In our Raising Consciousness NOW interview with Debbie delaCuesta, we talk about “Intentional Dialogue,” an important tool in a conscious relationship.
Using the Intentional Dialogue will help uncover the reasons beneath any reactivity or expressed emotions with our intimate partner. Learning the three parts of the Intentional Dialogue is the first step towards safe and authentic communication. We also need to form a mindset that allows us to bring our hearts to each and every dialogue, with the ultimate goal of knowing each other as deeply as possible.
The Intentional Dialogue is the vehicle that will help us reach that destination. We are the drivers of that vehicle. With good intentions and plenty of practice, we can learn to navigate our lives together more consciously and with fewer accidents and breakdowns.
The keys to an effective dialogue are consciousness, curiosity and commitment. When we are conscious in the way we speak, we take responsibility for our actions and feelings. We own “our stuff” rather than blame our partner.
When we are conscious in the way we listen, we set our opinions aside and are present to our partner. As a curious listener, we want to know our partner’s story – why they are the way they are rather being judgmental or offering solutions. Our partner doesn’t need to be fixed. They want to be heard and validated. As we commit to the dialogue, we will naturally slow down, cross the bridge to our partner’s world and step into their shoes. Truly knowing them and allowing them to know us is a gift to the relationship.
In Intentional Dialogue, the sender talks about a concern, an issue, or a feeling they are having. The listener stays curious.
Step One: Mirroring
The first step in the Intentional Dialogue is called mirroring. The sender says what is on their mind and the listener mirrors, or repeats, the content of the sender’s words. The listener is curious about the sender’s thoughts and feelings and puts aside any judgments, assumptions, or thoughts of their own and simply repeats what is said. The listener’s responses begin with phrases like, “What I hear you saying is…” or “Let me see if I got that…” After mirroring each phrase or statement, the listener then asks, “Did I get that?” and the sender answers, “Yes,” or, “What you missed is…” The listener then asks, “Is there more?” The process continues until the sender says there is no more. The listener then gives a summary of what the sender said.
Step Two: Validation
In this step, the listener expresses their understanding of the sender’s reality. The listener does not need to agree with what the sender has said, but must do their best to understand and validate the sender’s point of view. The listener says, “You make sense because…” or “It makes sense that…” The important part of step two is that the listener conveys an understanding of why the sender’s statements make sense.
Step Three: Empathy
Finally, the listener acknowledges the sender’s concerns by showing empathy for the sender’s point of view and focuses on what the sender might be feeling and says, “I imagine you are feeling…” or “It seems like you might be…” (Feelings should be expressed as single words.) To this, the sender either confirms, adds to, or expresses other feelings they have, then thanks the listener. The sender and listener then reverse roles. The dialogue continues until both partners are finished.
If you are trying Intentional Dialogue for the first time, we suggest simple topics. Once you’ve become more comfortable with the process, you can tackle more challenging subjects.
About the Authors
Nevin Valentine and Darrell Holdaway are Relationship Coaches. They mentor couples and help them achieve a shared vision and a deeper connection. They believe that each of us is drawn to the perfect partner for growth and healing and that conflict is the greatest opportunity to regain our wholeness. They teach the Intentional Dialogue, a transformational communication process that promotes understanding, validation and empathy. This skill is also the primary tool they use in the workshops they lead. Read more about Nevin and Darrell.