You’ve read this paragraph already—feel free to skip it if you have: Every once in a while, to kick off a discussion at our youth group (aka, the Edge), we have a script. They are not necessarily designed to give answers. Instead, they are meant to make people think or to think differently about things. We want people to look at things differently, to see things in a different light and to feel the story (and not just “think the story”—or worse, “I already know the story!”). Yes, it is also entertaining (at least, I hope it is entertaining); and yes, it is a conversation starter and not the end of a conversation. So, here’s the deal: I’m happy to share these scripts, but you will have to provide your own voices.  

 Relationships are important. The New Testament makes that explicit. We are called to love one another (Jn. 13:34), honor one another (Rom. 12:10), accept one another (Rom. 15:7), be patient with one another (Eph. 4:2) and greet one another (Rom. 16:16) because we are all members of one another (Rom. 12:5). But how do we do this? How are we to relate to each other in a healthy way?

 Relationships are hard, but they are often not as mysterious as we make them out to be (sorry, bad choice of words, at the EDGE we try not to put the word “relationship” and the words “make out” in the same sentence). In fact, sometimes we can look at our relationships through a rather simple lens: “Are we turning toward the other person, against the other person or away from the other person? It’s a simple metaphor, but it is very powerful. Dr. John Gottman (of the University of Washington) talks about these three ways of relating to the people in your life in his great book, The Relationship Cure.  This script uses these three “turns” to help us see how we are interacting with the people in our lives. 

 Here’s the script. Picture four people: A female narrator, two guys (readers 1 and 3) and a female reader (number 2). They have gathered to explain the complexities of our interaction with others in a very simple, yet profound way.  Here’s today’s big question: Toward, away or against; in which direction are you turning?



Narrator: Hello. I am the narrator. Today, we want to talk about relationships. See, relationships are important; and maybe if we can learn about relationships now, here at the Edge, then maybe we can avoid mistakes later on. So, let’s talk about how we interact with one another. There are three main ways we can respond to people.

Reader 1: We can turn toward the other person. They invite us to make an emotional connection with them, and we respond to that invitation. For example. . . .

Reader 2: Hey, are you coming to the party?

Reader 3: Are you kidding me, I wouldn’t miss it! Last time they had a party, it was absolutely phenomenal! And this time, it is going to be even better. See, I’m turning towards you!

Reader 1: Or how’s this for a scenario?

Reader 2: Hey, son or daughter, I can’t remember who you are now, but could you please pass me a cookie?

Reader 3: Sure, here you go!

Reader 1: Or this. . . .

Reader 2: Ugh. I need a vacation. Taking AP classes is pushing me over the edge (and not the good EDGE). I desperately need a vacation.

Reader 3: You absolutely need a vacation! I can’t imagine running at the pace you are running! So, let me ask you a question: Suppose you can go anywhere you want on this vacation, where would you want to go? And more importantly, WHO would you take with you?

Reader 1: All of those examples are instances of turning toward the other person. But there is another way we can respond to people. We can also turn against the other person.

Reader 2: Hey, are you coming to the party?

Reader 3: Do you think I would spend my whole night with someone like you? I would rather poke a hot stick in my eye than spend an hour with you at a party.

Reader 1: Or how’s this for a scenario.

Reader 2: Hey, son or daughter, I can’t remember who you are now, but could you please pass me a cookie?

Reader 3: What am I, your slave? Get up and get your own cookie!

Reader 1: Or this. . . .

Reader 2: Hey, son or daughter of mine, could you turn off the TV so we can talk?

Reader 3: What do you have to say that I would want to listen to? I’m busy. Leave me alone.

Reader 1: All of those examples are instances of turning against the other person by responding with anger or sarcasm or ridicule or hostility.

Reader 2 (angrily and loud): I am so angry!!!!!

Reader 3 (angrily and loud): I am so filled with ridicule!!!!!! But you already know that, don’t you? Because you always know everything, don’t you, smarty-pants?!?!

Reader 1 (angry and loud): I am openly hostile to everything and everybody!

Narrator (angrily and loud): I am so angry I could spit! (calmer) And I have no idea why! I’m not a reader. Readers feel things. I’m just the narrator! Narrators tell the story. They don’t FEEL the story. But here I am feeling . . . rage. I don’t need to feel any rage! I don’t need no stinking rage!

Reader 1: Here, let me turn toward you and see if I can help. As our narrator said, there are three ways we can respond to people. We can turn toward another person. We can turn against another person. And now, number three, we can turn away from the other person. Instead of responding to them, we simply ignore them.

Reader 2: I’m sorry I was so angry.

Reader 3 (physically, turn your back on reader 2 and look away)

Reader 1: Or this. . . .

Reader 2: Hey, are you coming to the party?

Reader 3 (turns over the script and looks away, completely ignoring reader 2)

Reader 1: Or this. . . .

