3. Interpersonal Focusing -- Using Listening/Focusing To Facilitate Conflict Resolution

Video: Active Listening for Empathy 

  1. Focusing – Individualmente, con un Entrenador de Borde Creativo o con un Terapeuta de Focusing Experiencial.
  2. Turnos Iguales de Intercambio de Escucha/Focusing
  3. Focusing Interpersonal – Usar Escucha/ Focusing Para Facilitar la Resolución de Conflictos
  4. Grupos y Equipos de Focusing – Registrarse, Luego Dividirse en Parejas y Tríadas
  5. Reuniones de Toma de Decisiones
  6. Communidades de Focusing
  7. Organizaciones de Borde Creativo

Following the Chapter in the manual from our Self-Help Package, everyone in your family, group or organization can learn the simple Focused Listening skill and the structure to use for Interpersonal Focusing with a third person as Listening Facilitator. I have been teaching exactly these skills to non-therapists for thirty years. When I did couples therapy, I would eventually teach the couple to use these skills with each other, without me there.


Here, I use my Interpersonal Focusing skills between two friends, a mother and a daughter, during what started as a casual conversation:

The daughter is having an informal Intuitive Focusing turn. I am using Focused Listening to reflect her words to her, so that she can go more deeply into exploring her issue about being a writer. She says, “ Like, you mom, raising children, you know what the meaning of your life is…you don’t have to work, like I do, to figure out what the meaning is…”

The mother interrupts with anger, “Raising children is a lot of work. I hate how you think it was so much easier than your life!!!!!” Daughter: “That’s not what I meant!” Mother: “Well, that is just what you said, that I didn’t have to work hard!”

This interchange could lead to an irresolvable conflict, a real breach, or the two might decide just to avoid talking about anything meaningful, just stay on the surface to preserve the peace.

Instead, I stop the back-and-forth argument, insisting that we return to taking equal turns, no interruptions allowed. I can see so clearly where the misunderstanding happened, the triggering words: “Work hard at finding meaning” misheard as “Raising children is not hard work.”

I insist that the daughter have a few more minutes to finish her interrupted turn. She clarifies what she meant: “It’s not that raising children is easy. It’s that you don’t have to lie awake at night wondering what the meaning of your life is, like I do…you know what the meaning is.” I use Focused Listening (Reflecting, Asking for More, and offering Focusing Invitations as needed) to respond for a few minutes -- no judgment, interpretation, or advise, no “fixing,” just Focused Listening.

Then the mother gets an equal turn to use Intuitive Focusing to pay attention to the “intuitive feel” of “this whole thing…this argument”, while I use Focused Listening to respond to her. As we go back and forth, she gets to verbalize how it felt being a mother and how she, too, sometimes wonders about the meaning, but “I just didn’t have time to lie around worrying about it.”  The daughter is using Passive Listening, listening without responding but being able to hear how it is for her mother.

We go back and forth, usually equal 10 minute turns. While one uses Intuitive Focusing to sense into the “feel of the whole thing,” I, as the third-person Listening Facilitator, use Focused Listening to respond. The Other just listens passively and tries to take in the real meanings of the Focuser.

There is another serious snag later. The daughter says, “I like to write about real things, things that have actually happened to me and my family…” Mother interrupts with, “Not me!! I like to read escape fiction!!” Daughter looks like she has been kicked in the stomach, starts crying, “You don’t respect what I write.” Mother: “No, that’s not what I meant. I was talking about me. I want you to write your book.” Daughter still crying.

Again, I can see the snag, the small misunderstanding of words that leads to a big, almost irresolvable conflict. I again insist that we take uninterrupted turns, the daughter finishing her interrupted turn first. I use a Focusing Invitation: “Can you just take a moment to sense into the ‘intuitive feel’ of those tears, the ‘more’ that is there?”

She Focuses silently for a few moments, looking for The Creative Edge, the “something more than words”….”No matter how old I am, I’m still looking for your approval…It’s so important to me what you think about me…” I reflect: “So, even though you are not a child anymore, your mother’s approval is still terribly important to you…” Daughter (Focusing, eyes closed, paying attention to the “intuitive feel,” The Creative Edge): “……I suppose I have to realize that the approval has to come from inside me….that I’m not a child. I have to do it for myself.” Me reflecting: “So, you are not a child. Your approval has to come from inside yourself…It doesn’t work to have it so tied to your mother anymore.”  Daughter: “Yeah. I have a bunch of work to do there. I’m not there yet!”

We shift to an equal, uninterrupted turn for the mother. She goes quietly inside, looking for the “intuitive feel,” the “more than words” that is there as a vague feeling…..”It isn’t that I disapprove of what you are doing. I really, really want you to be able to do your writing if that is what makes you happy.” Me reflecting: “So, you are totally behind her….you want her to be happy….” Mother: “It’s more……I’m threatened…if she’s writing about ‘real things,’ she might be writing about me, and our family….that is hard for me.” Me with Focused Listening: “So, there’s more…there’s feeling threatened that she will write about you and your family…that would be hard for you….Can you just sense into that whole feeling about ‘threatened…..writing about you…hard for you…’?”  Mother (takes a moment for silent checking with The Creative Edge): “I’m just a very private person….it would have to be very disguised….I don’t want the world knowing even the good things about me!” Me: “So, it’s not even just the dirty laundry. It’s anything that could betray your privacy.” Mother (nodding): “Yes, that’s it.”

Daughter’s turn again: “I hear that. I’m not going to do that... I’m going to turn it into a novel….I’ll be careful….” Me reflecting: “So, you hear how private your mother is. You will be careful. You really don’t want to betray her there, and you will find a way to write that doesn’t give her away.” Daughter: “Yeah. That’s it.”

We stop, with hugs all around, everyone feeling a little raw, but tender and closer than before the conflict and the deep understanding of each side which came after….



Want to learn more about Focused Listening and Intuitive Focusing?

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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.