We preached about conflict in our Good Life Series yesterday. I decided to get really practical and walk the congregation through the steps of LUV Talk as I learned them from the Smalley Institute. Here is the illustrated guide. Please note that I did not get permission to illustrate these. This is simply my visualization and interpretation of this tool. I learned it many years ago and it has helped me in my personal life and counseling relationships.

This is Gary Smalley. His son now runs the Smalley Institute. This post lists the steps of LUV Talk.

This is the path of vulnerability that leads from acquaintance to intimacy.

There are five levels of communication. The first, and safest, is the exchange of information. You can do this with a stranger on the bus with very little risk.

The second level is Opinion. This is a little more risky.

The fourth level (we are purposefully skipping level three for now) moves into the land of intimacy. It is the sharing of feelings.

The fifth level is Needs. This is the deepest and most vulnerable level of communication because it admits weakness.

The third level is conflict. It is the gateway to intimacy. Conflict is neither good nor bad. It is simply an inevitable part of human communication. It is a gift from God. If we do not know how to handle conflict well, then we will bounce off of it and remain in the land of acquaintance and even hostility.

If we learn how to process conflict constructively, then we will open the gates and move into intimacy by sharing feelings and needs.

How do we open the gates on conflict when two people have differing perspectives on any given topic?

Smalley uses the metaphor of a drive thru window at a fast food restaurant. There are two roles in this exchange. One person is the customer, the other is the employee. The employee’s job is to take the order with no judgment while the customer can speak freely. They must use LUV Talk.

The first job of the employee is to listen attentively while the customer uses “I” language to express feelings.

The employee demonstrates deep listening and understanding by repeating back to the customer what the employee heard. “what I hear you saying is…” The customer can then either acknowledge accurate listening or edit as needed.

The employee must then validate the customer’s perspective. This is the most crucial part of the exchange. To validate is not to agree. It simply acknowledges that the customer’s feelings and perspective are valid and have been understood.

The process repeats, but this time the customer can share needs, since the feelings have been validated.

Once the original customer has been able to share feelings and needs and has been validated in them, the roles switch. Now the employee becomes the customer and the alternate perspective is offered and validated.

I would suggest that LUV Talk is a form of communicative action that seeks to find a third way. This is similar to the message in my video from 2016 and lies at the heart of my dissertation.



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