Setting the Stage for Success

Great Opening Lines

Invite…clarify intention…listen…Mutual Role discovery
(Birthdays – yes, heavier conversations – no)


  • “I’d like to take about 1/5/30 minutes and . . .”
  • “Hey, do you have a few minutes to talk about the next step in the project?”
  • “Oh, I forget to tell you what happened! Do you have about 10 minutes to hear about it?”
  • “ . . . hmmm . . . let’s review how that went . . . is now a good time to chat for a little while?”
  • “You’re looking kinda busy right now; what would be a good time to chat for an hour about EPs?”
  • “Oh crap! Whew! Damn! Okay, wow, let’s step aside for a few minutes and review this, okay?”
  • “I’d love some help cleaning up. . . do you have 30 minutes you can give?” (light request)
  • “OMG, I just saw the funniest thing ever . . . have a seat for this 20-minute story!”
  • “Ah, okay, let me explain this to you . . . do you have about an hour to go over this in some detail?”
  • “I can’t figure out how to do this . . . could you help me this afternoon to make this better?”
  • “Hey John, I’m a little nervous/concerned/worried about what happened . . . can we talk for a few minutes now and follow up in more detail later?”


  • Self-express and/or Receive Empathy
  • Have another hear my feelings and needs (and perhaps strategies, which are often lead with)
  • R/R/V — Reading Minds — Simply Listen (actively)
  • Offer empathy (hear their feelings and needs)
  • Problem solve
  • Entertain
  • Provide some information
  • Make a request

Mutual Role Discovery

  • As the requester, you’re asking the requestee to take on specific role.
  • Check in to see if that role works for them. Some example roles include:
    • Receive information
    • Emotional support
    • Problem solver
    • Doer
  • And, like writing about one thing and simultaneously talking to someone else about another topic, it is best if each role is handled, moving from role to role with conscious agreement.


  • Check to see how the request/invitation landed.
  • What was their verbal response?
  • What was their NON-verbal response? Are they congruent?
  • Ready? Willing? Concerned? On-guard? Eager? Surprised?
  • If the conversation is going to fire up some emotions, both people want to be aware, ready, and willing to go down that path. When that doesn’t happen, you’ll likely get avoided more often, or have guarded reactions around you.


Your heart is racing, your breath is shallow, your stomach is tense, and you’re sweating. Which of these situations is about to happen?

1) You are home alone at night when you hear a sound from the other room. You scramble for an explanation and come up with nothing except that someone has entered the house.

2) You near the cusp of a roller coaster. You’re filled with butterflies. Even though you “know” you’re safe, your body tells you this is dangerous.

3) Your new lover, a person you are hoping likes you as much as you like them, is approaching your door for an evening together.

You might identify the feeling in the first situation as traditional “fear,” and it sits heavily in your body. The second feels like “thrill,” and people pay heaps of money to feel it. “Excitement” fits in the third situation, and people wait their whole lives for it.
Below the surface, all of these situations feature the unknown, failure, and rejection. They also feature newness, discovery, and connection. The physiological response is the same; the difference is perspective and judgment. How we think and feel about the situation – whether it is acceptable or not – determines whether we label the experience “fear.”

“Fear is excitement without the breath.” – Fritz Perls

It is not unusual to encounter fear on a daily, if not hourly, basis. It is everywhere – in our thoughts, words, and movie screens. Despite its constant unwanted presence, fear is accepted as a fact of life and rarely challenged. The link below will take you to a section of the site aimed at debunking fear’s myths and offering a framework for understanding it beyond its initial noise. It is our sincere hope that after reading through our pages on fear, fear will govern LESS of your life.

Processing a Regrettable Incident

“Processing” means that you can talk about the incident without getting back into it again. It needs to be a conversation — as if you were both sitting in the balcony of a theater looking down on the stage where the action had occurred. This requires calm and some emotional distance from the incident.
Keep in mind the GOAL is greater understanding — addressing the process and how the issue was talked about, without getting back into the fight. So, wait until you’re both calm.

Click the button below to learn techniques for how to handle conflict. This subject is so important, and has its own page within our section on relationships.
We assume that each of your realities has validity. Perception is everything. Don’t focus on “the facts.”
The history books can prove both of you wrong in some way, every time.
When you play the “let’s make each other wrong game,” there is no winner.
Remember that conflict is an opportunity to learn how to love each other better over time.
Follow the link to learn more.

A Helpful Timescale for ‘Being Clean’

  1. If it crosses your mind more than twice, process your thoughts, either internally or with someone else.
  2. If you are processing with someone else, work to make sure that the person you are processing with is as close to the source as possible. The source is the person(s) you want to communicate with; processing with someone you trust who is more familiar with the source will likely provide you with greater perspective than processing with someone who doesn’t know the source as well.
  3. Communicate the results of that processing within 24 hours (frustrations, resentments, and grudges don’t just ‘go away’ if you give them more time) to the source. If you’ve processed with someone else, share the result of that processing with the source.

Remember that “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Check back in with the person you processed with and update them on how the chat went!
If one avoids dealing with a conflict, both parties are likely to lose. One party stews about their frustrations, while the other is made none the wiser, unable to grow from (or resolve) the experience. The outcomes of remaining silent include: hostility, resentment, discontent, gossiping, complaining, and in general an escalated problem. Alternatively, we can choose to be ‘clean’, collaborating with the other party(ies), and moving towards harmony and happiness.

