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Below, Julia explains how it works.....
Effective communication is essential to good relationships. Good communication skills may not solve or resolve issues, but no problems can be solved or issues resolved without them. We may communicate well or poorly, but we cannot not communicate.
We often don't realise how little we are listening to our partners, but are listening instead to our own internal response. We need to fully hear the message our partner is sending so that our partner will feel deeply heard. The realisation that you accurately understand your partner is healing for them and a growth experience for you, even if you do not agree with them. And agreement is not what your partner says, but what he or she means, deepens your connection and effects mutual healing.
One of the most effective forms of healing communication between persons in an intimate relationship is the couples dialogue (also referred to as intentional dialogue) It consists of three steps: mirroring, validation, and empathy.
Practicing these steps will feel awkward at first as well as difficult. But as you practice, the lines between each step slowly dissolve and you move from practicing dialogical to it becoming a natural way of communicating. Being committed to this way of communicating is the most important step in creating a conscious partnership. It means putting your relationship first.
Dialogue helps us understand the unique inner world of our partner. We learn to see how their world works for them and we move towards becoming a 'we' rather than two individuals misunderstanding each other or in conflict. We become partners.
Here is an explanation of mirroring
It is the process of accurately reflecting back the 'content' of the message from your partner. The most common form of mirroring is paraphrasing. A paraphrase is a statement in your own words of what the message your partner sent means to you. It indicates that you are willing to transcend your own thoughts and feelings for the moment and attempt to understand your partner from his/her point of view. Any response made prior to mirroring is often an 'interpretation' and may contain a misunderstanding. Mirroring allows your partner to send his/her message again and permits you to paraphrase until you do understand. At first, if paraphrasing is difficult, word for word mirroring is recommended. Then use accurate paraphrasing.
To begin a mirror choose who will be the sender and who will be the receiver. The one who decided to be the sender should begin by saying 'I would like to have a couples dialogue now – is that ok'?' It is important that the receiver respond as soon as possible and if now is not possible, then set a time together so that your partner knows she/he is heard.
The sender then talks for a few minutes, sending the message she or he wants the receiver to hear. The message should start with I and describe what the sender is thinking or feeling.
To begin the mirroring the receiver might say might say:
'Let me see if I got you – you said...'
'Did I get it?'
'Is there more about that'
When the sender has completed the message the receiver then summarizes all of the senders message with this lead in:
Let me see if I got all of that...'
When the receiver finishes the summary, the sentence should be checked for accuracy with
'Did I get it all?'
The summary is important because it helps the receiver understand the sender more deeply and to see the logic in what was said.
This helps with the validation which is the next step.
When the sender indicates that all of the message has been heard accurately, you then move to validation
Now the receiver validates the senders message with something like these lead ins
'You make sense because...'
It makes sense to me, given that you...'
'I can see what you are saying...'
The receiver does not have to agree with the sender, but it is essential that the receiver 'sees' the logic or 'truth' of the sender's experience. Since everyone 'makes sense' using the phrase '...makes sense...' communicates that the receiver 'gets it' and that the sender is not crazy. The receiver should check to see if the sender feels validated.
If so the receiver moves to empathy, the final step.
Empathy can be expressed with the following sentence stems:
'I can imagine that you might be feeling...
'I can imagine that you might have felt...'
If the sender has expressed feelings, then the receiver can say
'I can see that you are feeling...'
And since no one knows for sure what another person is feeling it is important to check for accuracy by saying:
'Is that what you are feeling...'
'Did I get your feeling right...'
'Is there more about that feeling...'
If the receiver did not imagine the right feelings or misperceived the expressed feelings, then the sender should say what the feelings are.
When the receiver has gone through all three parts – mirroring, validation and empathy, then he/she says:
'I would like to respond now'.
Then the receiver becomes the sender and the sender the receiver. The sender (former receiver) may respond to the message that is heard or may express the feelings or thoughts about something from his or her experience.
This exercise will feel an unnatural, cumbersome way of relating, but it is a good way to assure accurate communication.
Like learning any new skill, it will be awkward at first, but with practice you will become more acrtistic and less mechanical.
When you have the exercise down pat, you will discover that you do not need the structured process all the time. Your communication will become dialogical in spirit.
The three steps will only be necessary when you are discussing highly charged subjects or when communication breaks down.
Eventually you will experience a decrease in reactivity, more emotional safety and a deeper connection.