Imago Exercise #2: Intentional Dialogue
Last month I talked about the importance of safety in a conscious relationship. The process we use in Imago therapy to communicate safely is called intentional dialogue.
This week my wife and I had our first scuba diving experience. Being able to breathe underwater for long periods of time was a completely new experience for both of us but we loved it. We had a great instructor and we were in a pool where we knew we were safe. The specific safety precautions our instructor taught us however will become more important as we move into deeper water.
Think of the intentional dialogue process as you would scuba diving. The processes become more important as we move into the deeper issues in our relationship but they ensure safety. There are three parts to the intentional dialogue process – mirroring, validation and empathy.
This is a reflective process that assures your partner that you have heard his/her perception and experience of the situation. Before you can respond, you need to mirror back what you have heard to his/her satisfaction. It is a flat mirror, no add, no subtract – “This is what you said. Did I get it?”
This is the recognition that the inner experience of the person you are speaking with makes sense from his or her perspective, that what he or she says is “true” for them and has its own logic. Validation does not mean that you agree with the other person. It simply means that you recognize and accept that the other person has also had an experience and that his or her point of view, while it may be different from yours, has equal validity. Remember that others are not you.
This is the ability to communicate to another person that you hear and understand his or her feelings and that they make sense. You may not be experiencing the same feelings, but you must learn to accept and acknowledge that your partner is experiencing their feelings.
Once a week, take 10 minutes and practice on a non-issue in your relationship using the intentional dialogue process. Like the scuba diving lesson in the pool, make it safe and have fun. We all get better with practice.