Getting Started: The Basic Dialogue Ground Rule
In the Imago Dialogue, both parties agree to a basic ground rule: to talk one person at-a-time. The person who is speaking, is the “sender”, and the other who is listening, is “receiving”. It is when you are in the role of the Receiver that you will be doing the three main steps of Dialogue.
Dialogue: The Three Main Steps
Let’s take them one at a time.
STEP ONE: MIRROR
In the Mirroring step, when your partner pauses, or perhaps when you have asked them to pause, you will repeat back everything you heard them say. You may paraphrase, but you will mirror without analyzing, critiquing, modifying or responding.
How to Mirror: “If I got it, I think you said…” or “So you’re saying…”
Ask if there’s more: “Is there more?” or “Tell me more.”
STEP TWO: VALIDATE
Once the Sender says there is “no more”, the Receiver will attempt to validate what the Sender has said by letting the Sender if what they have been saying is making logical sense to the Receiver. If it does not, the Receiver will simply share what does make sense, then ask the Sender to say more about the parts that do not yet make sense.
How to Validate: “You make sense to me because…” or
“That makes sense, I can see where…”
Ask for clarification: “This part (X) makes sense, but help me understand,
can you say more about…?”
STEP THREE: EMPATHIZE
In the final step, Empathy, the Receiver takes a guess as to what they imagine the Sender might be feeling with regard to what they have been saying. If the Sender has already said how they feel, then the Receiver can simply reflect this back once more. If, however, the Receiver can think of an additional way their partner might be feeling, this is where they can add that.
When sending empathy, it is fine to say something such as: “I can imagine you feel like …. (you’re the only one working on our relationship).” However, it’s important to know that once the word “like” comes into play, what’s being expressed is is a thought, not a feeling. The best way we have come to distinguish the difference between a thought and a feeling, is that a feeling can generally be described in one or two words: e.g., happy, excited, safe, cared for, hurt, frustrated, scared.
Try to include some “feeling” words if you can, in this step. Doing so, especially when you are lucky enough to hit the proverbial nail on the head, will often bring a look of recognition and joy to your partner’s face faster than anything else you could say.
How to Empathize: “I can imagine you might be feeling…”
Check it Out: “Is that how you feel?”
Now that the Sender has said all they have to say and the Receiver has mirrored, validated and empathized, the whole process reverses. The Receiver now gets their turn to respond with whatever came up for them while the first partner was sending and the Sender shifts into being the new Receiver who does the mirroring, etc.
Note; When partners trade places, the new Sender does not start a new topic, rather she/he responds to what the first Sender said.
For more detailed information, click on the links below:
Instructions for the Receiver
Step-by-Step Receiver Flowchart
Instructions for the Sender
Step-by-Step Sender Flowchart
Assertiveness is a critical skill to maintaining healthy relationships. There are three basic components to an assertiveness statement and one optional component, as explained below:
37 Rules to Fighting Fair
Thousands of people have written about fighting fair. Here’s a compilation of some fair fighting rules. Resources are available at the bottom. All partners and couples engage in conflict, but the key is resolving conflict without being destructive.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to Fighting Fair. I suggest copying and pasting it to a word document, then add and substract to tailor it to you, and print off a couple copies (one for you, and one for your partner). When you start really getting into it, both of you should have these near you to remind yourself of how to fight FAIR!
1. Deal with the Here and Now. What is the specific problem right now? Anything older than 24 hours is garbage, so no garbage-dumping!
2. Take responsibility. Use “I” statements as a way to show you are taking responsibility for your own feelings and actions.
3. Be direct and honest about your feelings and what you want.
4. Listen and hear! Try to deal with the other person’s perceptions of the situation as well as your own. Be aware of his/her feelings as well as your own. Check to see whether what you heard is really what the other person is trying to express, and ask him to let you know what she hears you saying.
5. Give the other person equal time. Both people need to express their feelings and points of view to create a full mutual understanding.
6. Attack the issue, not the person. Name-calling puts people in a position to respond angrily and defensively. This is usually used when a person feels he is losing. Name-calling breaks down communication and destroys trust in the relationship.
7. Take a breather by paraphrasing what you think you heard them saying. “I understand you want to tell me about your day but I need a few minutes to finish what I am doing.” This gives you time to think about your response.
8. Focus on solving a problem/reaching a solution rather than venting your anger or winning a victory. Think win-win.
9. Deal with one issue at a time. No fair piling several complaints into one session. Some people call this “kitchen-sinking” – talking about everything including the kitchen sink!
