Communication…it ain’t always easy. Many is the couple I work with who, in the early days of navigating new ways of being, begin to attack each other with “therapy speak”. Needs are confused with wants. Thoughts confused with feelings. And the result is an argument as ferocious as ever before, ummet needs and resentment.
It's important to avoid the trap of using empowered communication as a weapon instead of a tool. For example, knowing that someone has just spoken a judgment is a poor excuse to proffer a judgment in return! Doing so will likely create an unmet need in them, which (ironically) is likely to be thrown back in your direction as a further judgment, and the only benefit you'll have gotten out of empowered communication is to have intimacy crippling arguments encased in thinly disguised psychobabble. The challenge shifts to a focus on process instead of on content. Yet the experience of dissatisfaction remains the same.
Truth speaking is most powerful when all elements of one's truth are revealed. This is true vulnerability. It may be easy for me to scream, "You're so arrogant, you never let me speak!" It may be more challenging for to assert "I feel angry because I'm not being given a chance to respond to what you are saying." But it's likely most challenging to put the whole of my truth out there: "I'm afraid that you will dismiss what I'm about to say and I don't want to be dismissed. I feel angry because it seems like there's no space in this discussion for me to respond to what you are saying. I want you to hear me and I want o hear you. If we can't hear each other I don't know ho we will overcome this. Will you take a breath and really hear me?"
The idea in this is not necessarily to change your "bad" words to something "good". Nor is it to change your partner from someone "bad" who won't listen to someone "good" who will. The idea is to change your experience so that you are able to experience more contact with yourself and your partner. In contact there is a greater opportunity for you to communicate with one another as equals and to speak from that place. No more, no less. To listen is to tolerate, while to hear is to take in. Do you hear those you care about? Do they hear you?
Bryan Dieterich, MA, LPC