I once participated in a Life Skills workshop where we learned all kinds of things around communication. One of my key takeaways was something called a “clearing session”.
It was simply a way to have a conversation with someone, or a group of people, to unpack and share how they’re seeing or dealing with something (a relationship, a situation, etc). In it, there are 3 questions that are asked:
1. What’s working for you?
2. What’s not working for you?
3. What are you carrying?
One evening, at supper time, I introduced this to my three young daughters who were 10, 8 and 4 years old at the time. So we “played” one round of it.
Well, they were hooked! It took ages to get through the full set of questions because they all had a lot to say …. but oh boy, was it worth it. And by the time supper was over, we all felt decidedly “clear”.
It felt good. And then, the very next night, one of them said “Mom, let’s play the supper game!”.
And that’s how it came to be known in our household as “The Supper Game”. We played it often and they loved it every time. It helped to keep the communication channels open in terms of understanding where they’re at on any day and even times where I was a little concerned about them or they were starting to pull away with their levels of sharing, the Supper Game saved the day – every time.
Since then, I’ve often offered it to many of my clients as a suggestion in their business teams, their partnerships, with their children and anyone they are struggling to communicate with.
The rules are:
- Everybody gets a turn.
- In the first round, everyone answers the first question when it's their turn, and so on.
- When one person is speaking, no-one else speaks.
- There is always one person facilitating and asking those 3 questions.
- If someone wants to enter into a conversation with the one who is talking, they can request a discussion following the session, but they can’t discuss it during the session and the other person has the right to say “no”.
The sooner you get the family familiar with the "supper game", the sooner you'll have a vehicle to have regular conversations about their day and a way to get through those patches where the only response you get to "how was your day" is "fine!" (in other words "I'm not telling").
Would you be willing to give it a try?
"Nothing" is not something a mother wants to hear from her teenage daughter in response to the question "what happened in your life today?".