Speaking Up in Your Relationships with Sarah Lucht and Jane Bement Geesman
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
We have a really fun podcast episode for you this week!
We sit down with Jane Geesman and Sarah Lucht, directors and actors who lead a workshop called Act Natural.
Jane and Sarah have a wonderful way of mixing their acting techniques with personal development trainings and can express the way they show up (and speak up) in relationships in such an articulate way.
We can’t wait for you to hear their stories of how they manage their friendship and partnership working together and the realness behind how they handle things like jealousy and changing family dynamics at home.
This episode contains a lot of laughs, real steps of how these ladies manage conflict in their relationships, and an easy exercise you can start implementing now to move through the “same old” conflict you and a loved one repeatedly have.
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CrisMarie: Today we have Jane Geesman and Sarah Lucht who are directors and actors in the town of Portland, Oregon and are also leaders of a workshop called Act Natural, which is really, and you can tell me where I'm wrong ladies, but this is a workshop that helps you apply acting tools to help people be more authentic and effective in their relationships, both at work and in their life.
Sarah Lucht: I would agree with that.
Jane Geesman: Absolutely. So far so good.
CrisMarie: Excellent. Well, welcome to the show. We're so glad to have you.
Sarah Lucht/Jane Geesman: Thanks for having us on. We're excited.
CrisMarie: Well, why don't you tell us a little bit about the two of you, when you started working together, you know, all sorts of little tidbits about yourself.
Jane Geesman: All right. Will do. Well, we, we met because we're both actors here in Portland and as part of the theater community, our paths certainly crossed and a friendship developed maybe 25, almost 30 years ago. And as a result of that, we started spending more time together and our interests were so similar, and our love of theater and our interest in personal development, we ended up taking workshops up in Canada at The Haven, took various workshops there for self improvement and professional development. And out of that we decided we would develop our own workshop process that integrates personal development concepts with actor training techniques, basic fundamentals of acting. The two worlds blend beautifully when exploring communication, expression, creativity, and just flat out presentation skills. And so we've been doing these workshops for 20 years now actually.
CrisMarie: Actually we've taken your workshops and love them.
Susan: I mean, CrisMarie I think initially got engaged in it because she wanted to improve her acting chops, you know…
CrisMarie: Absolutely, as a community theater actor.
Susan: I honestly was, I really came because I just thought you two were some of the funniest, most fun people to be around. But I stepped into your program because I was in a situation where normally I go and present with CrisMarie, but I was going into a pretty high powerful situation where I really wanted to present better. And I remember coming to your workshop and it had a quite profound effect for me in terms of my own leadership and stepping onto that stage that was very different to go on alone. It was very helpful.
Sarah Lucht/Jane Geesman: That's wonderful.
CrisMarie: So tell us about now, you two don't have conflict in your relationship, right? Cause your besties, is that true?
Sarah Lucht: It is true, and it really is. We can't even be, you know, funny or ironic about that. I was thinking about that absence of conflict in our relationship and I'm not sure that we can account for it in any real practical way. It was kind of the luck of the draw. And I will say that, in terms of working together, I think we've always been really good at using this particular model, that comes from the world of theater, where you identify an objective, you then perhaps identify obstacles and then you employ different tactics. So that's the recipe for an actor meeting a script. And it's also, it just happened to be the model that Jane and I used for our workshops, and how we approach our workshops. So I would say that has gone a long way to prevent conflict I guess, or not prevent conflict, but if conflict arises we'd go to, “what is our objective in our relationship?”
Susan: I mean it sounds like, Sarah, what you're describing from what I'm hearing is actually very similar to what we say, is that creative opportunity, that choice point. Cause I think what you're saying is the way you approach acting is you have this objective coming in, and you are going to meet obstacles, which is generally where there's the potential for conflict- where people will either opt out or opt in in the way that we think of it. And what you're suggesting is that what you've been trained to do in acting and also trained to do in life is to lean into that, think of those obstacles and stay in touch with your key objective and be willing to kind of engage from that point. And that, and tell me if I'm wrong, but that potentially creates conflict but makes for a very interesting scene. And the drama becomes real and that's actually a good thing. That's what makes us stay engaged in the play or in life, so to speak.
