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Neil Denny presents

Neil Denny presents
Written by
Kirsten Gronning

The only thing a heated argument produced is coolness – American proverb. Understanding the 'drama triangle' and how you can keep communicating through even the most entrenched conflict situations will not only resolve differences but enable you to strengthen relationships with family, colleagues and friends at the very moment when most at risk.

Hands up – how many of us are guilty of leaving a difficult issue for sooo long that when it becomes a crisis, it can’t possibly be our fault? How many times have you - perhaps as your partner walked through the door after a day in the office or on the road - launched into them, seemingly without provocation, whilst demanding that they bathe the children or tackle the growing pile of ironing?

What was their response? Did you feel better when they snapped back in their own defence that they had been at work since 7am, or that the evening drinks was an essential part of the working day? “Excuses, excuses” you may well have thought to yourself, or fired off out loud. Were you even listening to the response, or were you too busy rolling around another line of attack in your head, which may have started: ‘You never do...’ or ‘You always have to...’ implying they aren’t capable of change? Were you surprised when they fired back their own missile to defend themselves?

The above scenario is typical of what happens in households up and down the country, and one which most people can recall happening to them - perhaps more recently and frequently than we would care to admit. But it also takes place in other relationships outside of families eg. with parents and colleagues at work. It represents a behaviour which revolves around lines of Attack, Defence and Counterattack.

Neil Denny describes this brilliantly in his presentation called 'Conversational Riffs.’ He points out that in conflict, we can’t be to blame. We dash around what’s called a ‘Drama Triangle’ moving from being the victim; to becoming the villain and the rescuer too and then back to being the victim again. The person with whom we are in conflict takes on these roles too, at different times.

In 'Conversational Riffs’ Neil suggests better ways of resolving conflict which will give you a happier outcome – a win/win outcome. For example, think of a time you were challenged recently. For me, that would be the argument I had with my daughter before she went up to university for the first time. Confronted with a mountain of bureaucracy from her student finance application (rather essential to her studying but one which caused much grief); to her application to open a bank account (two different bank officials telling her two different things) and another application to take out her own mobile phone contract (her idea, not mine) she started to understand what it means to live away from home. Her busy mother, that’s me - who loathes this sort of paperwork at the best of times - frankly wasn’t getting involved. My first response on finding myself in the firing line was to say my number one priority was to provide a roof over our heads, not to make her life easier.

This didn’t help matters - she retorted that I should do more to help. When that didn’t get the result she wanted, she told me that her friends' mums ‘always helped them’ and ‘you’re always too busy to help me.’

This could have been my cue to start firing missiles at her along the lines of 'You don’t appreciate, do you, that I’m a single mum with huge responsibilities?' (me in victim mode) or 'your friend’s mums have obviously got time on their hands when they’re not lunching' (me in villain mode) only to get back from her 'You don’t care that I can’t go to uni' (daughter in victim mode.) Fortunately I’ve learned the tools from 'Conversational Riffs’ and knew better, because I've listened to Neil’s presentation.

So what did I do? I invited her to sit down with me over a cup of tea, discuss exactly what’s troubling her and work out a plan – one that enabled her to see that she could do this (pretty much on her own). This was the InvitationRiff and the Encouragement Riff. Next the Acknowledgment Riff also came into play as I congratulated her for taking responsibility herself for so much – which in turn enabled me to focus on my priorities, for which I was really grateful. We listened to each other and came up with some solutions (the Solutions Riff ) which - although it meant I did have to go shopping with her (not my favourite activity) - it gave me some overdue mother and daughter time. Further conflict was avoided and we both had a better understanding of each other and our responsibilities to each other.

How useful would it be if you were to learn easy to learn tools which make an immediate difference to even the most entrenched conflict situations? Neil Denny and Breakup Angels invite you to ‘Conversational Riffs’ to learn how to keep communicating through conflict situations, in a way that will not only resolve differences, but enable you to strengthen  relationships with colleagues, clients, friends at the very moment when they are most at risk.

Q: Who is this for?

A: For everyone: Single, Married, Divorced, Living Together. The important thing is that you wish to learn more about communicating through any sort of relationship conflict. Come on your own, with a friend, or as a couple.  You won't need to share your story and there will be opportunity to ask questions of Neil and other Breakup Angels experts present.

Q: How much will it cost me?

A: The event is FREE courtesy of Greatvine.com who have kindly loaned us their lovely venue for the event. Reserve your place

Come and join us for'Conversational Riffs’ at Greatvine.com* lofty headquarters in London N1 (7 mins Old Street tube) at 6.30 pm – 8.30pm on Tuesday 10 November. Admission is free. Places are limited – please register by e-mailing Natalia, manager of the parenting domain at Greatvine.com at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*A revolutionary new service, Greatvine.com offers trustworthy, individual advice by phone, direct from the country's best experts.


Neil’s approach to helping us all resolve conflicts constructively and effectively really works. Not only that, he’s a great speaker and gets the whole audience participating. It was so good people wouldn’t leave and we had to turn out the lights to get them going! – Richard Hill, E-CRM

Neil is an inspirational man with an extraordinary gift in creative conflict resolution. Very original and effective pioneering approach. – Georgeanne Lamont of Lamont Associates

Neil’s not only very passionate about ‘conversational riffs’ but has a wonderfully light way of presenting a potentially highly charged topic and engaging his audience throughout, generously offering an outstanding and practical resolution toolkit for any conflict. A ‘must’ for everyone who is interested in advanced communications and relationship development of any kind. – Ute Christopher, Ecademy

You are clearly talented and gifted at speaking.  You have a great grasp on your subject, a broad knowledge and a very relaxed but engaging delivery. – Martin Baldwin Associates

A must for big business. – Rob Hook

About Neil Denny

Neil Denny is a writer and presenter on conflict issues as well as being a Consultant divorce solicitor specialising in the field of family law, working for Mogers Solicitors in Bath.  Over the last 3 years Neil has been drawing upon his experiences within law and his research into communications and conflict dynamics to develop the concepts of “Embracing Conflict” and “Conversational Riffs”.  He now writes frequently on conflict issues and prepares and presents training and keynote events to organisations on how individuals, teams and companies communicate when faced with conflict and disagreements. Read more here on the Conversational Riffs website.

If you have any questions, please contact Breakup Angels here.

Copyright notice

© Copyright Kirsten Gronning 2009. All rights reserved worldwide.

No part of this publication may be produced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic including photocopying and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author. Such requests should be addressed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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