What in the world is a bathtub confession you ask? It is an activity that allows for open communication. You know the kind of communication where more listening is done then talking. I have come across many times in my life both professionally and personally where there has been major conflict. I am talking that type of conflict that builds over time and every ignition of discontentment piles onto another over and over until the relationship wants to explode. Sometimes it is caused by people talking behind each others backs instead of confronting each other head on. In other cases it could be observing a situation that you may not understand and passing judgement without getting the full story. And who hasn't just been completely offended by ones words or actions and wonder why they are even in your sphere of influence? I know I have been involved in all of these situations sometime in my life and have had much heartache because of them.
Some friends in one of my "tribes" had been bickering back and forth with each other and although I kept hearing of the discontent from the individuals, I would still see them gathering together acting like nothing was wrong. This was months and months of hurt feelings, broken trusts, and taking situations and words out of context. On the outside it was easy for me to see what was going on and considering my brain works in the "big picture think" I was able to see it was a whole lot of miscommunication. It was like watching an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 and yelling at the screen "just go tell her how you feel".
That same friend group decided to go on a holiday together to get away. While they were having a good time and relaxing on the beach they found that the discontentment just kept sitting in the wings and waiting for its moment to strike. It could take a simple misunderstanding to create a huge explosion and ruin the entire trip and possibly the friendship for good. Enough was enough and something had to be done. So one of the friends suggested an activity called a "bathroom confession".
I never received the original source for this concept and have investigated it at length to try site the proper sources, but alas I could not find one, so I am going to say that this friend of mine brilliantly came up with this activity on their own. All of the parties involved scheduled time out of their holiday to resolve this conflict once and for all, and here is how they did it:
They collectively made the decision to agree that the issue being resolved was more important then any one person being the winner. That the relationship that would be mended meant more then anyone's pride, self serving reasons, or reputation.
This activity was about active listening and not responses. What one had to say was not as important as what they had to listen to.
It needed to be a safe space and that hold the importance of any major secret they have held onto. If the space was not safe and the people in it did not think they could trust each other then it wouldn't work.
Only one person was allowed to speak at a time and when the person in the "bathtub" was speaking all others agreed to only listen. They would not respond via words, sounds, eye rolls, or any other type of expression. I can be honest that there were lots of tears and sometimes you cant help that. But those tears gave a special comfort to the speaker and did not hinder the speaker from sharing.
Each person in the group got an allotted amount of time to share their frustrations, concerns, and judgement about the situation that brought them all here in the first place. This was the time to get it all out. All of those heavy burdens that they were carrying around and trying to suppress for the sake of civility. The weight that would be lifted by sharing and listening was destined to make them feel ten pounds lighter. They took turns until everyone had a chance to speak. Each speaker concentrated on not responding to the previous speakers but instead sharing how they felt that led up to this activity. It was understood that if you started to respond to the speakers words that means you weren't actively listening. Your mind would be preparing your responses while the speaker was speaking if it thought you would get a chance to respond. They all agreed to just listen.
Once every one had their chance to speak, they took the time to hug each other and tell each other how much they appreciated each other. They didn't discuss what was said by any of the speakers once they are out of the "bathtub" and their time to speak was over.
When they left the room they experienced a sense of clarity for what the other person felt and was dealing with. This was the healing part of the process. They all agreed to put it all in the past and move forward. Now was the perfect time to do just that.
Finally as a piece of advice if you decide to try this activity, to ensure this works out smoothly, is to not be that person that can't be trusted. Don't talk about the content of the activity with anyone in the room or outsiders. You agreed to the terms and therefore need to show your character by abiding by them.
Understand that "bathtub" doesn't have to mean an actual porcelain bathtub. It can be a love seat in a living room, or a special chair in a she shed, maybe the corner of a board room. It is meant to represent a place of seclusion within a private room. Outside the earshot of others.
You now have the tool in your tool box. A "bathtub confessional". Use it wisely and mend your broken relationships. This tool can be used privately and even in a business setting. Prior to implementation consider putting in place boundaries or even assigning a moderator to keep the activity constructive. Please understand that HR laws will limit the use of this tool in some circumstances and you should proceed with caution if you do not consult your HR department prior to using this tool.
I hope you enjoy these Ideas That Deliver.