Below are principles and guidelines that promote reason and an open heart as you communicate and repair with the people you care about.
Your partner is your friend, not your enemy. Your relationship can become more loving and safe. Beneficial, creative solutions are best found when each of you is heard and understood. Come from love.
Have a Compassionate Attitude:
Everyone is doing the best he or she knows so there’s no blame. Yet, one’s best might not be the best possible, so we all have room for learning. Have compassion, empathy, and stay connected.
Avoid Strategies that Don’t Work:
Judging; Controlling; Needing to be right; Criticizing; Defending/explaining yourself; Unrestrained venting; Contempt;
Retaliating; Withdrawing, Unsolicited advice.
Use Strategies that Do Work:
Calm down before speaking. Shift from complaint to request; Listen to understand; Empower and respect each other.
Have a cool head and a warm heart. “We were all born with matches and gasoline inside of us. Our job is to keep them apart.”
Keep Personal Boundaries:
Don’t assume you know what is in someone’s
mind or what motivates them. Use I-statements (not “you” or “it”). Don’t go to
either a one-up or a one-down position. Stay on your side of the fence. You have
no right to control another person.
Couples work is unilateral, not bilateral: focus on one person at a time.
A. Speak From Your Heart:
- Say what you heard and saw about one particular event.
The facts, nothing but the facts — what a movie camera can see.
Stay in the present. Don’t use “always” or “never.”
- Tell what you made up in your head about it.
“The meaning I gave to it is…”or “What I made up about this is…”
- Express how you feel about what happened.
Use feeling words: sad, scared, hurt, angry, frustrated, lonely, glad, guilty…
Do not use: abandoned, betrayed, unloved (too much judgment)
Do not use: “You (it) made me feel.”
No one makes you feel anything. Say, “You did X, and I felt Y.”
- Talk about your positive, universal needs.
Our needs connect us because we all have common human needs.
Example: I have a need for belonging, (consideration, cooperation,
understanding, support, affection, contribution, fun,partnership… )
- Request what you would like to have happen in the future.
Make specific and doable requests. Keep a positive focus.
Remember the difference between a request and a demand.
B. Listen With Your Heart Open:
Be willing to travel to each other’s “country.”
- Repeat back what your partner has said.
Check out your understanding: “Do I have that right?”
Ask: “Is there anything else?” (Make it a true invitation.)
- Acknowledge and validate with compassion.
It’s not about objective reality/truth; we all have an internal logic.
Give empathy: “Are you feeling________ because you’re needing________.
Acknowledge the point-of-view of your partner. You can use the phrase:
“It makes sense to me that you… ” (Say all the things that make sense from
your partner’s perspective.)
- Own what you can about yourself.
Admit (versus deny) what you can.
Take responsibility for your feelings, thoughts and actions.
- Give whatever you can and be generous.
This is the hardest part. Breathe deeply. Re-establish connection.
Search your soul for something to give to the speaker.
Find something to say yes to. Show what you’re made of.
Let your partner know what you’ve learned from this experience.
“Knowing what I know now, if I could do things over, I’d…”
- Find ways to get both of your needs met.
When each of you feels understood, this opens an opportunity to find creative
ways to meet both of your needs. Be cooperative as you come up with numerous,
inventive ways to meet needs. You may not get what you originally wanted, but you
can both get to a place where you cheerfully say, “I can live with this!”
- Appreciate your partner.
“Thanks for bringing up this difficult topic.”
“I appreciate you listening and caring.”
“I’m grateful you saw my side.”
“Thanks for offering to … “