Five minute conversations - learning to talk efficiently

When you work in the counselling profession, I would estimate that around 95% of all problems that enter my room emanate from a lack of communication. This can either be a parent talking to a child correctly, lovers in constant disagreements, employee/employer disagreements, in fact, it’s safe to say wherever humans interact, there is the possibility of discord through improper communication.

One of the effective techniques employed to help people to start to relearn and revitalise their communication difficulties is to engage in something which is referred to as the 'five-minute conversations'.


  • to have both parties be free for exactly five minutes
  • to place all the distractions on hold, including life, mobile phones, and so forth
  • to be a neutral territory if possible
  • to have a timekeeping device


  • both parties will enter the situation calmly, or as calmly as humanly possible
  • if calmness or emotion gets too much, break, and repeat this technique at later point. Do not go into the situation emotionally distraught, as that will achieve very little
  • each member of the process will enter the five-minute conversation with the spirit of cooperation, and look to assist with or resolve an issue
  • each party will be brought together to discuss one issue, and one issue only
  • each party is given exactly two and a half minutes to debate a single issue
  • they will take it in turns and within their time limit to discuss their concerns and possibly a solution. Although, for trickier problems, a solution may have to happen in another five-minute conversation
  • at the end of five minutes, the topic is closed
  • when the topic is closed you do not talk about this until another designated time
  • both couples either engage in another activity that can either be individual or together, depending upon the situation

What does this technique achieve?

This technique is deliberately designed to get people who have been in disharmony for a long time to re-engage with one another. This means that they need to fundamentally know how to talk to each other without the need to attack, feel victimised, or pressured in a conversational situation. Men and women communicate differently. That being a very obvious fact, the way in which we can ensure that there is a level playing field between the two communication styles is to incorporate a setting whereby there is an intense level of concentration focus for a very short period of time that evokes accomplishment.

For any successful interaction between two parties, they all have to feel as if they’ve accomplished something, even if it is a fundamental agreement on who takes the bins out and on what day. I will use this particular example to highlight certain communication styles.

Apathetic: "I can’t be bothered to move the bin; I don't care about the bin"

Submissive: "I will take the bin out whenever you want"

Aggressive: "You will take the bin out and that will be the end of the matter"

Cooperative: "If I take the bin out on Wednesday morning, can you do the washing up on Wednesday night?"

What we are aiming for in any given situation is a cooperative attitude. That means that sometimes you have to give a little and take a little to form a balance between each party within the relationship. If there is submission, aggression, or apathy within a relationship, this is going to be more problematic, and may need outside intervention, such as talking therapies, to help resolve the communications between yourself and other individuals.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB
Written by Brian Turner, BA (Hons.) MNCS Snr Accred / Supervisor. (Prof. Dip PsyC)
Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB

I am a psychotherapist that works with anxiety depression and suicidal issues. I use a diverse and wide spectrum of techniques to ensure that my clients feel empowered and confident, so they are able to achieve what they wish to achieve when presenting with a broad range of issues.

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