The 12 days of Christmas Relationship Tips
2. Safe Conversation
Having safe conversation is a structured process that allows two people to talk to each other about anything but in a safe manner. Safe Conversations takes things out of the power struggle (I am right and you are wrong). It simply makes sure each partner hears what the other says and then validates that what they are saying makes sense (to the partner). You don’t have to agree with them. The third step is a guess at the feelings – what might your partner be feeling at the time?
A three-step process:
One person is the sender, the other the receiver. Before the receiver can respond he or she must mirror back accurately what their partner has just said. This must be done at their partner’s satisfaction. It really is just making sure you hear your partner. This is because, especially if there is a charge on an issue, you might only hear 70 or 80% or what your partner says, which is really a distortion.
If your partner only hears 80% of your reply that is a distortion of a distortion. Pretty soon it is chaos. It slows things down for sure, but remember that old brain of ours from yesterday. The old brain wants to defend itself if it senses danger. The mirroring simply makes sure you really hear what your partner is saying. A good rule of thumb is: if you feel defensive, it is a good time to mirror.
After the receiver has heard the sender accurately, the next step is to validate that what the sender has said, makes sense to him or her. Again, you don’t have to agree, but your partner is not crazy. They see things from their background, the upbringing, quirks and quarks. Your validation of what they are saying gets you into their shoes and allows you to see the situation from their perspective (which might be quite different from yours).
Validation takes things out of the power struggle. The power struggle tends to be I am right and you are wrong. If I can validate my partner and she can validate me, we can move to a third position we can both live with. For 30 years, if I can keep people in the Safe Conversation process, they will sort things out. And it is not like a cookie cutter; what might work for one couple might not work for my wife and me but if we keep talking we will figure out what will work for us.
Empathy is a guess at the feelings, that your partner might be feeling at the time the situation. whatever it was, arose. Feelings are usually one word, although there could be a number of feelings attached to any situation.
Then the receiver becomes the sender and the sender now becomes the receiver who in turn mirrors, validates and empathizes with their partner.
2nd Holiday Relationship Tip
Experiment with dialogue. When conflict shows up, request time together to explore what’s triggered it and try using the Safe Conversation process. It is a new skill and like any new skill will take practice but it is so worth it to be able to talk with your partner about anything in a safe manner.