Connecting Families: A Relationship Enhancement Program

ground rules.
· No one is to dominate the flow of communication. When
one individual takes control either through not sharing the
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Working as a Team, Session 3 30 2004
flow of communication or yelling, crying or stonewalling,
the discussion needs to stop until that person can respect
the ground rules.
· Develop a way to set a time to talk. Make this a time when
talking can happen without distraction. It may be when the
children are in bed or when the couple can be alone. Call it
a talking date time, or whatever sets it aside from your
normal flow of conversation. Next identify a technique to
assist in passing the conversation back and forth. This can
be anything that serves as a reminder who is to be talking
and who is to be listening. It can be a key, a ball or
anything that both agree is the signal that whoever is
holding the object has the right to talk and the other is to be
· Agree to be respectful of each other. Do not use negative
put-downs. Be respectful of each other and of the ground
rules for talking together.
In the beginning, if it is helpful, write down your ground rules so each has an opportunity
to amend them, but to also agree to follow them.
Effective Couple Talk
¡ Speak honestly for yourself
¡ Use one minute “gripe” technique
¡ Listen and focus on other person’s
¡ Take turns – use a symbol to pass
to determine who has the floor to
¡ No interruptions when one is
7. Review Slide 7’s list of effective couple
talk. Reinforce that these are aspects for
learning to be more effective talking with
each other without fighting or
Ed’s Constant Gripe
¡ Ed and Mary have been married for
fifteen years. They have two children.
They live comfortably, but seem to be
drifting apart. Each has a different focus
in life. Ed likes to fish and Mary’s life
revolves around the children. They are
frequently at odds over how their income
is spent. Ed wants to buy a new fishing
boat that he thinks he “deserves because
he works so hard at his job” that provides
the family’s primary income.
8. Introduce the situation of Ed’s Constant
Gripe. Read the situation and ask group
members to work in teams of two to think
about what Ed and Mary each would say
in this situation. What is the core issue
that they disagree about and how is it
playing out in many facets of their
relationship? Use the Speaker–Listener
Role Play Situations Activity to practice
the strategy.
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Working as a Team, Session 3 31 2004
Speaker-Listener Role Play Situations Activity
Ask the teams to illustrate how Ed and Mary could use the speaker–listener technique to
begin talking about their issues. Have a few teams role play their solution conversation.
Using Speaker–Listener Role Play Situations, Session Materials 1, have the teams
practice using the technique to resolve the issues presented in the situations. Give the
teams 5 to 10 minutes to prepare. Ask teams to volunteer to present their solution. Read
the situation prior to introducing the team.
After each role play, as a group debrief about:
“What showed good use of the technique?”
“What could have been changed that would have helped to move the dialogue forward?”
Ask group members to use the technique at least once in the next few days. Explain that
at the next session they will be asked to report on their success or how the technique
worked for them in their personal life’s situation.
Happiness 101
¡ Develop and use effective
communication strategies – sharing
the floor and one minute gripe
¡ Edit yourself
¡ Start up soft
¡ Accept influence
¡ Exit arguments before they are out
of control
¡ Be positive
9. Use Slide 9 to remind the group of
effective techniques that assist in keeping
happiness well and alive in relationships.
Having effective communication
strategies in place helps to maintain an
avenue to resolve issues and make
Instructor’s Notes
Learning to edit your language to be more positive helps establish a framework for trust
and respect. No one likes to be belittled, especially by someone who is important to
Start up soft. Don’t start up in a blaming, demanding or conflictual ma nner. Setting the
stage is important. If someone is angry to begin the conversation, it will go no where
and probably end in disagreement.
Accept others solutions and opinions. People who are accepting of others suggestions
and solutions are happier and have less conflict in their relationships. Being able to see
and accept others points of view and solutions seems to be more difficult for men. Not
only accepting other influence but being able to calm down when confronted is critical
to relationship well-being and is a key indicator of martial happiness.
Take time outs. Learn to take time outs when the conversation is getting heated or out
of control. Once the conversation is out of control, frequently things are said that are
hurtful. These comments said in the passion of making a point in an argument hang over
a relationship and often can never be completely wiped clean. Stopping before it is said
protects the relationship.
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Working as a Team, Session 3 32 2004
Be positive. Being positive sets the stage for a relationship. When both partners are
positive the relationship has a greater chance of succeeding because both are counting the
positive aspects not the negative aspects of the relationship. Negative viewpoints,
negative feedback, negative actions leads to conflict and usually the break- up of the
Working as a Team
¡ Conflict in relationships is fueled by specific
negative behaviors.
¡ Recognizing these behaviors within one’s
relationship assists in developing more positive
coping strategies.
¡ Using the speaker - listener communication
technique assists couples in resolving issues in a
positive manner that is less damaging to the
¡ Learning and using effective communication
techniques increases the quality and happiness
in a relationship.
10. Use Slide 10 to summarize the key
points of the session. Remind group
participants that they are to be using the
speaker–listener technique over the up
coming week.
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Working as a Team, Session 3 33 2004
Handout 1
Relationship Indicator Assessment
Directions : Think about the person who is your partner in a significant relationship.
Respond to each statement by indicating how much you agree or disagree with it. After
you have responded to all of the statements, score your quiz using the following scale:
1 = strongly disagree/not relevant 2 = disagree 3 = neutral 4 = agree 5 =



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