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Three Skills of Intimate Conversations

Introduced by the Gottman Institute, this exercise will help you make your conversations deeper and more personal, drawing people towards you.



Try opening up an intimate conversation with an open ended question; that is, a question that can not be answered with a yes or no. Examples are in the Gottman Card Decks. After you have started, take a look at the skills below. They are designed to help you explore and talk about your feelings as the conversation proceeds. If your partner asks you something about how you feel, but you’re not sure how to put feelings into words, look over the first list, and say aloud which feelings are true for you. It’s ok to name more than one, since people often experience a blend of feelings.


Skill # 1 Putting Your Feelings into Words, “I feel _____”


acceptedI know I am likedunderstoodrejectedlike you dislike me
misunderstoodun / appreciatedabandonedconnectedun / accepted
close to youdistant from youafraidamusedbelligerent
neglectedbittercomfortablecritical of youuncomfortable
aweclumsy, awkwardbelittledinsultedhungry
tiredexhaustedI have no energylike boastingdepressed
surprisedLike arguingI appreciate youlike bragginganguished
like a failureashamedapprehensivelot of mixed feelingsshy
hornyromanticunattractiveambivalentlike apologizing
regretfuldisgustedafraidhappy / joyfulI am not sure how I feel
righteously indignantlike an innocent victimI want to assert my rightslike you don’t even like melike hitting / kicking something


Skill #2 Ask Questions During an Intimate Conversation


After a conversation has begun, if you want to explore your partner’s feelings and thoughts, one of the best tools you can use is asking questions that open the heart. Here are some examples you can try. Anytime during the conversation, look over the list below and read aloud a question that you’d like to ask your partner.


  1. What are you feeling?
  2. What else are you feeling?
  3. What are your primary needs here?
  4. What do you really wish for?
  5. How did this all evolve?
  6. Who are the main characters in these feelings you’re talking about?
  7. What would you really like to say, and to whom?
  8. What are the feelings you are afraid to even think about?
  9. Do you have any mixed feelings? What are they?
  10. What are your choices as you see them?
  11. What are the positive and negative aspects of each of your choices?
  12. Do you think this has affected our (or another) relationship? If so, how?
  13. Is there some way you wish you could have done things differently? How so?
  14. What are your obligations (duties) here?
  15. Do you have a choice to make?
  16. What would you really like to ask me?
  17. What do your values tell you about all this?
  18. Think of someone you really admire. What would they do and how would they view the situation?
  19. Do these feelings and needs have any spiritual, moral, ethical, or religious meaning for you?
  20. Is there anyone or anything you disapprove of here?
  21. Is there anything or anyone you admire here?
  22. Is there anything you’ve learned from this?
  23. Who is going to be most affected? How will they be affected? Why?
  24. What meaning does this have for you to bring this up now?
  25. How does this affect your identity, your idea of yourself?
  26. How does this situation touch you?
  27. How does this situation change you?
  28. How have you changed or how are you changing now, and how has that affected this situation?
  29. How did this all begin, what was the very start?
  30. What’s your major reaction or complaint to this?
  31. Who do you think is most at fault?
  32. How do you think things would be resolved in the next 5 years?
  33. How do you wish things would be resolved in the next 5 years?
  34. Pretend that you only had 6 more months to live. What would be most important to you then?
  35. What are your goals here?
  36. How are you thinking about how all of this fits into your life as a whole?
  37. What, if anything, makes you angry here?
  38. What are the “shoulds”? (like what should you take responsibility for here?)
  39. What is your biggest “turn off” in this situation?
  40. Are there parts of yourself that are in conflict?
  41. Does this remind you of anything else in your personal history? What meaning does this have for you to bring this up now?

Skill #2 as Statements


While questions are always interesting, sometimes statements that explore feelings are also very powerful at making the conversation deeper and more intimate. Here are some explanatory statements you can try. Again, anytime during the conversation, look over the ist and read aloud a sentence you’d like to use to go a little deeper into the conversation.


  1. Tell me the story of that.
  2. I want to know everything you’re feeling.
  3. Talk to me, I am listening.
  4. Nothing is more important to me right now than listening to you.
  5. We have lots of time to talk.
  6. Tell me your major priorities here.
  7. Tell me what you need right now.
  8. Tell me what you think your choices are.
  9. It’s okay not to know what to do, but what’s your guess?
  10. I think you’re being very clear. Go on.
  11. Tell me all of your feelings here.
  12. Help me understand your feelings a little better. Say more.
  13. I think that you have already thought of some solutions. Tell me what they are.
  14. Help me understand this situation from your point of view. What are the most important points for you?
  15. Tell me what you’re most concerned about.
  16. Tell me more about how you are seeing this situation.
  17. Talk about what the decision is that you think you have to make.
  18. If you could change the attitude of one of the key people in this situation, talk about what you would do.


Skill #3 Express Empathy and Understanding During an Intimate Conversation

To deepen the intimacy of a conversation, it really helps to give understanding and empathy to your partner. First, try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes, and understand what they are saying or feeling. Then communicate to your partner that their thoughts or feelings really make sense to you. Below are some great statements you can make that convey understanding and empathy. Look them over and say aloud any that ring true for you, as a follow up to what your partner has just said.


You’re making total sense.I see. Let me summarize: What you’re thinking here is…
I understand how you feel.You are in a lot of pain. I can feel it.
You must feel so hopeless.It would be great to be free of this.
You’re in a tough spot here.That must have annoyed you.
I can feel the pain you feel.That would make me mad too.
The world needs to stop when you’re in this much pain.That sounds infuriating.
Wish you didn’t have to go through that.That sounds very frustrating.
I’m on your side.That is very scary.
I wish I could have been with you in that moment.Well I agree with most of what you’re saying.
Oh, wow, that sounds terrible.I would have been disappointed by that too.
You must feel so helpless.That would have hurt my feelings also.
That hurts me to hear that.That would make me sad too.
I support your position.POOR BABY!
I totally agree with you.Wow! That must have hurt.
You are feeling so trapped!I understand what you are feeling.
You are making total sense.Okay, I think I get it. So what are you feeling is…
That sounds like you felt really disgusted.I would have trouble coping with that.
No wonder you’re upset.What I admire most about what you’re doing is…
I’d feel the same way you do in your situation.That would make me feel insecure.
I think you’re right.That sounds a little frightening.
If you just feel such despair in you when you talk about this.Tell me what you see as your choices here.


Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Broken link? 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 us here.