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 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 this series is useful! This post is a brief introduction to Compassionate Consultation (CC), but future posts will give real-life examples of how Laura’s family puts CC into practice.)
Compassionate Consultation (CC) is a decision-making and problem-solving methodology that brings increased understanding, unity, healing, and growth to individuals, couples, families and groups. Originally brought to humanity by Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, CC is a process anyone can utilize with beautiful results.
In their second book, TRANSFORMED: How to Make the Decisions That Change Your Life, my parents explore CC in depth by examining its origins, the virtues we need to call upon in order to practice it most effectively, the process itself, many examples of CC in action, and different models of CC that have been developed. My father is an organizational development consultant and personal and professional coach, and my mother is a psychotherapist. They have used CC with individuals, couples, families, small and large groups, and within organizations with great success as described in their book. They also used CC with my sister and me in our family as we grew up. We learned a great deal about the process as we practiced it together, and now it is something I’m dedicated to using with my husband and children, too.
One of the CC models introduced in the book is called the 6-Step Model. It is a very robust model and it is one that my husband and I use regularly in our family. For today’s brief overview, here is a summary of the steps in the model (click here to download a free printable of these steps):
The 6-Step Model of Compassionate Consultation
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.
How to apply each step in the process becomes more clear with practice (and may also be more clear as you read upcoming posts with real-life examples from our family), but here is a brief overview of each step.
Step 1 (pray for divine guidance) is about opening ourselves to assistance from our Creator. In a family, this may mean sharing a prayer or scriptural reading together (from whatever faith tradition resonates most with that family). This step is extremely helpful and important. It helps us slow down, remember what’s most important, release tension, and put ourselves into a more humble, receptive and generous frame of mind. (Note: even in families or settings where praying may not be appropriate for whatever reason, this step can still be partially utilized by taking a quiet moment to reflect on the oneness of humanity, the beauty of the natural world, or some other practice that helps each participant connect to their higher nature.)
Steps 2 and 3 (identify and agree on the facts and the issue respectively) are about helping us come together to make sure we are all on “the same page” as to what the problem is that we are trying to solve; and to share the facts we are aware of related to the problem. This part of the process may be fairly simple and/or brief as when two children both want to play with the same toy; or it may be more complex as when a family wants to find a way to navigate an upcoming change of schools. These steps provide an opportunity for everyone to share the facts, experiences, and emotions that relate to the topic.
Step 4 (identify and agree on the spiritual principles involved) is one of my favorite parts of this special process. Our family finds this can be a really powerful step for children. Often we talk about how spiritual attributes like kindness, generosity, justice or patience apply in the situation at hand. This dilates everyone’s heart and helps us come from our best selves with each other. It helps us focus on what is of ultimate importance.
Steps 5 and 6 (identify and agree on solution ideas and implementation steps respectively) are about finding solutions and creating a plan for implementing the solutions. Again, this can be fairly simple or more complex depending on the situation. But having these steps articulated in the model is so helpful; it’s amazing how easy it can be to come up with an idea for a solution but forget to figure out how to implement it! And coming together in unity to decide on a solution and how to implement it is essential to the success of the solution and to preserving family connections.
In my next posts, I will be sharing specific examples of how our family uses this process. My husband and I have two children, ages 4 and 7, and we strive to use CC often. We certainly don’t follow the model perfectly, but that is one of the great things about it. We can use the model as a guide, but adapt it to our needs. For example, we don’t always use all the steps and sometimes we use the steps in a different order. (And let’s be real here, sometimes life gets so hectic I can’t even remember the steps or the order!) But the amazing thing is that no matter how “messily” we use the process, it always helps us better understand, learn and grow together as a family. I can’t wait to share more examples and to hear yours as well as we all strive to learn about Compassionate Consultation together!
For more examples of CC applications with couples, families and other groups, read TRANSFORMED: How to Make the Decisions That Change Your Life