Jane Geesman: That's right. Having clarity of objective is key to all of this. And I will say that Sarah and I will have moments where we get into, there's some tension between us or- it's not to say we never, ever have any tension or something. And we have learned, and I do this the best with Sarah, of all my relationships in the world, I do this the best with Sarah where we don't let things fester. We address them as soon as they come up. Wouldn't you say that's true? And if there's any kind of something something going on, we are quick to recognize it, and quick to talk about it, set it on the table, look at it, talk about it and move through it.
Sarah Lucht: Yeah. And I would say that that I attribute to an extreme level of safety. I think the safety is in that we have been very articulate with each other about what we want in our lives. You know, how we want to be in the world, how we want to feel inside of ourselves, how we want to be with other people. And so we talk about that a lot, and we our reminders to each other about that a lot.
Susan: So it's awesome. I think what you're describing, I want to check in cause this is perfect, because in some respects it sounds like what you guys do with each other, because you've established such a strong sense of connection and safety and a willingness, is you share your expectations, what's you're wanting, what you're dreaming of, what you're willing…
CrisMarie: What you're upset about.
Susan: Even what you’re upset about. Making sure that you don't hold that back in any way, shape, or form.
Sarah Lucht: That's very well put. I must say that.
Jane Geesman: Yeah, that's really good because I think we're very transparent with each other. Yeah. A way to go.
I think both Sarah and I have a low tolerance for anything to come between us. Any unspoken thing, unexpressed resentment…
Sarah Lucht: It would mess up multiple facets of our lives if there was something major between us.
Jane Geesman: Yes. So again, we address it asap and we have very specific, practical ways of addressing it. We have models with which you are both familiar from the Haven Communication Models. Let's just call it the communication model. And so that’s a part of our DNA now because of how long we've used that with each other and in our other relationships. And it's very effective for us.
CrisMarie: Yeah. How about with, you know, so you two have kind of this long standing intimacy and commitment to clear things up. How about, you're both in long term relationships with your- are you both married?
Sarah Lucht/Jane Geesman: Yes.
CrisMarie: How is it at home versus in your working relationship with each other?
Jane Geesman: Oh, now I don't think we've got time for that. Oh look at the time. We don’t want to bore your listeners.
CrisMarie: I think it's just getting good actually.
Jane Geesman: I disagree. I will go first and say that I'm married. Ed and I have been together for decades and I struggle more with him in terms of the very things I'm celebrating with Sarah and I find so much easier to do with her is less easy with Ed. He's a different personality from me, very different. We have different backgrounds. We have different ways of communicating with each other, so it's much more challenging. And also he is a man and I'm a woman. So there may be that, the difference of gender could also feed into this and his male process versus my very female process. So yeah. Good question your guys, let's move along.
CrisMarie: Is there a particular area that you get stuck in, like a particular topic or do you find yourself repeating like, “oh, there we go again.” Where is kind of the bump that you usually run into with Ed? If you're willing.
Jane Geesman: I would say a bump that's emerged in the last couple years is Ed's daughter had a baby a couple of years ago. So this is our first and so far only grandchild. And so I'm a step grandparent to this darling little child. And little Fiora, the granddaughter, is special needs and has a lot of challenges ahead for her, and we're quite involved in her life, and we come up against ourselves and each other in that the mother isn't my daughter. It's Ed's daughter and I have ideas and things I want to suggest or comment on and I have to be careful that I don't tread on Ed's shoes because it's his daughter. And I don't want to say something that he would perceive as criticism of him as a dad or his daughter. And yet I want to speak what I think needs to be said about this child and, you know, things we can do for her to help her. It that making any sense?,
CrisMarie: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Jane Geesman: I can tell I'm being very delicate here. So this new project for us as we are approaching our 70th birthdays is challenging, is not only being grandparents, but being, for me, being a step grandparent and negotiating my way in that family, that part of our family.
