The DND Process

“When you talk, you repeat what you already know; when you listen, you often learn something.” Jaren Sparks

Too many relationships suffer from a “lack of communication.” When I speak in various organizations, I’m constantly hearing the managers and the employees talk about their “lack of communication.” And when I conduct personal growth workshops, the participants complain about the same thing happening at home.

Well it doesn’t have to be that way. The research makes it very clear as to what works and doesn’t work in communication. And one of the techniques that works is putting some DND (DO NOT DISTURB) time into your schedule.

As you know, I wrote about DND time a couple of weeks ago in my “Tuesday Tip” I outlined the importance and purpose of DND, and I talked about how it would help you maintain or improve your relationships.

Well that “Tuesday Tip” generated a lot of feedback. Many of you wrote to me, saying the DND concept sounded good, but you wanted to know more. You wanted to know how to do it. Fair enough. So here’s the process I recommend…

1. Schedule And Hold DND Sessions On A Regular Basis.

Schedule your 20, 40, or 60-minute get togethers. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t wait until you’re free from other obligations. It will never happen. You’ve got to put it on your calendar. And one good way to use your DND time is by asking one another some “Brave Questions.”

Here’s what Kirk Billiter wrote to me. “Shortly after hearing you speak a few weeks ago, I purchased your book, ‘Brave Questions.’ Actually, I had read so many good things about the book in your newsletter that I purchased two … one for me and one for my college-age daughter.”

“Last week my wife and I were to meet up with my parents and my daughter at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri for a short vacation. I took along the ‘Brave Questions’ book in hopes of using it for a conversation starter during our evening meals together at the lake cabin. Since my daughter and her boyfriend were to arrive several days after my parents, I thought I would test out the questions on my parents first. My parents (now in their 70’s) had never openly shared their past with me, but I also know that I was never one to ask many questions. Well, now I had a tool to help me do that.”

“The first night using your book as a guide, I was amazed how eager my parents were to answer the brave questions in such detail and excitement. Although I had heard a few of the stories before, I found out so much more about their lives by using your questions. The second night we got through fewer questions, but the depth of the answers provided much more open dialogue. Several of my father’s stories spilled over into our evening coffee and dessert on the screened-in porch.”

“On the third day my daughter and her boyfriend arrived at the cabin. We were all excited to see her and spend time with her. As she was unpacking, she pulled out her copy of ‘Brave Questions’ and said, ‘Lance (her boyfriend) is not that crazy about these questions, but I like them. So I hoped we might use them this week during our evening meals.”

“Her grandfather smiled at her and said, ‘You’re too late honey. We have already covered all the real juicy questions the last two nights!'”

“Our family continued to use the brave questions during our entire week long stay. Much like your testimony of using these questions, we also found that our family changed as a result. We now have a much deeper respect for one another as a result of all of us answering these brave questions. Thank you so much for sharing these brave questions with us.”

When you have your DND sessions, you’ve also got to meet with some degree of frequency. For people at work that might be once a month. For people at home it might be every week. Personally, my wife and I schedule an hour a week to discuss our relationship and how we can make it even better.

Do not save DND sessions until they are “needed.” If you wait until you’ve got some serious issues to discuss, if you wait until the stress and pressure are at the boiling point, you’ll be getting off on the wrong foot.

If you hold regular DND sessions, you can avoid the four scariest words known to man, “We need to talk!” And you can avoid the most frustrating answer to the question of “How’s everything?” — that answer being “fine.”

Of course there are times a scheduled session has to be cancelled. Emergencies do happen. But nothing short of a real emergency should change your DND schedule. If you skip your discussion times because you’re “busy” or you “don’t feel like it,” if you cancel your discussion times for anything less than an emergency, you’re sending the message that you don’t care all that much about the relationship.

When you’re forced to reschedule your DND time, do it as soon as possible. It’s a way of telling the other person that good, open, honest communication is a vital part of your relationship.

