Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Interview with Jeff Williams - Marriage Coach

After attending a marriage coaching seminar by Jeff and Jill Williams, I knew I had to share with my readers some of the things I learned. I hope you will enjoy this interview with Jeff Williams: author, counselor, and marriage coach. The questions are in black text. Jeff's answers are in blue text.

1. For many people conversation looks like this:

Speaker #1 - I loved the movie last night.
Speaker #2 - Me too! My favorite part was the crash scene.

Or even worse:

Speaker #1 - I loved the movie last night.
Speaker #2 - Are you kidding? It was horrible! I can't believe you liked it.

But you teach loving listening, where the 2nd person takes on the role of listener, versus speaker. A conversation might look like this:

Speaker: I loved the movie last night.
Listener: What did you like about it?  
(Simply use a portion of what the speaker said to ask an open question that invites them to share more.)

The listener directs the conversation back to the speaker.  This was a new concept for many of the people at the seminar.  How can we retrain ourselves to be better listeners, and stop turning the conversation back to ourselves?  

Be prepared to give the gift of listening.  Then, observe yourself for "conversational generosity".  Notice how much "air-time" you are giving to the speaker vs. how much you are using to talk about things you want to say.   Most of us want to love and be loved.  Listening from the heart communicates loving concern, and while it is simple, its not easy. However, great improvements don't take that long when a person uses every conversation as an opportunity to grow in their skill. 

2. Some speakers are actually looking for feedback from their listener. They are waiting for encouragement to continue, solutions to their problem, or a road block that signifies this isn't a "safe topic."  So that when they are actually listened too, without judgment or input, it makes them uncomfortable.  Why do you think that is?  

Because generous listening is rare in comparison to advice giving.  You can solve awkwardness simply by asking a person what they would like from the conversation.  "It sounds like you might be asking me for advice.  Would you like to know what I think?"  If they say yes, you can ask them if they would mind if you asked some questions to better understand their situation (by the way, this is a key problem-solving principle pointed out in the book, "How Great Leaders Make Great Decisions".  

Get as much information as possible before deciding on a solution to the problem.  Practically, in everyday conversations, if a person is asking for your advice, take 5 minutes to ask questions about their thoughts, feelings and desires. For example, "What do you think? What outcome would you like? How do you feel about this situation?"  Great questions percolate from our intuition about the important aspects of a situation.

Indeed, this is a very different way to have a conversation, so a heads up to the person with whom you are speaking is important, "I've learned some asking and listening skills that have helped me to have better conversations than simply giving advice.  Would you mind if I asked some questions and clarify what I hear you say by reflecting back to you?"

3. Marriage Coaching seems to have become a passion for you and Jill. You moved from not only being a Professional Clinical Counselor, but to marriage coaching. You've even written a book on the subjectWhere does your passion for marriages come from?

The day my father told me that him and mom didn't love each other anymore was one of the saddest days of my life.   I still painfully remember sobbing the day dad had that conversation with me.  Things were never the same. Paradise was lost.  

As I began to yearn to have someone to spend my life with, I also yearned to have it go differently; to last.  And what began as a personal passion eventually became a professional passion.  I left college wanting to know the answer to two questions, "What makes relationships work, and what does God have to say about it?  So it was off to a Seminary to study Counseling Psychology, and the question began to be answered.

My wife Jill and I served marriages professionally and personally (together in our church) as best we could, all the while praying and yearning for more and better.  Providentially, it was then that community leaders of the city in which my parents divorced asked us to lead an initiative to reduce divorce, raise the rate of marriage and lower rates of cohabitation, all for the sake of child welfare. (The research is conclusive that being raised by married parents is better than any other option).  

Through that initiative we had to learn the state of the art in relationship education, and later combined principles, process and skills of Christian Relationship and Leadership Coaching to pioneer the model you know as marriage coaching, which we used to save our own marriage when it hit the rocks during personal and professional difficulties a few years later.  

Today, we are passionate about sharing the hope we have through transformed hearts using state of the art skills to help as many couples as possible to heal, strengthen and protect their relationships and to train as many couples to train as many couples as possible, globally.

4. If individuals want to learn more about marriage coaching, or would like to get their own marriage coached, what steps should they take next?

The quickest and most cost effective on ramp to learn about and self-administer Marriage Coaching for one's own marriage is to read the book, "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship", available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle, or signed copies directly from us.

Next is to receive coaching for your own marriage from us, or couples we've trained.  Contact us at or 937-717-5591

The number of sessions varies, but great progress is usually accomplished in 4-6 weeks, sometimes solely with couple's sessions on a weekly basis, and sometimes with supplemental individual coaching sessions.  Endorsements from couples we've served and persons who refer to us can be viewed at  (Half of our clients are served by voice/video {phone, Skype, facetime on iphone, etc}).  
The third step that some couples take is to be trained to coach other couples.  We do that through a not for profit organization we created Great Relationships which offers three levels of training (the website is in process).  

Level I focuses on your own marriage (and takes it further than reading the book.  Some couples go through training while being coached privately. Level II activates couples to begin coaching other couples, and Level III is for couples to become trainers of groups of couples to use coaching in their own marriage and to train them to coach other couples.   

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Kelly Combs is a Christian wife, mom, writer and speaker. You can learn about Kelly by visiting her website at

Chatty Kelly

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