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Episode # 554   Jonathan Robinson - How to Listen During Conflict

About The Episode:

If you’re like most people, you probably had little to no training on how to best communicate in a way that fosters deep trust and intimacy. In this exclusive episode of The Inspiration Show, bestselling author and couples’ therapist Jonathan Robinson will show you two words that can turn any argument into a healthy conversation, plus the #1 thing that can make even the most difficult person become receptive to listening in times of conflict.

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Episode # 554 Jonathan Robinson - How to Listen During Conflict

NL: Hi everyone! My name is Natalie Ledwell and this is the Inspiration Show. Today on the show I have a special guest who's a good friend of mine who has a new book out, which is called "More Love Less Conflict". It seems like a very timely book and a timely message for right now. But before I introduce my friend, I just want to remind you that after the show is over, don't forget to click the link below this video so that you can download the free ebook version of my best selling book, "Never In Your Wildest Dreams". So please let me introduce my good friend Jonathan Robinson. How are you, Jonathan?

JR: I’m doing great.

NL: Now, you have been a previous guest on the show and I think the last time we were talking, we were talking about all the technology and gadgets that we can use to really help increase happiness. But “More Love Less Conflict” is kind of like a different subject I would say. Kind of aligned but a little different. So tell us a little bit, maybe for the people who hadn’t seen the previous show about your background, and what was the motivation for writing this book?

JR: Well you know, as a teenager, I was miserable, which is good to have your mid-life crisis early. I wasn't very good at communicating and I came across all these different technologies whether it be gadgets or communication skills, I really made a difference in my life. And I noticed that really what we want is love and connection and understanding. And most of us don't have much training in how to do that consistently. So I'd always looked for the best ways to do something that are really simple so that I could use it and I'd passed it on.

NL: Right, awesome. So with this book, what you address is what you call the communication miracle. So what do you mean by that?

JR: Well, my therapist guarantees that I can turn any relationship around in 2 sessions or less or they don’t pay me. So I’m very motivated.

NL: Alright. Okay alright, so you’re going to have to elaborate a little bit on that. So when we talk about this communications though it’s mainly between couples? Or can it be between workmates?

JR: It can be between anyone because everybody does the same things wrong. Everybody uses blame and complain and shame as a way to change people. I don’t know about you Natalie, but when I blamed and complained to my wife, she never says “Oh my gosh, you’re right! Now I see the errors in my ways. I’ll have to change.” That doesn’t happen you know. So we need to learn different ways to get to a place back to love and a communication miracle is when you can take any 2 people and take them from being conflicted and arguing back to a place of love. And if you have the right method that can be done easily, and if you have the wrong method that can never ever happen.

NL: Right. Well you know, it’s interesting that you say this. I actually went through a process myself just recently because I am in a new relationship. And I noticed after about a week of doing my own () I’ve noticed an old pattern coming up. And I actually remember saying to one of my girlfriends “next time I’m not happy and I start blaming someone else, you have permission to slap me.” So I’m thinking part of this is taking responsibility for our own actions. So tell us a little bit about the process that you take couples through.

JR: Well, mostly what I do is I actually teach them simple techniques to actually give empathy and hear each other. You know the bumpers they have on some bowling alleys where you can’t throw a gutter ball?

NL: Yeah.

JR: Well, think of these methods as the kind of like that. They kind of guide you towards good communication rather than what happens when we're stressed. Because when we are stressed we forget all the theory and we can't remember anything other than maybe a couple words. Well, that's what these methods do. They're usually really simple, like if you are really upset with somebody you can say 2 words: "Red Light"! And a red light means let's take a 5-minute break so we don't start hurting each other. That's pretty simple. But then there are lots of little games, I have 40 of them in the book, and you know, just saying what you appreciate about someone, helps to increase more love. Or being able to take responsibility using a sentence helps to take, create more love and less conflict. So I think most people don't know this stuff and they're trying to build a relationship without the right tools. And when you have the right tools it is a lot easier. 

NL: Yeah I agree. So I know that you are open to a lot of couples, is there like common themes that come up for a lot of couples on things that they have conflict over?

JR: Well, it's always blame. And blame never works. You know, I've tried over a 25-year marriage, I've tried a thousand times with my wife and I think I'm 0 for a thousand. 

NL: (Laughter) Fair enough!

JR: So then I said, okay, there's got to be something else that works and in the last 10 years, we haven't had a single argument because I've learned to use other ways to deal with stuff. Everybody wants understanding, but the best way to get understanding is to give it. I mean, St. Francis said that "Seek to understand rather than to be understood". But when your partner feels understood, they always respond, I've never had a couple say "You know, we really understand each other that's why we want a divorce".

NL: Yeah. (laughter) Isn't that strange how that never happens? And so, how do you get to that place of empathy? Is it through asking questions? Is it through asking specific questions?

JR: Yeah, it’s largely through the art of asking very specific questions that I’ve listed in my book. Also, your listeners can go to my website,, and download for free 12 instant intimacy questions. And that can help. But if you look at the word intimacy, the instructions are kind of in the word. “In-To-Me-See”. When people reveal their vulnerability it helps to create that connection. And Facebook or all these ways we communicate now through text or email, doesn’t have that sense of depth that we’re really looking for.

