Can you recommend a technique to help improve communication?
I think active listening is one of the most important techniques. Like I’ve said before that hearing and listening are 2 different things. I could hear the words but not really listen to what they mean. Active listening is a lot of repetition of what the partner is saying, saying things in very short sentences, so not going on for 10 minutes because a lot of times people get lost in all of the words, so really minimizing the length of when we’re talking and then having the partner repeat that. If they didn’t get the whole thing, asking for clarification, saying, “This is what I heard. Is that correct?” Then the other person would say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I said.” Or, “No, this was really the essence of it.” It’s really about getting to the essence of what the person wants to communicate.
Another technique that they do in Imago Therapy is called PMS. That’s when we want to communicate a request. A lot of the thinking is black or white. He never does this, or she never does that, or I want him to do this, and that could be very overwhelming for someone. PMS stands for Positive, Measured, and Specific. An example of that would be I would like to have dinner with you twice a week for the next week. That doesn’t seem very overwhelming because it’s very specific, it’s a positive request, and it’s measurable. It has a beginning and an end, instead of, “We need to have dinner together more often.”
Or we never eat together!!
Or we never eat together, exactly. Those are just 2 ways that communication can improve and it’s setting these little tidbits of tools. Basically, the way that I describe it to my couples is you guys come in here and you don’t have a toolbox. We create a toolbox and every session, you get another tool and you get another tool, and sometimes you get 2 or 3 tools in 1 session. When you’re home and that’s why this is a conscious process, and it does take work, and I always say, “The therapy doesn’t necessarily happen in the hour that you’re in my session. The therapy happens when you walk out my door and then you start implementing some of the stuff that we’ve talked about, but now you have a toolbox. You have active listening. You have a learning how to do a request. You know how to cross over to another person’s world and listen to where they’re coming from. You’re able to trust and you know what you’re feeling to be able to express that better. Each session builds, they build on each other.