Susan: Well, and I would imagine, Jane, that this is again, one of those situations where I go to even what you guys were talking about earlier, if you could stay clear about your objective, which it sounds like, is to support this process of being a grandparent, and remember that you're gonna hit the obstacles. So, I mean, I would imagine even with Ed being able to fill him in on, wait a minute, this is what's coming up for me, and I know it could appear that I'm just being difficult, but I even still, I wonder if you let him know, sometimes I walk on eggshells cause I really don't want you to, do you talk to him about that?
Jane Geesman: Absolutely. I let him know. Yeah. Yeah. I think we've done pretty well at letting each other know what's going on in this situation. And you're right, one of my primary objectives in my life, and this is a really important one to me, is to be honest and in integrity with myself. Meaning I don't hold on to stuff and keep it inside of me and behave in a way that doesn't reveal what's really going on. I want the people that I love and care about and I'm closest to to know what's going on for me. I don't want to hide. And it takes guts, as we all know, to come forward sometimes. Yes. And so I need to remind myself as what is my objective? Is it, you know, to manage Sarah or Ed's feelings or is it to, you know, be mindful of their feelings but be in integrity or can grow up with myself and therefore be honest.
CrisMarie: Oh, Jane, I so love what you're saying. And I think that is so hard for many people to do because we're so worried about hurting other people's feelings. And so the ability to tolerate, hey, this is what's coming up for me, and tolerate this person that you love and care about actually being upset with me because what I said that is has been a huge developmental growth spurt for me to tolerate their upsetness and still hold onto me and what's important.
Jane Geesman: Yep. That will be a challenge to the day I die, I think, is doing just that. Yeah.
Sarah Lucht: This is why my husband and I have cats and not children, let alone grandchildren.
CrisMarie: Sarah, do you have issues? Is there a common bump that you to run into in your relationship, you know, with your husband?
Sarah Lucht: Well, it's interesting because my husband, unlike Ed, Don, my husband is also in the theater. He's an actor and a director, not full time. He has a a day job which he dislikes and doesn't work, I think, as much in the theater as I do at the moment. And so we have-whereas we have a extremely close, kind, respectful, lovely relationship in all regards- we tend to have conflict around my involvement with the theater and his hurt feelings sometimes about getting jobs or not getting jobs. So there's that. I almost want to call it competition, but that doesn't feel quite right.
CrisMarie: Well, it sounds like professional jealousy, which makes perfect sense to see you engage in a play and it's like, wait a minute, why wasn't there a part for me? Or why am I not getting picked? I can relate to those situations. Not with Susan, but with other.
Sarah Lucht: Right. Right. I know you can CrisMarie. . So what is interesting for me is that I will definitely attempt to protect Don. And that amounts to withholding parts of myself. In other words, I might come home from a rehearsal and simply not talk about it because I think I will, you know, hurt his feelings or upset him or so that's a place where we, I would say have conflict.
CrisMarie: Have you ever asked him, like, had that conversation pretty frankly? Like, I want to let you know I'm doing this cause I think you don't want to hear about this because you are in a place of pain, but it also you're missing a part of my aliveness, my juice, so I want to check out. Have you had that conversation with him?
Sarah Lucht: Yes. And as you're saying that, I think it's been a while since we've had it. So I think that's an interesting point, right? There is, “yes. I've had that conversation with him, and there's no need to ever have it again.” I've done that and said all that. Yeah. Chapter closed on that. So that brings up the idea of revisiting issues and updating and check, recheck.
