The Happiest Lives Podcast

E10: The Talk Table

July 07, 2023 Jill M. Lillard Season 2023 Episode 10
E10: The Talk Table
The Happiest Lives Podcast
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The Happiest Lives Podcast
E10: The Talk Table
Jul 07, 2023 Season 2023 Episode 10
Jill M. Lillard

The Talk Table is a conversation tool that will allow you to stay calm, listen better, and effectively share.  Learn four tips for using this tool so you can create better conversations.   This is part of The Better Conversations Series. 

If you are ready to become the woman God says you already are, you have to join me in Clarity+Courage, my cost-effective coaching group for Christian women.

Learn more and enroll at

Questions? Email Jill directly at

Show Notes Transcript

The Talk Table is a conversation tool that will allow you to stay calm, listen better, and effectively share.  Learn four tips for using this tool so you can create better conversations.   This is part of The Better Conversations Series. 

If you are ready to become the woman God says you already are, you have to join me in Clarity+Courage, my cost-effective coaching group for Christian women.

Learn more and enroll at

Questions? Email Jill directly at

You are listening to The Happiest Lives Podcast with Jill Lillard, Episode #10. 

Hi friends! Welcome back. 

Today we continue our series, How To Have Better Conversations, and  I am excited to tell you about a fantastic conversation-changing tool I offer all my clients. 

 I call it The Talk Table.

I discovered it during a therapy session with one of my couples years ago.

In my office, there are two couches, and in between them is a glass coffee table. On it is a round wooden platter of decorative shellacked cacao pods.

Now I have to say cacao pods because, one, it's fun to say… and two, it's what they are. 

This is where the heart of chocolate comes from, cocoa. So if you shake the pods, you can hear the beans rattle inside. They are super cool and really indescribable. From a botanical perspective, some say cacao is a fruit, others call it a berry, but it doesn’t fit into any category. Like chocolate, it is indescribable and wonderful.  

So for the sake of understanding the Talk Table, it doesn’t matter if you imagine cacao pods or marbles, but I give them credit because, to me, they became the symbol of words and feelings as they sit on a wooden platter on a table in my office. 

And just like these shellacked cacao pods I bought 20 years ago at a Crate and Barrel outlet in Chicago,  our thoughts and feelings are indescribable and wonderful. 

That is what I think about your thoughts and feelings. And that's what I want you to think about the thoughts and feelings of those you love. I want you to find them fun and interesting so that you will treasure, love and invite them.

I refer to the table in my office that holds the pods as “The Talk Table.”

This is the place where a couple can share their thoughts and feelings.  

I tell them to imagine that in their lap, they each have a platter of these cacao pods, and each pod represents one thought or one feeling. And when they are sharing their thoughts and feelings, they can imagine they are putting a pod on the table. 

There is room on the table for all their thoughts and feelings.  If one wants to put a pod on the table, s/he does not have to remove the other’s pods. 

The thoughts and feelings are not in opposition to one another. Both can exist on this table. 

When we welcome another person’s thoughts and feelings without owning them or resisting them, only then are we able to listen and understand.  

Every relationship needs a Talk Table.  Without it, we are simply throwing our words at one another. We are talking at someone rather than to them.

You don’t have to own cacao pods. In fact, you don’t have to have an actual table. Metaphorically you can pull out your version of a talk table and invite another to share all their thoughts and feelings. This space is for conversations and welcoming new experiences as you are willing to think outside your box.

As you use the Talk Table, you will become a better listener. It will help you if you tend to get emotionally flooded during conversations.  So if you want to try out The Talk Table for your next conversation, I want to give you Four Tips to help you get the most out of it. 

The first tip is to relax, be curious and make space.

When you have conversations about disagreement, make room for another person’s perspective. We can only do this when we are calm and curious. One of the thoughts that makes me feel calm and curious is:

“There are two different perspectives of reality here, and that's okay.”

Let me expand on that a little bit.

I want you to Imagine an elephant in the middle of the room. Now we will call it an elephant, so it has a name, but let's imagine we never saw it before, so we didn’t know what it looks like. If I were on one side and you are on another, we would see two very different things.

You might describe what you see:  big ears, little eyes, and a nose resembling a thick hose.  

Now, I am not thinking you are wrong just because what I see from the rearview looks completely different.  Though we see different things, there is nothing to argue about. Instead, when we can listen calmly with curiosity and we make space together to have a fuller picture of what an elephant looks like. 

I also like the thought: “We are both right and wrong.”

So often, we become defensive when a loved one shares with us.  We act as though their thoughts are canceling out our thoughts.  

We believe, "If they think THAT, then I can’t think THIS."  If they are frustrated, then I can’t be frustrated.  If they are right, then I am wrong. Instead, think, "We are both right, and we are both wrong." In this way you will make room on the table to listen and understand. 

Another helpful thought is: “I am willing to increase the pool of possibilities.”

When you can receive another person’s thoughts without judgment or defensiveness, you grow in wisdom, intelligence, and creativity, and you open yourself up to new experiences.  You open yourself up to possibility and growth.  So why wouldn't you want to make space for that?  

When we only want what we want, getting set in our ways, we become willful. We debate. We stop listening. The cost could be the connection in your relationship. Is that worth it?

When you can postpone being understood and first understand, you’ll be richer for it.  Allowing new ideas and perspectives on the table gives you a fuller and happier life. 

A second tip for getting the most out of your Talk Table is to look, but don’t throw.

Have you ever been in a conversation, and the other person starts sharing, and you begin to feel threatened? You don’t like their thoughts and feelings. 

