when to offer a clear response or opinion, and both partners know when it is appropriate to express their own feelings.

Distribute writing paper and pens or pencils. Invite participants to think of a recent situation in which they could have communicated more openly with their partners.

Post the newsprint on which you listed the five questions. Invite participants to spend 15 to 25 minutes reflecting and/or writing on the questions.

After five minutes of solo reflection, ring the bell or chime. Explain the next part of the activity with these or similar words:

I invite you to find your partner. You'll now have fifteen minutes to share your reflections with one another.

You will take turns being the speaker and the listener for five minutes each. When you're the speaker, focus on naming your own behaviors rather than your partner's behaviors. When you're the listener, just listen to your partner - there is no need to respond with words. Strive for deep listening.

After each of you has spoken and listened, you will have five minutes to respond to each other. Use this time to clarify situations and start to identify ways of dealing with similar situations in the future.

Invite partners to begin sharing with one another. Ring the bell or chime gently after five minutes to remind partners to switch roles if they haven't already done so. After another five minutes, signal the beginning of the discussion period.

When the final five minutes have passed, ring the bell or chime again. Affirm the conversations that have been going on, and encourage participants to continue processing them in the week to come.