Dare To Be Transparent: Have A Different Conversation

 

Talking in a real way about your thoughts and feelings to someone you love can often be a lot easier said than done. It’s easy to feel confused about where to begin and what to say.

Taking the risk and letting someone see inside your brain and heart is easier when you two have a framework for listening to each other. A framework that easily conveys care and interest. Sit down with your significant other and start building this framework with the help of the guidelines below.

Or, if that feels too risky, the next time your partner is talking about work or friends,  you can practice these guidelines on your own for five minutes and see how it feels.

If five minutes seems too much, try two minutes. Or one. Just try it and see what happens. I dare you.

For at least 5 minutes, every day

Don’t talk about your relationship.

 

Yes, I’m suggesting that you consciously not talk about your relationship with your partner.

Instead, focus on telling each other about your respective days. For these 10 minutes, the goal is to listen to your partner and show them you care. To facilitate this, I want you to try to adhere to the following guidelines*:

 

1. Stay Present & Show Interest

Keep eye contact with your partner. If your mind wanders off, immediately bring it back to your partner. Try using encouraging gestures and speech (e.g., nod your head, say mm-hmm) to keep the conversation going.

 

2. Focus On The Feelings, Not The Information

As you listen to your partner, notice the feelings you hear in their story and reflect them back to your partner.

An Example:

Partner: “I wonder why she didn’t invite me to the dinner party?”

Focusing on the information: “You don’t even like her cooking!”

Focusing on the feelings: “You are really confused and hurt by this. ”

 

3.Do not give advice unless you are **clearly** asked for advice.

Advice, even good advice, tends to feel jarring when someone is looking for empathy. If your partner asks for advice, sure, go ahead and give them your opinion. Otherwise, for these 10 minutes, think about staying away from advice and concentrate on communicating that you get your partner’s experience.

 

4. Use phrases that show you understand.

Show your partner that you understand them. It may be difficult, but try to find at least one part of their story that you grasp and tell them you get it.

Typical ways to communicate understanding:

“I can see why you feel that way.”
“I think I’d feel the same in that situation.”
“That makes sense.”

 

5. Take your partner’s side.

For the purpose of this exercise, take your partner’s side as they tell the story. For instance, if your partner is telling you how their boss chastised them for being late to a meeting, do not remind your partner how annoying it is when they are late for an appointment with you. Instead, put yourself in their shoes and express that you are on their team.

One Example:

“Your boss chastised you in front of the whole staff? That wasn’t necessary.”

 

If you choose to try this with your partner remember that the intention is to communicate “I’m with you, I understand you.”

 
 
*These guidelines are adapted from the work of Dr. John Gottman.