Warm Start Up

Think back to a really important or a really difficult conversation you had to have with someone. The conversations can really quickly go from calm to a train wreck. Out of nowhere, what sounds like criticisms some accusations start to fly and everyone starts to get angry, and defensive.

But difficult conversations don’t have to go this way. The Warm Start Up is a concept by the Gottman Institute for having difficult conversations well.

What is a Warm Start Up?

A warm startup is a way to begin difficult conversations in a way that the other is more likely to be receptive to what you have to say. It follows a very simple pattern:

  • When…
  • I Feel…
  • I Need…

When

“When” is the big picture. Simply, it is the 10,000 foot view of what happened. It answers “Why is this conversation even happening?” When discussing the “When”, it’s really important to use a lot of “I” statements.

Don’t Say

  • “You did ABC”
  • “You didn’t do ABC”
  • “How could you have…”

Instead Say

  • “When I saw ABC happened”
  • “When I didn’t see ABC”
  • “When ABC happens…”

I Feel

This is the big picture values. How did what happened (the context) impact you emotionally? How did it impact your values and boundaries? Some helpful questions to ask yourself to find the “WHY” include:

  • How did the “When” impact you personally?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What is the big picture of how it impacted you?
  • Or what need do you have that wasn’t met?

I Need

What sort of resolution are you looking for that will address that big picture value? It’s not things like “take out the trash all the time”, or “don’t yell at me”. Instead, think of things like these “I need” statements:

  • “I need to feel secure”
  • “I need to feel safe”
  • “I need to know that you care about me”
  • “I need to know I have value”
  • “I need to know that have worth to you”
  • “I need to know that you care about me”

Putting It All Together

The next time there is a difficult conversation you need to have, try saying something like:

When you talk over me, I feel disrespected and that my opinion doesn’t matter. When we disagree, I need to know you care about me, you value my opinions, and for us to work together to find a solution we both are ok with.

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