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Characteristics of an Effective Stress-Reducing Conversation…

An Intentional Conversation to Promote Healthy Relationships

A stress-reducing conversation is essential when it comes to maintaining a sense of connection and support within a close relationship. It helps us to feel loved, cared for, and valued. All of which help us to show the same to a partner.

This kind of conversation doesn’t have to last for hours, it can be as simple as setting aside just 30-minutes to really tune in and be present with our loved one.

An effective stress-reducing conversation looks like:

Characteristics At-A-Glance

  • Sharing equally in the two roles: Speaker & Listener
  • Setting aside 30-minutes to really tune into each other
  • Taking turns to share about a mild/moderate “outside stressor”
  • Each person taking equal time being both the speaker and listener
  • Listener role (quiet, attentive, curious, holds space)
  • Speaker role (open, honors self, takes space)
  • Taking your time when it’s your turn to speak (not rushing through)
  • Asking questions when you’re the listener
  • Listening like you would to a close friend
  • Checking in before offering your two cents  (Not jumping into “fix it mode”)
  • Taking your time to understand the other person’s perspective more deeply
  • Calm atmosphere
  • Giving other your full attention
  • Providing encouragement
  • “In it together” attitude

Structure of the conversation

Plan ahead because you will want to set aside time that is completely uninterrupted. If you both have busy schedules and other responsibilities, you will have to anticipate the barriers in order to be successful at reserving the time.

When the time comes, sit across from each other and just take a moment to notice your breath and relax. You want this to be a gift to the relationship so you must be calm and alert. The more you can relax into your body, the more available you and your partner will be to each other.

Decide who will have what role first. So you will take turns being the speaker and the listener for about 15 minutes each. If you are not used to doing this in such a prescribed sort of way, just be patient with yourselves. It will get easier. Focus your energy inward for a moment. Once you have decided who will be what first, you can take on your respective roles:


  • You are listening as if you are a friend
  • Make eye contact
  • Just listen
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Don’t jump in with what you think you know will help

This is an exercise in truly listening and quieting yourself to be available to your partner ONLY. 

Just be in the space. Pay attention; it’s okay to ask questions. Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Imagine what they are experiencing. Allow yourself to really take on the stress they are describing. What is that like? See if you can allow your partner to feel you truly understand.


  • Really take the time that is being given to you
  • Share from the heart about what’s really been causing some stress outside the relationship (mild-moderate)
  • Try to stay relaxed so you can really take the space
  • Share for about 15-minutes, go into detail on the issue

And again…Don’t rush. Slow it wayyyyy down. TAKE. YOUR. TIME!

(It’ll be worth it!)

I know for some of us this can feel incredibly hard to take space like this, but it’s important that we challenge ourselves to be paid attention to intimately like this. Take the space that is being offered to you.

It’s a beautiful thing to be heard and supported. Allow yourself to bask in the goodness of empathic attunement.

Your goal is to share freely a mild to moderate stressor that you’ve been struggling with lately. The stressor should be an outside of the relationship issue like a work deadline or an issue with a co-worker or friend, etc. Stay away from hot-button topics that might be too tough to tackle right now. This exercise is to help you focus on receiving support.

Press pause to notice how you feel right now

At the end of your 15-minutes with the first role, take a minute or two process how that felt.

Did you struggle to be the speaker?

What was it like for the listener?

Did you find that some element of the role was hard for you to do? Which part felt hard and why do you think that might be? Is there something that felt difficult to engage in?

You may want to jot down on paper any feelings or little things you noticed in this role so you can explore it further at a later point. This helps us to increase our awareness and identify our true feelings. 

Now switch roles.

Again, pause and see what that role felt like. How was it different? What did you notice?

Practicing this type of conversation allows you to build more positive interactions into your day-to-day connection. This will help you to maintain a feeling of support and positive regard in your relationship and will helps to strengthen your bond. The goal would be to work up to having this type of conversation three-four days per week.

Let me know how it goes!