And metaphorically, as they set their pods on the table, you pick them up and hurl them across the room. You remove them from the table. 

Now you may not be throwing things, but so often, I watch this happen as one person shares, the other tenses up and stops listening as they resist what the other is putting down. 

Inside my coaching groups, we call this “getting into someone else's model.”  When we hop into someone else’s model–their thoughts, feelings, and actions, including their words- we get reactive. We judge. We resist. We stop listening.  We start owning something that is not ours to own.

You have forgotten that their thoughts reflect what is going on in their head.  

When we make their words about us, or we feel responsible for their models- their thoughts, feelings, and actions- we may get emotionally flooded.

However, when they put something on the table, and we think that someone else is allowed to put something on the table– there is space for both our opinions or preferences- then we won’t start throwing their pods.  

Just notice if you find yourself tensing up and wanting to hurl their pods. And remember, it's because of your thoughts. Learn to pay attention to what you are thinking that makes you so upset about what they are thinking or feeling.

If you can stay calm and ask questions to deepen understanding, you can get somewhere. If you can't, the only place you get is stuck.

Take ownership of how you feel and let the other person's thoughts be there, even as you consider your thoughts about their thoughts.  

Also, remember that allowing and validating are not the same as agreeing.  You aren't committing to agree or endorse what they say when you invite them to put their pods on the table. You are just deferring disagreeing.

Certainly, do not hurl your pods at them. Make space for sharing by not owning.  

Remember, their thoughts can be there;  yours can too. 

This is the beauty of The Talk Table.

A third tip for making the most of this tool is don’t skip the crucial middle step, which is acknowledgment. 

Acknowledge the pods they put on the table. Acknowledge their thoughts and feelings. 

Imagine having a conversation with someone you love.

You are the speaker. 

You set your thoughts and feelings on The Talk Table.

You feel vulnerable, and as soon as you set your thought down, your partner dives into their thoughts and feelings about the situation or tries to fix "the problem."

They didn't acknowledge what you said. 

You don't know if they even heard you or not. 

Based on what they are saying, it seems they weren't even listening!

Do you know that feeling? 

Hurt? Frustrated? Unimportant?

I have been on both sides: I have not listened well, AND I have felt unheard.  

When I am not actively listening, I may hear their words; then, I check a box off inside my head. 

  • I may be emotionally flooded and want to explain or defend myself (I have hopped into their model). 
  • I want to "make everything better" because if they feel better, I will feel better (I am in their model and putting them in mine).
  • I might be excited to share all my thoughts and feelings, so I plow forward without ever making sure I understood or acknowledged the precious items the other set on the table.

Think of acknowledgment as the middle step of making yeast bread. 

Baking bread with yeast is essentially made up of three parts: 

  1. You mix the ingredients.
  2. Let the dough rise.
  3. Bake the bread. 

If you skip step 2, the bread will be dense and less flavorful, not fluffy loveable loaves.

Without the overflow of air bubbles created in “the rising,” you are left with dough.

Just like it is crucial not to skip the middle step in baking bread,  the middle step in a conversation is essential in creating emotional connections.

We could say that conversations are made up of three parts as well:

  1. Listen (allow someone to set their thoughts/feelings on The Talk Table).
  2. Verbally Acknowledge (communicate understanding).
  3. Share (set your thoughts/feelings on the table). 

When someone else sets an idea on The Talk Table, and you verbally acknowledge it, you are communicating to them that you are listening. You let them look at what you think they said and clarify or explore further. 

This acknowledgment is for you as much as it is for them. 

Never skip this middle step.  

The last tip for making the most out of the Talk Table is Don’t Hide Your Pods.

We have talked about making room for someone else, but you are a vital part of the relationship.

Your thoughts and feelings- your voice- matters too. And so we want you to share your inner world with those you love.  

To me, having a voice doesn't mean dumping things on other people, making demands, or fighting for things to be my way.  

The more we understand that we have a voice,  the fewer words we need to use.  

Having a voice and bringing your pods to the table is showing up honestly, first with the Lord and then with others.  

YOU want to be in a relationship, and if you hide, YOU aren’t showing up. 

You can only sustain this for so many years before you have an “identity crisis. ” 

When there is incongruence between the "inward you" and who you are trying to be "outwardly," a chasm not only grows in your relationships but in your entire person.  I see this all the time as outwardly submissive women come to me midlife, ready to say goodbye to the life they lived for 20 years. 

The Heart Scan is the perfect tool to examine your pods and to decide how you want to show up in life. This is the tool I teach all of my ladies inside my programs. We go through the process of exposing, renewing, engaging, and pressing on. It is an effective way to validate your thinking and consider if your thoughts serve you and the greater whole.  

Bringing your examined pods to the table,  you can make requests without demanding, calmly share without blaming, and authentically show up without pretending. 

If you want to use the Talk Table to invite calmer conversations, do these 4 things:

1. Relax and Make Space for all the pods

2. Don't throw someone else's pods

3. Don’t skip the middle step of acknowledging the other person's pods

4. And certainly don't hide your pods. 

Now remember pods represent our thoughts and feelings. 

I hope that you will bring the Talk Table and invite all the pods - both your thoughts and feelings – to your conversations.  This will make your life and relationship more interesting and fun as you make room for deeper conversations. 

And if you want to do more of this work, in addition to the coaching, worksheet workshop and application worksheets, and Scripture study this month, there is another series with lots of exercises and printables inside Clarity+Courage called Making Space for We and a whole section devoted to using TheThe Talk Table. 

You can join me at and sign up and cancel anytime. 

Thank you for listing today. Let's talk again next week as we continue this series on How To Have Better Conversations