Many couples come to therapy with the goal of communicating better. I have found that it is not a skill set that is lacking. They once knew how to communicate very well. They once did not feel like things were as hard to disclose and receive as they are at present. I want to share with you one tip that has changed the way many of these couples communicate for the better. Here it is:
The goal of healthy communication is not to agree with each other, or to convince the other of your intentions. Rather, the goal is simply to understand the other’s perceptions to his or her satisfaction.
This is a dramatic shift. It is as if the spotlight is no longer on the person speaking and the spotlight has shifted on to the hearer. The hearer is the one that determines if there is any relationship progress through the conversation because the speaker already knows what they are trying to say. The hearer is the one getting the new information. And some more good news is that the hearer doesn’t have to agree with the speaker or plan their rebuttal, the hearer’s goal is to help the speaker feel understood. Validation that what they shared is their perspective and experience is not synonymous with agreement. This is freeing.