Susan: And I mean, I know that this comes up, well, it has come up at times with CrisMarie and I like when she's engaged in something, and it does happen to be community theater is one of those things, and she is totally involved and I have been replaced basically in terms of who she's paying attention to or not. But the part that drives me the most nuts is when she doesn't let me be in my fullness of jealous or she takes…
CrisMarie: If I tried to do exactly what you're doing, Sarah, if I tried to cover it up or downplay or oh, it's no big deal. And of course I'm obsessed by it and I really like it. If I don't let her, if I can tolerate her being upset like, yeah, right now I am pissed that you're going off to another rehearsal and we don't get to do whatever, go to a movie.
Susan: You know what, what's interesting for me is when one, she gives me the opportunity to just say that. What I always come back to is the reason that I may feel that jealous is sometimes because I need to do something to take care of myself. Maybe I can't go get a part in the play or whatever, but it's like, what do I need to do to have myself feel good and it shouldn't be you that has- you know, this is one of those things, we think we have to make our partner feel good about themselves. But you know...
CrisMarie: That's actually patronizing to them when you're not holding them as able and even supporting them kind of feeling their discomfort enough so that they actually want to do something that would be passionate for them. Whether it's taking a writing class, so playwriting, a screenwriting or a directing class. Something that he could do that would juice him up.
Sarah Lucht: Or, you know, or get involved in the garden outside. Do some work around the house. Shall I let you know how that goes?
Yeah. You know, I wanted to say, this makes me think of one of my favorite relationship concepts, which is actually from M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled, which I think is frankly the first kind of self help book that I read in maybe 1982 or something. It's a wonderful book. And I remember there's something in the book about how he talks about his role in his marriage and what his job is. And then a lot of his patients would talk about, you know, I think my wife's job is this. I think my husband's job is that, and he says in the book, well, my job in this marriage is to help Lilly, his wife, help Lilly be Lily, which I've always really liked.
So in other words, it's not going to help Susan to be Susan to say, you know, go get a part in a play. Yeah. Or to say Don, why don't you do some work in the garden? Because that's not, that's not Don. But we can talk about, you know exactly what you're saying, what are the things are there that might improve your wellbeing and engagement and satisfaction in life here?
CrisMarie: Well, and also Sarah, for Sarah to be Sarah to actually come home. If you are jazzed, you know how it is when you come back from a rehearsal, you've got all that energy. I just know it, and for you not to actually share that you're not giving him your full radiance, that is pretty sexy I might say.
Susan: You know, I've learned to quite enjoy the sexy side of me that comes home from the theater. But yeah. You know, even if I am jealous sometimes,
Sarah Lucht: Don always seems to have a really good book going. I'm making it sound a little bleaker than it really is.
CrisMarie: Oh, I think this is a really common dynamic, Sarah, that comes up. So we're just kind of using it.
Susan: It's a unique, I mean, I think what really strikes me about what you're describing is you are both in somewhat the same field. So I can imagine when, you know, there could be a way for him that it's even harder if you're really in this place of being jazzed, alive, getting parts, getting opportunities. And he may see himself as not getting that. That really, that is a bit different. And you know, I mean, so that does create a challenge. And I think, you know, what we often say is the more you can actually have a conversation about it and one of, I think you guys are familiar with this tool, even a five, five, five can be a way to kind of talk about where you each are…
CrisMarie: Which I just want to just describe yeah. So this is something we teach in our couples workshops, Couples Alive and Couples Mojo. A five, five, five is when you have a topic and, a hot topic. First, sometimes couples don't want to talk about it because one person thinks, oh my God, it'll never end. And another person thinks, well, I want to have enough time, you always cut me off. And so the five, five, five is for five minutes the first person talks uninterrupted about the topic, and they don't have to talk nonstop, the other person just is not going to interrupt them. And so at the end of the five minutes, you honor the timer, you actually use a timer and then the second person talks for five minutes on that topic, and then the third five minutes, then you dialogue.
And what this often does is give a real chance to digest the content in a lot of different ways. And if you have an ongoing topic, sometimes we encourage couples, let's say they're having a hard time about money or even this acting piece, to do it on a daily basis for like a week and you get a lot of mileage through that issue. So that's a real connecting tool.
