The Dance of Communication: Part 1
Early on in my relationship with Kim, we did something that would be considered by many to be unusual and completely unnecessary. However, to this day, I think it is the reason why we have such a healthy relationship. We made a decision to seek counseling immediately to discover how to create an intentional relationship that would work for both of us. This was a great first step in the development of our relationship. However, time passed. We stopped counseling because we felt healthy and happy. And over the course of time, like many couples, we both fell into ruts. Our relationship was not on the rocks, but it wasn’t as vibrant as it was in the beginning. So, we went back to counseling to get a tune up. This time, we went to an Imago therapist who had been recommended by a friend. Going in, we had no idea what we were opening ourselves up to. Sometimes, that is a great way to take a leap. I find I get the best surprises when I don’t know what I am in for. We soon learned that Imago therapy was based on the work of Harville Hendricks and Helen LaKelly Hunt. One of the best tools that we learned during this chapter of our lives was how to communicate intentionally with each other. While we were doing our best to live intentionally, we never really learned tools to communicate intentionally.
Before I proceed further, I want to explain that I think communication is an art. If done well, communication can help people traverse rocky waters where there is disagreement, it can help build bridges where none existed previously, and it can mend relationships where hearts have been broken. What Kim and I learned quickly was that while we thought we were listening to each other, we weren’t really listening to each other with our full attention and our hearts open. So, we took the dive to relearn how to communicate with each other.
Imago dialogue is the tool that we were taught (and still use, since tools are only effective if they are put to use). The Imago dialogue offers a script, if you will, to help communication partners express themselves and listen to each other. What Kim and I were experiencing was that while we were doing our darnedest to listen to each other, we were not necessarily “getting” each other’s messages. Dialogue offered us a structured way to frame our conversations so that we each could speak our peace and we each could be seen and heard. In addition to this, we each knew that we were being understood, which I think is the missing component in most people’s communication. We don’t take time to reflect back to make sure that what we are hearing is actually what the other person is intending to communicate. Communication is like a dance. One must be in step and pay close attention to his or her partner. The way to do this with communicating is by reflecting back to the other person what you heard and asking if you captured the breadth of their message. At this point, they have the chance to say “Yes, you got it” or “No, that’s not what I meant!” In essence, they have the opportunity to clarify, emphasize, and help get the listener on the same page.
One of the big aha moments from learning this aspect of the Imago dialogue process was realizing how many times we were making assumptions about what the other person had said. We never clarified. We just assumed that we got the person’s message perfectly! I have now learned how absolutely presumptuous and disrespectful I was when not listening fully to Kim. As human beings, we are not intentionally being egotistical. We were simply unaware of all that goes into truly listening to another human being. Hence, this is why both Kim and I walked into Imago therapy not feeling heard or seen, which can be excruciating.
Think of all the times when you have felt misunderstood. Think of all the times when you have been careful with your wording so as not to hurt the other person’s feelings. Is it any wonder that our messages are not necessarily received as they were intended? I know that this first aspect of the Imago dialogue immeasurably helped Kim and me get on the same page and truly understand what the other person was attempting to say. It’s important to say here that not only does reflection help you get on the same page, but it is also crucial to truly see and hear another human being. And as human beings, we are hardwired with a desire to be deeply seen, deeply heard, understood, and valued just as we are.
So, Kim and I are two people who love each other dearly. Yet, we still can fall down the rabbit hole of communicating ineffectively by not fully engaging, thereby unintentionally hurting each other in the process. I ask each of us to reflect where in our lives and in the world today effective communication has gone awry. Where in our lives could we learn to be a better communication partner? Where in the world could “getting one another” serve us all better? I can’t think of one place, one relationship, or one circumstance in the world today that couldn’t be improved by showing up for each other and learning how to be compassionate communication partners. Won’t you join me in honing your skills?
My next e-newsletter will share with you other aspects of Imago dialogue. For more information about healthy communication, check out a past newsletter entitled “Tune In. Don’t Tune Out: The Gift of True Listening.”
I wanted to let you all know that the deadline for the early bird special for The Hero’s Journey Retreat, which is about six weeks away, has been extended to March 1st. So, register now to get your discount! You don’t want to miss out on this awesome and timely opportunity that will help you become more courageous, resilient, and engaged in your life!
I also thought I would share with all of you one of the best new things in my world. Kim and I have a new recipe for oatmeal! This is the best oatmeal I have ever had. What I love about it is that we make it in the evening and then we have oatmeal for days that simply needs a quick heat-up! Enjoy!
Baked Berry Oatmeal
- 2 1/2 cups oats
- 1/2 cup steel cut oats
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 1/4 cup oil (canola or any other cooking oil)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (I have also used blueberries, peaches, and bananas)
In large bowl, combine oats, steel cut oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside. In medium bowl, combine milk, egg, applesauce, oil, honey, and brown sugar; add to oat mixture and stir until combined. Pour into greased 2-quart soufflé or casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir mixture, and fold in fruit. Bake another 20 minutes. Serve with yogurt and additional fruit if desired.
You all know that I love quotes. So, here are two quotes that speak to me and are aligned with this newsletter. I hope they inspire you to be your best self when you enter into conversation with anyone!
Until next time,
Safe Space Life Coaching