“Make peace with the groan zone. The groan zone is the place where the conversation is most difficult and may feel overwhelming or hopeless. Too many people walk away at this point. But use the mediator’s secret here–sticking it out through the groan zone is often the way to crack a difficult conversation’s tough nut. Whenever you notice yourself experiencing a ‘get me outta here!’ moment, pause and remind yourself this is where the greatest opportunities lie. Instinctively we abhor nondefensiveness and when we feel attacked or even confronted, we lash out immediately in hurt and anger. Most of us are either too reactive to stay calm or too reactive to stay present. Some, hoping to avoid the discomfort of confrontation are so unreactive they are never really present. It is over-reactivity that dooms many arguments between loving couples. Uncovering the real issue happens when people feel safe enough to be vulnerable. How do you do it? It’s actually very easy. Take a deep breath and just validate. Repeat back what you’re hearing. Be a mirror. If it’s easy, why don’t we all do it all the time? Because there’s a hard part too: Managing your own discomfort. Can you be OK with the feelings of others? Can you listen without judging? Can you listen even though you might feel threatened?”
“Everyone must be quick to hear,
slow to speak
and slow to anger . . . .”
James 1:19 NASB
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you too reactive to stay calm? . . . or present? . . . to love well? . . . not to jump to conclusions or judge? . . . or try to fix?
- Does emotionally laden conflict feel like death to you? (Join the club.)
- Are you safe enough in God to allow yourself to be vulnerable? . . . not to run?
- Can you allow God to love you in your failed, good intentions–and try again the next time?
“O Word of Truth! in devious paths
My wayward feet have trod;
I have not kept the day serene
I gave at morn to God.
“And now ’tis night, and night within;
O God, the light hath fled!
I have not kept the vow I made
When morn its glories shed.
“For clouds of gloom from nether world
Obscured my upward way;
O Christ the Light, Thy light bestow
And turn my night to day!”
Gregory of Nazianzus
For More: Before the Door of God, Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson, eds.
Hopler, Jay and Kimberly Johnson, eds. Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry. New Haven: Yale, 2013.
[I’m no longer able to find the source of the “Groan Zone” quotation.]