The number one issue that couples come in with is help with their communication. Usually a fight will escalate when partners lose their focus on exactly what it is that they are fighting about! I really like what Terence Real calls The Feedback Wheel. It’s similar to a standard ‘active listening’ model and it’s not as easy to do as it seems.
Here are the 4 steps he writes about in The New Rules of Marriage and some of the typical mistakes couples make when using it as a model.
- Ask your partner if he is willing to listen. This is a crucial step. It elicits the partner’s agreement to be involved in a discussion.
- Remember that your motivation is that you love him. Also a very important internal step to first be grounded in your care for him and your relationship before launching into your communication.
- Begin the Feedback Wheel by sticking to the following steps:
- What you saw/heard about one particular event.
- What you have ‘made up’ about it
- How you feel about it
- What you would like to have happen in the future.
- LET GO OF THE OUTCOME
Sticking to these guidelines is more difficult than it looks. Usually it takes some coaching and practice in therapy to do it correctly. Letting go of the outcome is crucial because it underscores the fact that it is not possible to control your partner. Your part is to limit your communication strictly to what you actually saw or heard and acknowledges that you have interpreted this a certain way – what you made up about it’ and then how it made you feel. Finally you can talk about how you would like it to be in the future. And then let it go – the outcome- and see what happens.