By Laura Harley
Note from Bill and Jean: One of our daughters, Laura Harley, is sharing a guest post here today. Laura has her own life coaching practice and helps her clients practice the concepts in our books. This post is one in a series in which Laura shares examples of how her young family uses Compassionate Consultation (which is the subject of our second book, TRANSFORMED) to solve problems and make decisions. We know many families are striving to do the same and hope examples like this are useful!
My 7-year-old and newly-turned-4-year-old were happily playing a game of “superheroes to the rescue”. I was gladly taking this rare moment while they were both occupied to check my email. And then I heard what all parents dread----the beginnings of a big argument: whining, yelling and fussing. Ugh! When this sort of thing happens, I like to wait a while to see if they can work it out on their own. But this time they were both very upset and unable to move forward, so I decided to see if using Compassionate Consultation with them would be useful.
Compassionate Consultation (CC) is a decision-making and problem-solving methodology that brings unity, understanding, healing, and growth to individuals, couples, families and groups. Originally brought to humanity by Bahá’u’lláh, the 19th-Century Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Consultation is a process anyone can utilize with beautiful results. In their book, TRANSFORMED: How To Make The Decisions That Change Your Life, my parents describe different models of Compassionate Consultation, one of which is called the 6-Step Model. The steps of this model are as follows:
6-Step Model of Compassionate Consultation (click here to get a free printable of these steps)
1. Pray for divine guidance
2. Identify and agree on the facts*
3. Identify and agree on the issue*
4. Identify and agree on the spiritual principles involved
5. Identify and agree on the solutions
6. Identify and agree on the implementation steps
*Steps 2 and 3 may be reversed as needed
Note: For more information about this and other CC models, examples of how to use them, the CC behavioral standards and much more, read TRANSFORMED: How to Make the Decisions That Change Your Life.
OK, so back to our little family meltdown. First I asked my kiddos what happened and learned that my daughter, Kira (age 4), wanted to play with a certain toy, and my son, Daniel (age 7), also wanted to use it. My daughter was very upset saying that it was the only thing she wanted to use and if she couldn’t use it, she didn’t want to play anymore. She was on the verge of tears. My son also felt quite upset.
I said, “OK, I know you are both feeling really upset. Let’s come together to use Compassionate Consultation and find a solution to this problem.” I reflected back to them what I heard them saying the problem was and how each felt. This was my brief attempt at Step 2, identifying and agreeing on the facts, and Step 3, identifying and agreeing on the issue, of the CC model. They both nodded that what I said was accurate.
Then I realized that in the chaos of the moment, I had skipped the very important first step of the model: saying a prayer to ask for divine guidance. So I said, “OK, let’s say a prayer to ask God’s help with this.” At this point my upset kiddos weren’t sure if they were on board with me. My daughter walked few feet away from me with her back turned and my son went into the bathroom to get something. I was left alone in the hallway, unsure what to do next. Since they were both so upset, I knew that if I pressured them to sit quietly and listen to the prayer reverently, the whole process might get derailed. And since they were both still within a couple of feet of me, I knew that they would be able to hear me if I recited a prayer. So I decided to just keep going; and I recited a short prayer.
Afterwards, I made an initial attempt at Step 5 of the CC model, identifying and agreeing on the solutions. I said, “OK guys, come on over here. Let’s figure this out. How can we make this better together?” They slowly came over to me. My son (who is generally quite tolerant and generous with his little sister) offered, “I could play with something else and she could use it, but I still want to use it sometime.” I said, “Thanks for offering to let her play with it for a while. Isn’t that kind, Kira?” Then I said, “It sounds, though, like Daniel would still really like to have a chance to play with it too.” Kira was still holding tight to the toy.
This reminded me that we needed to do Step 4, identifying and agreeing on the spiritual principles involved. I said, “If we think about the spiritual principles of kindness, generosity, fairness and how much we love each other, how can we find a solution?” To my great surprise, my usually very feisty 4-year old said, “Daniel could use it when we get to Level 2 of our game.” The spiritual principles had inspired her to step back into Step 5 and offer a creative solution----there would be “levels” to the game and that way they could both get a turn! My son was happy with this solution and we thanked Kira for her idea. I complimented them both on reaching what sounded like a very kind and fair solution; and then they went back to playing.
We hadn’t formally done Step 6, identifying and agreeing on the implementation steps; but I listened from a distance to see how things would go as they implemented their decision—and especially what would happen when they actually reached “Level 2”. After a while of playing I heard my son say, “Its level 2!” and Kira immediately dropped the toy so he could play with it. So far, so good. But then she went looking for another toy to play with and was not happy with her options; so she became tearful and said she didn’t want to play their game anymore. I tried to help her find an alternative toy, but she insisted she still didn’t like any of those options. Meanwhile, Daniel had had a chance to play with the exchanged toy for a while and he said she could play with it again because now he wanted to play with something different.
Now, this offer of Daniel’s was very kind, but I wanted to make sure Kira would learn to follow through on her commitments. So I said, “Thank you Daniel, but it’s important that Kira learns to do what she says she’s going to do. So you can still play with that toy if you like.” But Daniel insisted he was done and she could have it; and he seemed genuine to me in his feelings about being finished with it. So I said, “OK, well thank you, Daniel. Kira, can you thank him?” She thanked him and then I said, “OK, Kira, so that worked out fine this time, but next time he may not feel finished with something you want to play with. When that happens, we need to do what we said we would do and let him play longer with it, even if you feel unhappy about it.” She agreed and they went back to playing.
Some of my key learnings from this experience include:
- This process is amazingly effective, even for young children. Even when we do it imperfectly, even when we say a prayer hurriedly and our kids seem distracted, the process has the effect of dilating everyone’s hearts, opening us to divine guidance, softening hard feelings, and enabling all to arrive at effective and unifying solutions.
- Although it is important to know the steps in the model and strive to include them all, it is ok when we are unable to do so. Even doing the steps out of order or leaving some out entirely gets better results than not using any at all.
- It takes practice to be able to come up with a solution together AND follow through with it. With time and practice, I trust we will build our skills and get better at this.
- No matter how messily we use the 6-Step CC Model, I feel it is helping all of us learn to work together in unity, turn to God for guidance, practice coming from our higher natures and reach higher quality decisions. These are invaluable skills for ALL of us; and I want my children to learn these skills in the family so that they can bring them to the families, workplaces and communities that they co-create with others in the future.
- I still like to give my children the space to work out their differences on their own whenever possible, and I have noticed that the more we practice CC, the more they incorporate parts of it into their interactions (even when I'm not a part of those interactions).
In my next post, I will share what CC can look like in an interaction between one parent and one child. You may also be interested in my introductory post about the 6-Step Model and my post about using CC in our family of four.
I hope this example of how CC can look is useful. We’d love to hear how the process is working for you and your family. We welcome your questions and stories! Feel free to comment below.
For more examples of CC applications with couples, families and other groups, read TRANSFORMED: How to Make the Decisions That Change Your Life