The Sender’s role

  • Ask your partner if this is an OK time to talk.  “I’d like to dialog with you. Is now a good time?”
  • If they say “no”, respect their answer and ask them to let you know, sometime in the next 24 hours, when they’d be willing to dialogue. “I understand that now doesn’t work for you. This is important to me. When in the next day or so works best for you?”
  • If your partner is someone who finds such talks difficult, be willing to take the lead. “It seems to me that you have something on your mind. Would you like to dialog with me about it?”

  • Respectfully share what you want to say.
  • Use “I” statements.
  • Pause – so Receiver can mirror. If your partner does not mirror, ask them to do so in a non-demanding manner. “Could you please let me know the gist of what you have heard?”
  • Accept/ correct the mirroring, as needed. “That’s not quite it.”
  • Stay focused. Stick to your topic and make it only one topic per dialogue!
  • Keep sharing until you’ve said it all.

Statement of Intentionality  

  • Begin with an introductory statement that helps your partner feel safe about “what” and “how” you are going to send.  “I want you to know that I am sharing this with you because I care about our relationship.”  Or, “I want this to be a win-win discussion.”

Show appreciation

  • If you like the way your partner mirrors what you have said, SAY SO! “Thank you for hearing me. It really helped.”

Use “I” statements 

  • “I” statements are those that begin with the word “I” and describe how you feel and /or need or desire.  References to others are made without judgment and/or attribution of motive.  
  • “I” statements reduce the blaming caused by “you” statements. (”You don’t care about my feelings . . .” “You make me . . .”) ”When you interrupt me, I feel disrespected and dismissed.” Or, “When you don’t call, I start to get scared and angry . . .”  
  • Note: “I think that you . . .”, does not qualify as an “I” statement.

Select your words carefully 

  • It is inflammatory to blame, label, mind-read or use absolutes (e.g., ”you always” and “you never”).
  • It is quite acceptable to say: “I feel unloved when you don’t talk to me”.
  • It is NOT acceptable to say: “You never talk to me because you are selfish and do not love me.”

Maintain non-threatening, non-accusatory tone of voice and body language

  • If your voice is angry, your partner will have no choice but to put up their defenses and they will have a difficult time mirroring. If you cannot remove the anger, it is not a good time to ask for a dialogue. Wait until you are more calm. 

As you are sharing your version of the facts it can be useful to say:

  • “An example of [this] is …
  • “The story I make up in my head about [this] is …
  • “My fear about [this] is …
  • “What [this] symbolizes to me is …
  • “What [this] reminds me of from my own childhood is …
  • “What I wish you would have done is ….
  • “My hope is that…
  • “Before you respond to me, to help me feel safe, what I need from you is [X].

Your partner may offer a summary. This is optional.

  • If a lot has been said, the Receiver may offer a summary. If needed, offer clarifications and corrections.
  • If a summary has not been offered and you would like one, simply ask, “Could you please let me know the gist of what you have heard?”

Your partner validates and/or asks for more information.

  • In this step, your partner lets you know what parts are making logical sense to them and any parts that need clarification.   The Sender agrees: “Yes, that’s right.” 
  •  If needed, make gentle corrections or additions.  “That’s not quite it.  Let me try again to say it in different words.”  “Not exactly.”
  • If the Receiver has not offered validation, gently ask,  “Is this making sense to you?”

Your partner may empathize with you.

  • If they understood your feelings about the situation, you can thank them, “Yes, I feel [frustrated]. Thank you for caring.”
  •  If they didn’t quite get how you are feeling, you can correct them.  “That’s not quite it.  I’m feeling more like frustrated than sad.” 

  • When done, thank your partner for listening and ask if they would like a chance to reply.  If they say “yes”, move into the role of the Receiver.
  • “Thanks for listening.” “Would you like to switch?”
Scroll to Top