10. Limit your discussion/fight to no more than 30 minutes. Adults have relatively short attention spans – just look at television programming to confirm this. Long drawn out discussions/fights rarely reach resolution. Instead they just wear the participants out. And when you are worn out, the potential of saying or doing something you’ll regret is much greater. If you are unable to solve your problem in the 30 minutes that you’ve allotted, schedule another time to continue.
11. Brainstorm solutions. Be willing to compromise. Give a little to get a little.
12. Go forth as equals. Don’t use power plays. Gauge the intensity of your anger to the ego strengths of the other person and be responsible with the things your mate has entrusted to you in your relationship. YOU ARE ON THE SAME TEAM.
13. When necessary, take a time-out. A time-out is a short break to cool off, calm down and get perspective. Think of it like pushing the pause button on a video. It’s an opportunity to restore calm and be more reflective instead of reactive. Use the time-out to reflect on why you feel the way you do and how to express yourself in a positive way. Try to think about the other person’s feelings and point of view. Think things through before you speak. Then “push play” again and return to each other to resolve the issues calmly. A time-out should be at least a half-hour long (but no longer than twenty-four hours). It takes at least a half-hour for your body’s physiology to return to a normal resting state and for your thoughts to become less hostile or defensive. It’s surprising how different a person’s outlook can be after they’ve had a chance to calm down.
14. Give each other the ability to withdraw or change their mind.
15. Speak softly. If you and your partner have a natural tendency to raise your voice, try whispering.
16. Identify and Define your issue or topic, and stick to it! Don’t change the subject or bring in unrelated items. If you have a different item you’d like discuss, save it for the next discussion.
17. Hold hands. (We are not fighting each other, but talking over a problem we are mutually trying to resolve. )
18. Ask questions that will clarify, not judge. A question should never begin with the word “why.” That puts people on the defensive — and we know that defensiveness stops conversation rather than continues it.
1. Don’t Refer to past mistakes and incidences. No garbage-dumping!
2. Don’t Blame. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements which automatically blame, making the other person defensive.
3. Don’t make comparisons to other people, stereotypes, or situations.
4. Don’t play games. A game is being played when you are not being straight about your feelings, and when you are not being direct and honest about what you want or need in a situation. Examples of games are; poor me; silent treatment; martyr; don’t touch me; uproar; kick me; if it weren’t for you…; yes, but…; see what you made me do; and if you loved me…
5. Don’t involve other people’s opinions of the situation (e.g.: “John’s mother agrees with me.”) The only opinions which are relevant are those of the two attempting to communicate at the time.
6. Don’t make threats (e.g., “Do this or else!”). Threats back people into a corner and they may choose the ultimatum in order to save face. You may find later you really do not want to carry out your threat.
7. Don’t demand to win. If you do, your discussion will surely become an argument.
8. Don’t say “always” and “never”. (“You always…” “You never…”) These are usually exaggerations and will put the other person on the defensive.
9. Don’t interrupt, talk over or make comments while the other person is speaking. Watch your non-verbal expressions too. Rolling eyes, smirking, yawning etc. all work against fair fighting.
10. Don’t walk away or leave the house without saying to your partner, “I’ll be back”.
11. No finger pointing.
12. Don’t save up feelings and dump them all at once, try to air feelings often.
13. Try not to yell.
14. No talk of Divorce. In the heat of an argument, threatening to leave the relationship is manipulative and hurtful. It creates anxiety about being abandoned and undermines your ability to resolve your issues. It quickly erodes your partner’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship. Trust is not easily restored once it is broken in this way. It makes the problems in your relationship seem much bigger than they need to be.
13. Don’t read your partner’s mind.
14. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind.
15. Don’t use the following: swearing, denunciation, obscenities, character assassination, contempt, sarcasm, or taunting.
16. Do not assume, guess, imagine, take for granted, theorize, surmise, speculate, make gestures, judgments, funny glances or faces about what your partner means. Find out!
17. No belittling each other’s accomplishments. No matter how small or odd they may be.
18. Don’t be afraid to apologize when you are wrong. It shows you are trying.
19. Don’t argue about details. Avoid exchanges like, “You were 20 minutes late,” “No, I was only 13 minutes late.” (An easy way to distract from the problem.)
Nadine Duckworth, M.Ed. Registered Provisional Psychologist