By Tammy Nelson, PhD
Mirroring, validating and empathizing are a type of dialogue developed by Harville Hendrix, the author of Getting the Love You Want, a book about couple’s therapy. The dialogue is a structured technique that you can use to talk to each other that helps with communications. This dialogue has worked for thousands of couples around the world. It is a way that may help you to talk about conflict and frustration in your relationship. To practice, ask your partner:
“Is now a good time to talk?”
And then ask your partner to join you in a comfortable place where you can sit and dialogue together. You will each have time to share your thoughts and feelings on a limited topic, one you agree to talk about. Start with something easy and not too frustrating. Remember, this may feel corny and unnatural at first. But if you practice this technique, later on it will be a helpful tool to feel heard and seen when you want to discuss something difficult in your relationship.
Pick who will be the sender and who will be the receiver first. The sender starts and will say one thing that they feel about the topic, and then the receiver will mirror back what they hear. The receiver will ask “Is there more?” And then they will continue to mirror and ask, “Is there more?” until the sender says, “That’s enough for now.” The receiver will then validate and empathize.
Then you will switch and the receiver will send over their thoughts about the issue. Below is a simple worksheet to follow these directions.
This is a good format to practice as you continue to move into more difficult conversations.
Remember, mirroring means simply repeating back what you hear your partner saying. (For example, if your partner says “I appreciate you listening to me without commenting,” you simply reply by mirroring, “You appreciate that I am listening without commenting.” This mirroring makes your partner feel seen and heard and gives a space to the dialogue. It also allows you some time to listen and hear what they have to say without having to reply or jump into any action.)
The following is a dialogue example you can use to help you to follow the process.
IMAGO DIALOGUE PROCESS
Sender: One thing I would like to say about THE TOPIC is:
Receiver: Mirror: So one thing you would like to say about THE TOPIC is: (simply repeat what they say)
Then ask: Is there more?
Receiver: - Knowing you the way I know you it makes sense you would think that/feel that because:
OR (if it does not make sense) Tell me more about that:
Receiver : I imagine you must feel:
And: Are there other things you feel?
Thank you for sharing this with me.
Dr. Tammy Nelson PhD, LPC is a licensed psychotherapist and author with over 20 years experience working with individuals and couples. She is also the author of several books including “Getting the Sex You Want” and “Whats Eating You?” She travels worldwide to train therapists, doctors and health practitioners. Her passion is to help couples increase their connection regardless of boredom or conflict. Tammy works with clients of all genders, sexual identities and ages to re-charge their relationships and create long-term connection. Her new book “The New Monogamy; Erotic Recovery after Infidelity” will be released in 2012. To connect with Tammy visit http://www.drtammynelson.com/.