If doesn’t do much good for you to talk if your partner isn’t listening to you.  For real communication to happen, you have to have both a Sender and a Receiver, a Talker and a Listener.  Intimacy can’t happen if both aren’t present in the exchange.  True intimacy, understanding, and a sense of visibility happen when you experience your partner receiving your message exactly as you’ve sent it.  You, as the Sender, experience congruence between the intent of your message and your partner’s understanding of it.  Strangely, in this model of communication both partners feel closer because BOTH the Talker and the Listener truly hear the Talker.  This may seem like a one-way street; however, real communication involves partners taking turns providing this experience to each other.  In this model, real communication happens because both partners equally participate in co-creating an experience of mutuality.  Partners feel seen, heard, and visible because they are each willing to give in order to get.

I’ll speak more on this model in other posts, but at it’s most basic this model requires the presence of “I” messages.  Unfortunately, we are masters of “You” messages that place blame, tell the Listener about yourself, and often come across as an attack.  The Listener in response may pull away, shut down, or attack back.  In this model the Talker takes self-responsibility for his or her truth by using “I” rather than “You.”  Following this simple outline increases the likelihood that the Talker will have the experience of being listened to by the Listener which is a win/win for both of you.

The simple outline for “I” messages is:

  1. When you ____________ (specific action)…
  2. I feel _____________ (how it affects you)…
  3. Because I perceive ______________ (thoughts, perceptions)…
  4. And I would like________________ (request for change)…

This exercise is often easier for the Talker than the Listener as the Listener often has a number of things going on that get in the way of truly listening to the Talker such as thinking your own thoughts while the Talker is talking, impatiently waiting to break into the conversation, or silently preparing your rebuttal.  Realize that this is about taking turns in order to create true intimacy, connection, visibility and a sense of being understood by your partner.  As the Listener this does not mean that you have to agree with the message.  Don’t believe that working to understand your partner’s point of view means you’ll have to sacrifice your own.  Your job in this exchange is to hear it and understand it just as you will look to your partner to do the same for you when it is your turn.