The Pencil Technique

The Pencil Technique
The Pencil Technique pencil that Gene & Julie Gates distribute at their relationship workshops.

Early in our relationship we had explosive arguments.  And big disagreements are scary for Working Couples because we have all our eggs in one basket: the love of your life is also your business partner, roommate and best friend.  We decided if we were going to have all our eggs in one basket we better make sure our basket was in great shape, so we paid a visit to the therapist.  During our animated discussion, Lynn observed we weren’t listening to each other.  Then she introduced us to the Pencil Technique.

Lynn handed Julie a pencil and explained, “The only time you talk is when you hold the pencil. Tell Gene how you feel.”

Julie said, “When I hear you raise your voice during an argument I become afraid you’re going to leave me.”

Lynn said, “Now Gene, you need to repeat word-for-word what Julie just told you.”

Gene repeated, “When I raise my voice during an argument you become afraid that I’m going to leave you.”

Lynn nodded her head at Gene and added, “Now say to Julie, ‘Did I get it right?’”

“Did I get it right?” asked Gene.

Julie responded, “You got it right.”

Lynn smiled, “Hand the pencil to Gene… it’s his turn.”

Gene said reassuringly, “When I raise my voice I’m frustrated, but I still love you.  I don’t mean to scare you– and leaving this relationship is the last thing on my mind.”

We finished our session taking turns with the Pencil Technique, sometimes we got it right.  Other times we had to repeat what we were trying to say until the listener finally got it.  But this was a transformational day in our relationship.  For the first time we really heard each other…  we finally understood each other.

Now the Pencil Technique is one of our favorite tools to share during our relationship workshops.  It’s an easy way to discuss sensitive topics… and we admit there are still times we need to grab the pencil for ourselves.

With Love,
Gene & Julie
Founders, Working Couple Network

© Gene & Julie Gates and Working Couple Network, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gene & Julie Gates and Working Couple Network with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


7 thoughts on “The Pencil Technique

  1. Here is one my husband & I read in the Readers Digest… it never fails to end the fight, fix it, or make us laugh! HOLD HANDS when you are talking about something that is upsetting you.
    When I told my daughter about this she Burst out laughing the second the vision of her being mad at me came to her head! So now, when anyone is acting a fool, the other holds out their hand and in all seriousness says ” Hey.. hold my hand and tell me that again”. I works! :O)

  2. This is a great idea. Although my husband and I have no problem taking turns speaking and listening to each other, sometimes I think we don’t actually “hear” each other. I love the idea of repeating back what your partner said and then making sure it’s correct. I will try this next time our “egg basket” needs a little repair. I love reading about other couples who work together and I am so glad you guys created the network.

  3. I like this technique/concept because it makes you and your partner strive to be a good listeners… so many times when we get in “heated discussions” we let our emotions take over our minds…

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