032: Safe Conversations

Podcast Guests: Sonja & Clay Arnold

031: Relationship Resilience

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In this Episode

On today’s episode, Dave and Liz are joined by Clay and Sonja Arnold, relational coaches and communication experts, to discuss safe conversations - what they are and how
couples can use them to decrease negativity and foster more connection in their relationships.

0:00 – Introduction: Who are Sonja & Clay Arnold?
2:23 – What exactly is a safe conversation & how did it get started?
4:56 – Sentence Stems - phrases used to keep us from triggering negative responses
6:09 – “Is there more about that?”
8:28 – Make an appointment to talk with your partner first; ask “is now a good time to talk about [blank]”
11:03 – Why is effectively listening to our partner so difficult to do?
14:04 – Couples should strive for zero negativity in their conversations
16:25 – Owning your mistakes & making repairs quickly
19:05 – Address the negativity in your relationship; don’t ignore it because it’ll just stack up
22:33 – Imago Therapy - what it is & how it affects who we choose to marry
24:56 – If our spouse grows, we grow
26:48 – Conflict is growth waiting to happen
29:01 – Don’t ever stop having fun with your partner
31:37 – Empathy is about trying to connect with your partner & find out what they’re feeling
33:26 – Always be willing to learn
35:15 – Sonja’s takeaway: Don’t feel like you're lacking because of your struggles. Don’t struggle by yourself. Reach out. Don’t go it alone.
35:39 – Clay’s takeaway: Be willing to learn and grow individually and in your relationship
36:10 – Liz’s takeaway: Ask your partner if it’s a good time to talk about something and then start with a compliment
36:50 – Dave’s takeaway: Own your bad - your behavior, your attitude, and your drama

About Sonja & Clay Arnold

Relational coaches for 22 years, Sonja and Clay have worked with individuals, families and couples around the world. Theirs is an integrative, neuroscience-based approach for life
planning and inter-personal growth for relationships of all kinds. They offer workshops and consultations with clients including business and religious leaders, coaches and therapists, medical professionals and more - the strategy being that by providing skills to one person, a ripple effect will occur as people practice the skills in their work lives, congregations, families and communities. Sonja and Clay have been married for 43 years and have 4 grown children and 5 grandkids. They live with their grand dogs in Arlington, Texas. Certifications include: Safe Conversations® Senior Trainers, Life Coaching Institute Senior Trainers, Tony Robbins Mastery University graduates, Amen Clinics Brain Health and the Well Life Coaching Certification. Sonja graduated with a degree in Education/Deaf Education and Clay in Communications/Pastoral Counseling.

Sonja & Clay Arnold Links:

Insights and Invites


Sonja: Conflict is growth waiting to happen.
Clay: We have to feel safe enough to connect in order to really communicate.
Dave: You don't necessarily avoid conflict but you bring things up and handle them in compassionate ways. Watch your temper, your tongue, and your tone.
Liz: Some things we experience in marriage are really painful and I wish we could X them out. But perhaps then, we'd missed the magic and the meaning and the growth.


●Before starting an important conversation with your partner, ask if it’s a good time first. You could say, “is now a good time to talk about [blank]?”. If they say it’s not a good
time, schedule another time in the near future to have that conversation when he or she is ready.
● Create a code word to use when things start to get negative in a conversation between you and your partner. Clay and Sonja Arnold use the word “marshmallow” to signal
when either of them is feeling triggered and something needs to change. Talk with your partner about a phrase that could work for you.
● Don’t forget to have fun with your partner. Keep dating them long after you’re married. This nurtures the space between you and creates more enjoyment in your life together.

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