NL: Yeah. I agree. I know in line with saying my new relationship. I was told about a book called "Intellectual Foreplay". And they have like 9 chapters in it. It's all these questions that you can ask each other and it's an interesting way for us to open up like you said, deeper and more intimate conversation about everything in life. So these questions are like they'd really be able to, whether you are a new couple or even a longer couple, that these questions could really open up a deeper conversation. 

JR: And you don’t have to be a couple. I actually know that book and I stole their methods. That’s basically what I do, I find the best methods in a certain and I steal everybody’s best thoughts and put it all in 1 book. And that’s what I wanted. And that book didn’t exist so I thought I’d write it.

NL: Right. So tell me, they say that if there are a couple and they've got an issue because this is basically what I've dealt with my previous relationship, a previous marriage. That there are things that I couldn't say, like I wanted to say but I didn't know how to bring it up. How do you start a conversation around a subject that you know is going to be contentious?

JR: Yeah, well I talk about several ways of doing it. But let me just give a quick example. “Honey, would you be willing to have a 10 minute conversation that I think would make our relationship a lot better, that’s kind of been hard for me to say and because I haven’t said it, it’s made me kind of not be very nice around you lately and I’d like to say it really quickly and discuss it quickly so that we can get back to a place of love.” That might be how I might start a conversation like that.

NL: Yeah, I like that. And I think too that for me I try to, when I go into a conversation like that, I go in asking questions. Because I want whomever I'm having that conversation with to feel like they've been heard. 

JR: Yeah. That's a really good start. Unfortunately, we have these little things, I call them WMDs, which are Widgets of Mass Distraction. And they sometimes keep us from the understanding and depth and really good communication that every now and then we have. But the question is how do you get that consistently and for that, you need some help.

NL: Absolutely. So, do you think couples should be avoiding arguments altogether? Are arguments healthy for a relationship?

JR: Well, arguments, where you are trying to yell and hurt each other, are not healthy. Disagreements are healthy because 2 people are going to have disagreements. So the question is how do you deal with disagreements without trying to blame and hurt each other. And there are certainly ways to do that.

NL: So what is a method you can give us?

JR: Well, one method is simply saying the way that I contributed to this upset is… or a way I can see that I have contributed to this upset is… And you fill in that sentence. Because when you take some responsibility, responsibility is kind of contagious, and when 2 people are taking responsibility, you no longer have an argument. You have a situation which may have to work something out. So, little things like these, literally, can take people from the verge of divorce to back to connected in a few minutes. So I think it's really important that people know about this stuff because most of us are trying to run relationships which are hard without these little helpers.

NL: And I think too, that it would be helpful, correct me if I am wrong, to have some guidelines or some structure set up before one of this situations arrive. So that if you’re finding yourself in a certain situation, you do have a keyword or something that you say that you go like “Okay, let’s call ‘eggplant time’’ or something, you know, so that it will make you a little light-hearted but know that you know that this is a conversation that I feel uncomfortable about that I need to have.

JR: Yeah. Just like the word "red light". Because when I'm stressed I can forget complicated stuff, but I can always remember those 2 words. My wife and I, that simply means we're taking a 5-minute break. It's easy.

NL: Yeah, it’s cool. Now, you have interviewed quite a few different people in your time as well. People like Oprah and the Dalai Lama, and who, I know that you have referred to as really good communicators. So what do you think makes them like an amazing communicator?

JR: What we really love is when somebody gets us. When they have empathy for a situation. And both Oprah and the Dalai Lama, when you talk to them you feel like they really are with you. And that feels so good and when somebody feels like they get you then it opens up this level of heart space that’s really beautiful.

NL: I love watching Oprah interview people. So let's say that someone is in a conflicting situation. It's not a partner, so emotions are starting to run high, they haven't got the red light thing already set up beforehand. You know, a couple of tips that you can give people who find themselves in those situations?

JR: Well, besides trying to give somebody empathy, and I have a really simple "fill in the blank" ways of doing that. But even saying something you appreciate about someone, that changes the energy. And we can find something we appreciate about anyone like the most despicable person I can think of is Osama Bin Laden, I could say "You're a really good hider." So, when you say something, like something I appreciate about you is…, then you fill in that sentence, it changes the energy, it makes people less difficult and more receptive to what you have to say.

NL: Yeah, I agree. And I think when you go with the compliment and go "Look, this is the outcome I want to get to, like let's get to a solution that we're both happy with." I think that when people know that that is the direction in which you are heading, then they are more open to wanting to work with you. You get to hear what they have to say. So wow, “More Love Less Conflict”, I love it. So Jonathan, where can we send people to connect with you or get their hands on the book?

JR: Well, they can go to, and they can read the first chapter for free or download this 12 instant intimacy questions for free as well.

NL: Right, perfect, awesome! And guys, there will be a banner to the side or link underneath this video which you can click directly to go through to that website as well. So Jonathan, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s always a pleasure talking to you.

JR: You too Natalie, good to see you.

NL: Now guys, I encourage you, please let’s share this video and get the word out and you can do that by clicking the Facebook and the Twitter share buttons on this page. And don’t forget to click the link on the banner to go straight to Jonathan’s website. And after all that is over, don’t forget to click the link below that so you can download the free ebook version of my bestselling book “Never In Your Wildest Dreams”. So until next time, remember to live large, choose courageously, and love without limits. We’ll see you soon.



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