Reader 2: That is so funny. . . .

Reader 3 (Get up and walk away—don’t say a word)

Narrator: Hey, come back! You are a reader! You can’t just walk away from the script!

Reader 3 (keeps on walking, ignoring everything the narrator says)

Narrator: Hey, I’m talking to you, Reader 3! Don’t you dare ignore me! I’m the narrator here! I’m the narrator. . . .  I’m sorry. I just get so caught up in the emotion of these scripts. Anyway, we can respond to people in one of three ways.

Reader 1: We can respond to people by turning toward them.

Reader 2: We can respond to people by turning against them.

Reader 3 (return to your chair and sit down): Or we can respond to people by turning away from them. If you really want to communicate that you despise the other person, you can simply turn your back to them and ignore them.

Narrator: And we respond to people in these three ways all the time.

Reader 1 (lean in and act warmly to reader 2): Do you mind if I turn towards you? I’ve always thought you were someone I would like to turn toward. Can I be honest? I think a lot about turning toward you and you . . . you turning toward me.

Reader 2: Well, if you want to be honest, you’re completely . . .  turning my stomach right now! And to be even more honest, you disgust me. So, turn yourself around there, mister, and leave me alone because I am turning against you. But reader 3, now reader 3, that’s a different story. (turn to reader 3 and speak very warmly and friendly and sweetly) Hey reader 3, how about you and me turn toward each other? Maybe we can share a bowl of popcorn at the party. So, what do you say?

Reader 3 (get up, turn your chair away from Reader 2 so that when you sit back down your back is towards them and you are facing the opposite direction):

Reader 2: Oh, Reader 3, please don’t turn away. I so want us to be turning toward each other!

Reader 1: Oh, Reader 2, I’m still available. Oh narrator, what do you think? Don’t Readers 1 and 2 sound like they go together?

Reader 2 (get up and turn your back towards reader 1 and sit down so you are facing the opposite direction):

Narrator: Don’t miss this: in every interaction, we choose one of these three responses.  We either turn toward the other person, or we turn against the other person or we turn away from the other person. And which response we choose determines the health of our relationships.

Reader 1: The more we turn toward the other person, the healthier and more enjoyable and encouraging the relationship will be.

Reader 2 (turn your chair so you are facing the group): And the more we turn against the other person, the unhealthier and angrier and distant the relationship will be.

Reader 3 (turn your chair so you are facing the group): And the more we turn away from the other person, the colder and more miserable the relationship will be.

Narrator: And this is important because in every interaction people are trying to connect with us on one level or another.

Reader 1: If we turn toward them, we strengthen the emotional bond.

Reader 2: But if we turn against them, we damage the relational bond.

Reader 3: And if we turn away from them, we seriously damage the relational bond.

Narrator: Think about the people in your life—your friends, your family, your friends at work—how are you responding to their invitations to connect with them? Here’s the truth: In every interaction, we have a choice. We can either strengthen our relationships or we can damage them.

Reader 1: That’s true!

Reader 2: So true!

Reader 3 (get up, turn your chair and your back on the group and then say): Just joking. (turn your chair and sit down facing the group): That is absolutely true!

Narrator: But these attempts to connect with us don’t have to be BIG.

Reader 1: And our response doesn’t have to be BIG either.

Reader 2: It can just be a little gesture or a look. In fact, to turn toward someone, all you need is a touch or a smile.

Reader 3: Or anything else that says, “I want to be connected to you.”  Or “I am listening to you.” Or “I am here with you.”

Narrator: But if we fail to notice these invitations, even unintentionally, it will push the other person away. And if we do that too many times, it will really hurt the friendship.

Reader 1: So, pay attention (then look over at Reader 2 and smile and, with a sickening sweet nonverbal gesture, invite her to turn toward you).

Reader 2 (in response to Reader 1’s invitation): Ugh. Yes, pay attention and respond graciously to the invitations of others, even if you really don’t want to. Turn toward them and be nice, but also be honest. (turn to Reader 1) You know, you’re a good friend, but I’m really not into dating reader ones. (Turn and face reader 3) But I do find reader threes very stimulating. (look over at Reader 3 and smile and nonverbally do everything you can to have them turn towards you).

Reader 3: And maybe this: when you are inviting people to connect with you, don’t try too hard. Be yourself and relax. (Turn to Reader 2) I’m really flattered that you are interested in developing a friendship with me, but it’s not you. It’s me. I’m just not into readers. I feel terrible saying that, but it’s how I feel.  But I am really interested—really interested—in developing a friendship with a narrator. (turn to the Narrator and smile).

Narrator: Oh my! Well, that’s all the time we have for tonight’s discussion! So, we will leave things right there until next time. In the meantime, I’ve got some turning to do!

The End

© 2023 script by Dane Lewis, based on “The Turning Metaphor”
by John Gottman (The Relationship Cure, Three Rivers Press, 2001)