2. Create A Sense Of Safety In Your DND Sessions.

In other words, each person needs to enter the discussion with a sense of ease instead of fear. Whether it’s a work relationship or a family relationship, both parties need to feel like they’re going in as friends and coming out as friends.

George Elliot described it this way. George wrote, “Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.”

To create the safety, meet in a “mutually-safe” environment. Avoid places that are the obvious turf of one party or the other.

Restrict your DND session to the two of you. The very fact that you will be talking about your thoughts and feelings, that you will be giving feedback to one another, suggests some degree of privacy. It’s hard to feel safe when someone else is listening in.

And discuss any fears of threat, reprisal, or intimidation you might have … before you move into the discussion. Put your fears out on the table. Establish some guidelines about what will happen and not happen during your discussion — such as “no name calling.” Specify what will happen to the information after the discussion — such as “no sharing of the discussion with other team members” or “no telling your Mother.”

Remember, you’re trying to create an atmosphere where you can REALLY talk. So set up some guidelines as to what will make your discussion comfortable and productive.

3. Go For Understanding.

That’s the primary reason you even have DND sessions — not to clear the air, solve problems, or confront the other person. You’re there to understand each other.

Unfortunately, misunderstanding is rampant in most relationships. After David Hyre’s parents died, for example, he transferred thousands of their 35mm slides to video, using freezer bags to organize the slides. Each bag was labeled, used, and eventually given to his wife to reuse once his project was finished.

Some weeks later, however, their daughter was horrified when she came home to visit. She noticed a bag of turkey meat was defrosting on the counter — labeled “Dave’s folks.” She couldn’t believe what her parents had done — but she obviously didn’t understand.

If you go for understanding, it will take patience and T-I-M-E. You can’t “rush” it in hopes of getting it over with so you can move on to more “important” things. There are no shortcuts to understanding.

And patience requires F-O-C-U-S. As the DND acronym suggests, DND means DO NOT DISTURB. No interruptions are allowed. No phone calls are taken; no doors are answered, and no TV is watched. You just focus on each other.

And focus requires active listening. You’ve got to check out what you’re hearing once in a while. Say such things as, “If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying…” And ask things like, “Do you mean…” You can’t get by just nodding your head, saying “uh-huh,” and taking turns in talking.

Then listen for the “but’s.” Years ago, when I would counsel someone, I often noticed the other person would talk on and on but never seem to get anywhere. Then suddenly, the other person would say “but.” That’s when my very best listening kicked in. That’s when I would take lots of notes because I knew that’s where the real important stuff was about to be said. Everything before that was just a warm-up.

4. Look For And Comment On The Good.

Mark Walsh said it very well. He said, “When you look for the good in others, you discover the best in yourself.”

So start each DND session with a positive comment. Share a word of genuine praise, sincere appreciation, or humble thanks.

And end each session on a positive note. You might mention something you learned or a good feeling you have.

Those are a few of the guidelines for an effective DND time. There’s more, but time and space does not allow me to go into every detail. That’s why I offer my two-day program called The Journey To The Extraordinary. If you haven’t taken the Guided Tour of The Journey, you really should. Just go to

Well that’s it. Are you going to be putting some DND time into your schedule? I hope so. And yes, I know you’re busy. Who isn’t these days? You’ve got a hundred things to do at work and a hundred things to do at home. Just don’t forget the reason you’re here on earth. You’re here for the PEOPLE, not the THINGS. And DND and Brave Questions is one of the ways you get there.

The research makes it very clear as to what works and doesn’t work in communication. And one of the techniques that works is putting some DND (DO NOT DISTURB) time into your schedule.

Action:  Are DND sessions a part of your life? If so, evaluate your DND sessions in light of the four guidelines given above.

If they’re not a part of your life, discuss the concept and guidelines with someone this week. Schedule a session. Then take a few moments to discuss how well it went and what you could do better next time. And schedule your next session.