• Celeste Ballard, LCPC, LMT

How to Communicate Smoothly in Relationship

There is such a rich myriad of factors in relationship, that it can become confusing and overwhelming to couples. With the right understanding and tools to relate, you will be on one of the most fulfilling adventures of your life! I will be writing more about the deeper aspects that block relationship in future articles, but this post is a simple step to cleaning up the misunderstandings. This is the best communication tool that I have found for couples to use to deepen their relationship and it was developed by Harville Hendrix, with some modifications to simplify it for these purposes.

The foundation of it is that we don't actually listen to each other because we are so busy reacting, defending, or attacking. Thus you are not actually hearing your partner clearly and you are also applying a film of reaction over what you are hearing that isn't accurate. Your partner will not feel cared about or understood because of this dynamic and that is when the argument descends in a downward spiral. This dialogue will eliminate the problem because it slows the process down so that the sender is thoughtful in what they say and the receivers focus is on listening.

To set this up, one person will ask the other if it is a good time to talk. If an argument is ensuing, then just make the choice for one person to be the sender. Do the dialogue until completion and then switch. The sender will use brief sentences, so that the receiver can repeat them and the receiver will ask over and over, “Is there more?” to make sure that everything is said. After switching, spend 5 minutes in a full body hug, it is a nice reward at the end of the work. It may feel tedious and contrived at first, but soon you will see how uniquely it shifts the energy and care between you and won’t mind doing the work.

At Chicago Holistic Counseling we offer services for couples to guide this process when nothing seems to work or when you want to improve your relationship and know each other more deeply. We use techniques that go beyond talk therapy to help you feel connected in a new way in which many couples never experience on their own. For an appointment call 773-226-5603 or visit our website at

1. Sending and mirroring

One person shares their story with their partner. They take care to avoid criticism by talking from the “I” place. In other words, rather than saying “You upset me ….” they might say “I experienced this as…”

Instead of immediately responding, their partner would then mirror back the words they heard. This has two objectives. The first is that if you are going to mirror, then you have to listen carefully. That in turn avoids the temptation to make up a response instead of listening. The second reason is because it is very important for people to feel that they have been heard, and mirroring back is a great way to demonstrate this.

Now comes the really good bit. The partner who is listening still doesn't respond. Instead, they ask to hear more. And more. Until they understand it all. If you do this work with an Imago couples therapist they will usually guide you both with some gentle prompting, so that this peaceful and connecting conversation can gradually touch on the underlying emotional depths.

2. Validating

It’s nice to have someone hear what you say. But it’s even better when they tell you that they really “get it.” That they have understood you, and that you make sense. That’s the step we call “validating.” Your partner simply tells you why what you say makes sense to them. We do this because it’s a great way to build more connection.

3. Empathy

And as if there isn’t enough connection already from the first two steps, we seal the whole deal with bringing feelings into the discussion. The partner who is listening begins to guess what is going on in their partner’s heart. “I imagine you might be feeling…..” And that’s a great way to take a conversation that might have started about something frustrating and trivial, to build a deep connection around the underlying issues.

You can do this dialogue also to share good things and to just check in, because it will help you to share the good with each other in a more conscious way. As you spend your time together working on the relationship, it will be like a vitamin that fortifies you every time.

Good Luck!


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