Lately, a good friend sent me a link to a video on ‘Intentional Dialogue’, a relationship tool invented by Harville Hendrix. I found it really helpful for changing an argument into a constructive conversation. Top tip: make sure you’re not hungry before you do this process.
For me, the best approach was to watch the video. Below is my brief summary.
I suspect that if we all listened more deeply, our relationships, plus our music, would improve! Here’s to more listening in our world.
There are 2 people in the dialogue: in the original framework they’re called the ‘sender’ and the ‘receiver’, but I call them the sharer and the listener.
1. SCHEDULE a time to talk.
Sharer: I’d like to do an intentional dialogue. Can we do it now?
If the other person is not available right then, it’s advisable to schedule a time in the next 48 hours.
Sharer’s goal: respectfully share what they want to say. Their message should start with “I” and describe their feelings. Example: “I feel hurt when you talk down to me.”
Listener’s goal: listen to the sharer without distorting their thoughts and feelings; let sharer be heard without judgement. Listener does not paraphrase, but sticks to original language as closely as possible, e.g. “You feel hurt when I talk down to you.”
a) Sharer: When …. happened, I felt …
b) Listener: When … happened to you, you felt …
c) Listener checks they got the message correct: Did I get it?
d) If mirroring was accurate, sharer says Yes and moves on to next message, or next step.
If mirroring was not accurate, sharer says No, shares their message again, and the listener tries to mirror again until they get it.
Listener’s goal: to validate the sharer’s feelings. As Dr. Hendrix says, “It’s not enough just to be heard, … It’s ‘Do you see that I’m not crazy?’ ” Try to see the logic in the sharer’s experience, to understand their reasoning, to see the cause-and-effect between their experiences and their emotions. The listener does not have to agree with the sharer’s experience to validate it.
a) Listener validates what sharer said: It makes sense to me that [you thought … when … happened].
b) Listener checks that sharer feels validated: Did I get it?
c) If sharer feels validated, sharer says Yes and moves on to next message, or next step.
If sharer does not feel validated, sharer says No. Listener tries to validate again until they get it.
Listener’s goal: Put themselves in the sharer’s shoes, and guess what the sharer might be feeling.
a) Listener empathises with what sharer said: I can imagine that [you felt … when … happened].
b) Listener checks that sharer feels their empathy: Did I get it?
c) If sharer feels that they have been empathised with, sharer says Yes and moves on to next message, or next step.
If sharer does not feel that they have been empathised with, sharer says No. Listener tries to express empathy again until they get it.
a) Listener: Is there anything I could say that would help?
b) Sharer: It would help me to hear you say [ …. ].
c) Listener: […]
d) Sharer: Thanks for listening. Would you like to switch?