Through years of marriage, raising 3 kids to adults who actually like and respect us, coupled with my work as Relationship counselor and coach. I have found this one simple strategy to help conversations succeed!
Simple doesn’t mean easy, but with time and practice this technique will improve your conversations! And when you blow it, and you most likely will, I still do after years of practice… remember to liberally use these two magic words, “I’m sorry.”
Remember we are all a work in progress.
Agree to allow one person to be the speaker or sender and the other the listener or receiver. The goal of this technique is to send a message and receive that same message well, in order to promote understanding and thus communicate with one another. Agree ahead of time to spend an allotted amount of time to do this when addressing difficult issues. Otherwise, these tools can be used in general conversation to help communicate better.
- Share a thought, feeling, concern or experience using ‘I’ statements. Speak for yourself.
- Keep you message simple and concise. Do not go on and on, avoid lecturing. Share the most important information. You can offer more details after the listener/receiver has asked for clarification.
- After you have shared your main points, stop and allow your spouse to paraphrase/rephrase what they have hear/understood you to say. This allows you to hear the meaning that they received from your words.
- Affirm the places that you feel heard and understood, as well as their efforts to listen and understand.
- Restate the things that you feel were misunderstood, this is not a place to defend or disagree, just to clarify the message you are trying to send.
Your goal is to receive the meaning of the sender’s message, not to agree or disagree with what they are saying. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply, or defend or agree or disagree. This is not a time to share your thoughts but to hear and understand your spouse’s feelings or thoughts.
- Listen to their words, their nonverbal cues, without interrupting or planning your rebuttal.
- Ask for clarification only to better understand their meaning, or to avoid misinterpreting their words
- Do not try to solve any problems, give advice, or defend yourself. Listen with the goal of understanding the message being sent.
- Paraphrase/rephrase what you have heard and understand the message to be. Allow the sender to give feedback and listen to the feedback in the same manner as above.
Continue to listen and paraphrase until you and the sender agree that an understanding of meaning is reached. Again, agreement with the message is not the issue, only understanding what the sender is saying.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat!
Over time you will this will become a habit and your conversations -even the hard ones- will improve.
Grace is important anytime we try new things or work to change.
I have taught and uses this for years and I still forget to use this strategy – especially in hard conversations. I mess up, I talk when I am supposed to be listening, explain when it isn’t my turn, and stubbornly stick to my version of events. None of which help me understand or hear the loved one who is trying to share their thoughts and feelings with me.
In these moments, I try to catch my self and STOP! Then…Apologize, ask for grace and for them to continue.
Remember to liberally use these two magic words, “I’m sorry.” – they go a long way!
This will help… I promise! Try it and let me know what happens.