The most commonly referenced goal I hear from couples in counseling is their desire to have better communication. It doesn’t take me long to see why they are failing –  they don’t follow the basic steps to a conversation. They argue about different subjects and don’t do a good job of understanding one another. Follow these six steps to have affective and successful conversations:

  1. Identify the subject
  • It’s astonishing to learn how many couples fight over different subjects, but believe they are talking about the same topic. Spend enough time on this step, in order to avoid a doomed conversation. There is no way you will have a productive conversation if you don’t agree what the real subject is. It’s often helpful to restate the agreed upon subject multiple times during the conversation just to ensure you both stay on topic.
  1. 1st person explains their thoughts and feelings about the subject. (It doesn’t matter who goes 1st or 2nd.)
  • This is your opportunity to share exactly what you think, feel, want or don’t want. Don’t try to guess what your partner is thinking, feeling, or going to say in response to your points. Use “I feel” or “I believe” and try avoiding “You” statements.
  1. 2nd person expresses understanding of what the 1st person shared or asks for clarification if they don’t understand. Once 1st person clarifies, 2nd person then validates (expresses understanding). Examples: “I hear you. Ok, that makes sense. I can understand where you are coming from.”
  2. 2nd person explains their thoughts and feelings about the subject.
  • This is your opportunity to share exactly what you think, feel, want or don’t want. Don’t try to guess what your partner is thinking, feeling, or going to say in response to your points. Use “I feel” or “I believe” and try avoiding “You” statements.
  1. 1st person expresses understanding of what the 2nd person shared or asks for clarification. Once 2nd person clarifies, 1st person then validates (expresses understanding). Examples: “I hear you. Ok, that makes sense. I can understand where you are coming from.
  2. Exercise comprise and practice using a team mentality (“we’re in this together”) and make a decision together. If you find yourselves stuck, the person who is more emotionally affected by the outcome gets to choose.

These steps should be used in all of your meaningful conversations. Follow them and enjoy the benefits of healthy communication.

– Joshua Emery