Molly and Julie's Story Revisited

Molly and Julie (from my earlier post) is described below.  

Step 1: Presession interviews

The facilitator conducts a presession interview by phone, before the face-to-face session. Each party is asked to state her hopes for the meeting and to describe what a positive outcome would be. She then tells her version of what happened and why she felt hurt. The purpose of the interview is to help each woman organize her thoughts and her story, to allow the facilitator to know key details of her story to remind her of them during the session if she forgot something significant, and to build the rapport between each woman and the facilitator.

Step 2: The Two-Hour Face-to-Face Session

The parties arrange a two-hour meeting in a quiet, neutral location.

The Facilitator Role

The role of the third party, or facilitator, for the face-to-face session is to propose a structure, to get buy-in from the participants to the structure, to help both parties listen to each other and not interrupt each other, and to ensure that both feel heard. The facilitator may help keep track of time boundaries that the parties agree to. Time boundaries may be open (“take all the time you need”) or fixed (“take 20 minutes each”), based upon the structure that is agreed upon. It can be helpful, at the beginning of the session, for the facilitator to express her belief that this process can really work and has worked with others to invite an open mind set for the participants.

Roles and Process for Speaker and Listener

Each woman takes turns being either the speaker or the listener. This means that the person who goes first as the speaker has all the time she needs, or all the agreed-upon time, to tell her version of the story, as she perceives it, of how she was hurt and why. During this time, the listener can ask clarifying questions or check for understanding (sparingly), but she cannot argue, debate, express her own opinions, or tell her story. Once the speaker has finished, the listener summarizes what she heard and the speaker corrects that understanding until she feels heard by the listener. The listener doesn’t have to agree; she just has to demonstrate that she heard the speaker’s perspective. Once the speaker verifies that she feels heard, then the listener can state what she heard that was a new insight or new information to her. She will have more opportunity to do this again at the end of the session. The listener may be able to apologize at this point by saying something like, “I’m sorry that my actions/behaviors caused this hurt for you.” If she is not ready to apologize, this can come at the end, but the sooner it can be done, and the more often it can be done, the better!

Role Reversal

Next, the listener and speaker switch roles and repeat the process described above for speaker and listener.


Next, each party states or repeats what she heard from the other party that was a new insight or a deeper understanding. Each apologizes for what she said or did that caused hurt for the other person. (Note: Her intentions are irrelevant. What is important is to acknowledge the impact of her behavior.) For the next step in the process, the facilitator asks each party to make a statement about how she is feeling at the end of this session. Usually, if the participants have fully engaged in the process and have been open, they will say that they are hopeful or cautiously optimistic, reflecting the development of some mutual empathy that has reopened their connection and made renewal of the friendship possible. Because this is a deeply emotional process for most people, it can be hard for people to fully articulate their understandings and feelings, and the facilitator can help people feel comfortable to express themselves. As a final contribution, the facilitator again expresses her belief that this process can really work and has worked with others. She can encourage the parties to stay hopeful and be open to moving forward together and letting go of the past.  

Guidelines for creating relational resilience

Goal: To create mutual empathy to repair a relationship Skills and Competencies Needed: Listening skills, skills for asking clarifying questions, the ability to apologize. Process: Turn taking as both speaker and listener
Before the face-to-face meeting
• The participants engage support from a third party to facilitate the meeting. • The facilitator interviews each woman before a two-hour face-to-face meeting.  
During the two-hour face-to-face meeting
• The speaker tells her story until she feels she has conveyed the important points. • The listener summarizes what she understood until the speaker feels fully heard. • The listener shares new insights or understandings gained from listening to the speaker. • The listener apologizes for the impact of her actions, if she is ready. • The participants switch roles and repeat the above steps. • In the wrap-up, each participant repeats what she now understands and apologizes again. • Each participant shares a feeling about the session (hopeful, optimistic, etc.).
  An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (]]>

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