When No Is the Beginning of a Conversation

How many times are you likely to hear “No” in the next month? How about a year? Five years? Now, broaden that out to “No’s” that don’t actually include that word, such as:

  • a ‘Policy’ that forbids or strongly advises against an action
  • a non-verbal expression of “No,” such as ignoring an offer, or redirection of a conversation, or physical look/shrug
  • a pleasing request from another like “Hey, I’d really love it if you clean that area up a bit more” and you don’t want to
  • the voice in your own head telling yourself “No,” wordlessly

Yup, lots! What would it be like if you were able to work with “No” with power, intention, and compassion? Follow the link, and you’ll find tools/options/considerations to that end. You’ll be able to use the information on that page in situations like:

  • You ask for time to do something and are told no
  • You’re asked to do a task at work, you say no, and your boss says you don’t have a choice now
  • You ask for a favor and are told no
  • You’re told you need to be somewhere that you don’t want to be in that moment (No, stop that and do this)

Some Examples

When we leave things out, we stand to communicate something else entirely.

Some thoughts that keep us from communicating cleanly:

  • ‘It will only make things worse’
  • ‘When will I be able to find the time?’
  • ‘I can process through this myself’
  • ‘If I just imply it, they’ll get the message’ (passive aggression)
  • ‘It’s water under the bridge now.’
  • ‘Why rock the boat?’
  • ‘Others will resent me for creating drama.’
  • ‘Maybe they’ll get the message if I just imply it’
  • ‘If I do it for them, they’ll see I wanted them to do it.’

Some good times to cleanly communicate:

  • When your needs aren’t met.
  • You have a request that is hard to say.
  • When you fear vulnerability.
  • You’re running through arguments in your head. Ruminating/stewing.
  • You want to do someone a favor, but aren’t sure if you’d be stepping on toes.
  • When you want to do something else, but you don’t want to be inconvenient.
  • You’re not sure how to say something, and you feel you need to say it.

Yes, And…

Life is a lot like an improv skit. It’s made up on the spot, no one really knows where it’s going to go, and there are certain unspoken rules that help it flow a bit more smoothly: one of these rules is ‘Yes, And…’.
This is the response that enables a conversation to be both mutually supportive and still progress towards an endpoint. The following link will take you to a page that elucidates how to use ‘Yes, And…’ and forms a supplement to the concepts of NVC and Clean Communication.
There is a way to say yes to every statement. Finding this way to say yes will allow the other person in the conversation to meet his/her need to be understood. Meeting this need will typically help balance the other person, leaving them more able to hear your own views.

More Examples

Directed at Other

“My wife and I can’t communicate. She’s always mad at me for something, I can’t seem to do anything right, doesn’t matter how hard I try.”
“I bust my ass for everyone else, but I never get to do what I want. It’s like I’m fueling everyone else’s dreams, but mine are dying.”
“I hate my work. I’m just going through the motions, like a machine. I’ve been dreaming of quitting for years, but my family depends on me. It’s killing me.”
You hate it when your wife/girlfriend/partner gets upset and emotional about something. Especially when it’s about you or something you did. When that happens, you just want to get the hell out of there.
You simply avoid engaging with her about emotional or triggering stuff. You don’t talk, you check out, you find reasons to be elsewhere, you stay busy with work or projects.
You’re afraid of her anger … or your own.

Directed at Self

“I’m not enough. I should be further ahead in life. I should have done more.”
You don’t dare share your vulnerability, your fears, and your insecurities.
You say Yes when you mean No, or No when you really wanted to say Yes. In other words, you “bend” too much away from your own knowing of what is right and true.
You feel you can’t speak your truth. You can’t say what’s REALLY on your mind. You don’t want to hurt her and cause another stir, so you keep it to yourself.


Clean Communicating IS authenticity. Standing up for yourself is ok AND a good thing, when it’s clean.

Real vs. Nice. Again, authenticity is more important that politely holding a grudge.

People pleasing is a role that is expected of women frequently. This book addresses that issue head on.

As the title suggests, this book will empower you to state your 100% without fear.

A focus on the actual dangers of people-pleasing (usually dirty communication #2) and a call to action for preventing it.

What’s the difference between Nice and Kind? Whether there is dirty communication or not!

This book will help you handle life’s basic chores with more ease and intention, minimizing their exposure to conflict and communication issues.


When skillfully and continually practiced with NVC, Clean Communications develops depth and safety, releases enemy images, builds trust, fosters friendships/connection, rebuilds/structures/clears ideas/images of the other as well as the relationship, enhances integrity, free of obligation/resentment, allows for self-expression, releases the pressure cooker, separates strategies from needs, better sleep, enhances community, being more in touch with one’s own feelings and needs, a martyrdom vaccine, grows oneself, deconstruct mountains into mole hills, neutralizes termites, greater efficiency, creates possibility from stagnation, loosens cliques, exits the drama/trauma cycle, fosters peace, and greases the wheels of community when the base understanding is that everyone is in their power with their words and thoughts. It may, but not necessarily, facilitate the meeting of one’s or another’s needs.