Jane Geesman: I like that a lot. We like models. We like practical, time boundary models. I'm writing this down.
CrisMarie: I realize you two, you can always come to our Couples Alive live program and we'll teach you some of these models.
Sarah Lucht: Can Jane and I come and just leave our husbands?
Jane Geesman: I knew that was coming…
Sarah Lucht: Because now they think about it, I do have some difficulties with her.
Jane Geesman: You do not,
Sarah Lucht: You know, I want to say about the thing with Don, one thing is that we also have been together very long time, almost 30 years, and in the theater all that time. So we certainly have had the gift of continuity with this particular issue. So when it does come up, we get to remind each other that, oh, this has come up before. Isn't it interesting? It's a seam in our lives as individuals and our relationship. And so it's, I used to find it tedious. I think we both did. Oh no, you're not upset about that again, are you? And now I think, after all these years, there's a sense of, wow, we should get this sorted out. I wonder if we can or ever will.
You know, it can be a place of connection and like humor for us.
CrisMarie: I love that.
Susan: We have, well we have a couple things that have occurred over the years since we very first met and one of them we just have named it “The Linda Incident.” And so whenever it comes up, we don't even remember the details of The Linda Incident, but we know when we're in it, some version of it. And we’ll just go, this is The Linda Incident, and we kinda know what we need to do to take care of ourselves. And it usually is some type of…
Susan: It something like that that has come up and we need to address it and talk about it. So, I appreciate that piece that you're sharing cause it does sound like, I mean, you guys 30 years, that's a long time. So clearly you have a lot of familiarity and it, you know, we do revisit things. That's actually not a bad thing. You know, when you said, hopefully we'll get over this, it's like, nah, maybe. But it also reminds you, it's sort of a reminder to bring the juice back up again.
CrisMarie: And I think that's really the benefit of talking about it, revisiting it, and I get you have over and over at times, but it at least gets both of your voices out on the table and if he is hurt and upset for you to witness that and be okay with that cause I think that is him bringing himself forward.
Susan Lucht: Yeah. So I think, I mean that makes me think as well about this tolerance that one, I think, has to have it just as a human being for discomfort. To put it mildly. Just to be able to tolerate uncomfortable feeling in your body and have an agreement that that's something that you're up to as a human being, which I think Jane and I talk about that quite a bit. Yeah. Yeah.
Susan: I can imagine. Because that be a huge part, at least my memory of working with you two, was how much you said, you know, like being real and acknowledging the emotional tones...
CrisMarie: Well I remember Jane, this is for from Nurse Ratchet when you played Nurse Ratchet and the director said, you need to find that place where you just love what pain or hurting people…
Jane Geesman: Like relishing, relishing.
CrisMarie: Yeah. But that's like owning, I remember you saying owning all these places inside of ourselves, which is that tolerating my jealousy, my rage, my hate, those not popular emotions in myself, and also witnessing another human being and not trying to fix it or make it go away.
Sarah Lucht: Right. Yeah. Which is what we get to practice as, you know, just to go off topic just a little bit, as actors all the time. That's what the job demands and it's part of why I believe Jane and I are so good at facilitating people having feelings, holding a place, a space for people's feelings, because that's what we do in our work. We have to be vulnerable in order to serve this script. That's the job.
CrisMarie: Yes. Yeah. So I just think holding that, even tolerating your own discomfort in relationship when it's something that really is impacting you- you know, Don, you love and care about. Ed you love and care about and being able to tolerate and not go to fixing it. It is a life lesson. But I think you have the skills through acting to really apply that quite powerfully in your relationships.
