A core part of accepting and embracing each other is uncovering and understanding the meaning of each person’s position in conflict, finding out what things mean to each person. Anything worth fighting about has a meaning or value underneath. Sometimes, conflicts are calls to be understood, accepted, or loved.
We spend a lot of our thinking during an argument not taking anything in, instead, we frame our rebuttals. This exercise is designed to short circuit this ‘rebuttal’ process and hear each other before trying to solve the problem.
This is a core skill in several Gottman interventions.
Before anyone engages in Persuasion, they each have to be able to summarize their partner’s position to their partner’s satisfaction. But this is a far deeper process than the Active Listening exercise. It requires each person to interview their partner(s) extensively about their partner’s position, and to ask questions, and summarize and validate their partner’s position. This can’t be done when the Four Horsemen are present; we need to facilitate a climate of compassion, understanding, and acceptance.
Assumption of Similarity
Each person will agree to the following. If you find yourself attributing a positive trait to yourself, try to see some of this trait in your partner. If you find yourself attributing a negative trait to your partner, try to see some of this trait in yourself as well.
- While one topic is often connected on a web of other topics, focus on one specific to discuss.
- Decide who will start as the speaker and who will start as the listener.
Speaker, your task is to talk about the topic from your point of view
- No blaming, criticism, or contempt
- No “you” statements
- Talk about your feelings
- Only use “I statements” about a (one) specific situation
- State positive needs. Within every complaint there is a longing. When that longing is expressed, a recipe for how to fulfill it may emerge
Don’t argue for or try to persuade your partner of your point of view, just explain how you see things. Focus on thoughts and feelings.
Listener, your job here is to help your partner feel safe enough to tell you their point of view You can help by suspending judgement and not act like a judge, rather someone who is curious.
- Postpone your own agenda and hear and repeat the content of the Speaker’s needs and perspective (the story). Take notes on what the partner says, capturing the essence of it;
- Hear the Speaker’s affect (name affects, feel them). Tell the Speaker what you heard the Speaker saying. The goal is to do this to the Speaker’s satisfaction.
- Validate the Speaker by completing the sentence, “It makes sense to me that you would feel that way and have these needs, because…”
- OK to ask questions, but only to deepen your understanding of your partner’s needs. Ask questions for clarification and elaboration (for example, an unacceptable question would be, “How could you do this to me?”).
At first you may be stopping quite often as you realize how often you are using the Four Horsemen in their daily interaction. Be supportive of each other and willing to take time to reset and reframe. We may need to take time out’s when flooded.
Don’t try to solve the problem (yet)! It is much too soon for that. You first need to end the opposition of dreams and become one another’s friend instead of foe. Try to understand the meaning of your partner’s dream. Be interested.
The listener will summarize the speaker’s message. If the summary has something that is not accurate, or something missing, the speaker will re-explain and the listener will keep attempting to correct the summary. When the summary is accurate, the speaker and listener will trade roles.
Once Rapoport’s conditions are met, persuasion can then begin in a structured fashion. You will have to be very active in keeping this discussion on track, we are building new habits on how we will “fight” at home. Use the two-oval method of compromise where needed.
Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to me here.