The first goal in my work with couples is to teach a method of speaking and listening using research based communication concepts. These concepts include “I” statements, non-defensive or active listening, and asking clearly for what you want.
It’s more difficult than it looks. The key problem is most of us did not grow up in families where effective communication was either taught or modeled.
As a result, we learned some very bad lessons which keep us unhappy in our relationships.
These bad lessons are called “cognitive distortions” or unhealthy rules/beliefs about the way we should relate to each other, including blaming, criticizing, mind-reading, and black and white thinking. Click here for more examples and definitions.
In the exercise, the speaker only makes “I” statements, identifies and expresses feelings and says what they wish for.
The listener only active listens, reflecting what the speaker is saying, using the speakers words, and helping them say more about their thoughts, feelings and wishes.