Jane Geesman: Yeah. And I know I, for one, I think Sarah, you're very similar to me and maybe you two are over there wherever you are. I feel, in my body, I feel different and not very good if I am holding back something from Ed or Sarah, or from anybody, but really the ones closest to me. If I am sitting on holding back cause I don't want to hurt them or I don't want to create a conflict or whatever story I'm telling myself, my energy feels different. I feel somewhat, I dunno, depressed, or edgy. It's like my body tells me very clearly you need to clear something out of you. You're not saying something that needs to be said. And it's very hard. The older I get, the less easy it is to ignore that.
CrisMarie: I love that Jane, that your body is acting as a compass, kind of a light detector to say, hey, something's got to come out. And I think that, I think that happens too for most of us, but we deaden our awareness of it. And I love that you have that even as you progress in your life that you're, it's getting louder and louder. Like you cannot ignore that.
Jane Geesman: That's, that's right CrisMarie, and maybe one thing, I'm just sitting here thinking that keeps that alarm system, barometer, or whatever alive in me is that by virtue of being actors, we have to stay connected to our bodies, ourselves so that we can call upon different aspects of us in our feelings and so on to tell the story we have been hired to tell. So to ignore my body or disconnect from it, it does a disservice not only in my personal relationships, but certainly in the work I do.
CrisMarie: Yeah. That is so powerful.
Susan: That is, you know, very powerful. And I mean, it is amazing. What I love is that you really get it because of what you're hired to do as an actor, but you also see the same thing apply in your relationships. You know, when you're in your most important relationships because you know, so many times people ignore that because they're afraid of the pain that something may end. But if you can get, “wait a minute, if I don't do this, it may not end, but I'm already dead in it anyway.” And that's great. You know? So that's a big cost to pay.
Well this has been…
CrisMarie: Oh, you're delightful. We could just keep talking on and on. Cause you're two of our favorite peeps.
Sarah Lucht: Oh, you. Same here. Same here.
Jane Geesman: We just love you both. What a treat. I love what you guys have created together and your relationship and how it's making the world a better place. Flat out. It is. Talk about influence. I mean you are both definitely influencers.
CrisMarie: Appreciate that.
Jane Geesman: I can’t wait to see you in our next workshop, “The Boss of You.”
CrisMarie: Yeah, we will be, we will be. Wasn't that fun?
Susan: That was just a blast. I love talking with them. They are such a delight and so much fun and that they were willing to talk both about their own relationship and also be willing to kind of reflect and share with us what it's like in their couple…
CrisMarie: And they brought up, you know, such good points and I think so many people in relationship hold back because they don't want to hurt somebody's feelings who they care about and that Jane really spoke to the, how her body just is like “no, I'm not going to let you do that.” Which is a gift. It's a real gift because if you don't speak up, you start to die in that relationship.
Susan: And so it’s really important to notice that, pay attention to it and find a way to bring your voice forward.
And I thought one of the key tools from today's call that we spoke to in this was what we refer to as the five five five. And you could take any topic that you need to talk about and do a five five five on it.
CrisMarie: Yeah. And I would really encourage you to use a timer, five minutes one person, the other person tries to not even react. And then the other person for the second five minutes. And then the third five minutes is a dialogue, and at the end, don't just keep talking about it, actually get up, do something different, especially if you're a couple because you're in for a marathon, not a sprint.
So we encourage you to actually switch gears, do something. And if you need to come back, you can do another five, five, five another day.
Susan: And we have used that both with couples and we have also used it in business setting with team members that are in conflict with each other because it's a great way for each person to be able to get their ideas out when there are strong differences.
CrisMarie: And we talk about this in our upcoming book, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. It's outlined in that if you, and it's available for preorder now, and we also teach it in Couples Alive. And if you're interested in Jane and Sarah's program, that's up at The Haven called Act Natural and it's really fun.
Susan: All right, well thank you for joining us today, and hope to hear from you. And if you want to be on our show because you have something to say about conflict or would like to share with us, reach out.
CrisMarie: We'd love to have you.
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn.
Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!
Pre-order their new book The Beauty of Conflict for Couples: Igniting Passion, Intimacy, and Connection in Your Relationship.