Communication Skills for Couples
Create Respect And Connection In Your Conversations
Do you find yourself getting into arguments with your partner and wonder how it got this way? Are you repeating the same “fight scenes” with your loved one and want a way to stop?
If you want to have a relationship built on mutual respect and passionate partnership, we know how to help.
Effective couples counseling is based on creating a structured environment where you can be heard about the things most important to you while doing so in a way that is safe for you and your partner. We will help you slow down emotional reactivity that typically interferes with authentic listening, and teach you how to stop toxic blaming and shaming behaviors in your relationship.
Why don’t you listen?
Did you know that when you think you are listening, your brain is actually filling in the blanks and making up a story about what the other person means? We have millions of what are called mirror neurons that actually fire spontaneously in our brains to help us predict and react to our environment quickly. We experience our sense of hearing or seeing partly due to our mirror neurons making up approximations of what is actually happening. It’s a kind of neurosensory cheating that gives us lightening-fast ability to process our reaction to the environment in the blink of an eye. Mirror neurons and the “half-listening” that we do which they are responsible for, is fine as long as you are in harmony with the person you are talking to. But our autopilot brain is a big obstacle to creating a lasting relationship with our partner–who happens to not be a mirror image of what we expect him/her to be!
Our couples therapists will help you slow down your conversations and may help you create what we call intentional dialogue. Intentional dialogue is a communication skill in which both the listener and the sender have specific jobs to do in order to take mutual responsibility for authentic listening to occur. It’s like having a safety belt on for important conversations.
Here are some keys to intentional dialogue:
- One person is the “sender” and the other is the “receiver.” You agree to limit switching roles in favor of more stable roles and agree to be in this role for one topic only.
- The goal of intentional dialogue is to exchange thoughts or feelings in such a way that, when complete, both parties still feel connected enough to be interested in another dialogue!
- The job of the receiver is to reflect back what he/she is hearing. Not an interpretation or what he/she thinks it means , but the actual words that are said. This de-energizes most power struggles which are an attempt to make our partner agree with our meaning.
- The sender agrees to allow the receiver the job of listening and validating the words being said, not the meaning behind the words.
- The pace of sending (talking) only goes as fast as the slowest person–this is always the receiver. When the receiver signals that they are no longer able to remember the words being said, the sender must stop and wait for the receiver to catch up.
- The sender only talks about him/herself.
There are many other ingredients that go into making intentional dialogue such a powerful communication tool. We can introduce you to how to use these and other skills designed to help you have safer, more respectful and connected conversations.