If safety is all-important in a relationship, and if the past does affect the present, and since talking is the main way we communicate with each other, then we absolutely must learn to talk to our partner in a safe way – about anything. The Safe Conversations process ensures partners do just that. It is a great skill or tool to have when you need it. Most of us have a drill at home. It is not that we necessarily want a drill, but if we need a hole somewhere, a drill is a good tool to get the hole drilled quickly and efficiently. Same with the Safe Conversations process – it is a tool or skill that is useful when you need it. It consists of three steps – mirroring, validation, and empathizing.
In the Safe Conversation process, there is a sender and a receiver. Before the receiver can reply, they need to mirror back what they have heard their partner (the sender) say to their partner’s satisfaction. It is a flat mirror, no additions nor subtractions. “Here is what I heard you say, did I get it?”
In a less conscious relationship, especially if there is a charge on an issue, the receiver might hear 60, 70, or even 80% of what their partner says. This is a distortion. Then, if their partner only hears 80% of that reply, it really is a distortion of distortion. Pretty soon the conversation can go south pretty quickly.
Sometimes, it might be just one word that the sender feels is important, that the receiver missed. When two people are arguing, however, they would never get a chance to make sure they were heard correctly. In an argument, typically when one person stops to take a breath, the other person jumps in, and generally, neither is really listening. The Safe Conversation process allows the sender to resend the piece that is important to him or her that their partner missed.
A good rule of thumb – if you feel defensive or if there is a charge on an issue – it is probably a good time to mirror. “Let me see if I’ve got that ….”
Next week we will look at the Validation and Empathy pieces of the Safe Conversation process.