The Dance of Communication Part 2
In my last e-newsletter, “The Dance of Communication Part 1,” I shared with you part of the Imago Dialogue process: reflection. Before going deeper, I want to take a step back and set the stage for Imago Dialogue. In Imago Dialogue, both individuals agree to talk—one person at a time. When we adhere to this, we have one person who is speaking and one person who is actively listening. This in and of itself is a departure from how most of us communicate in everyday life. It should be noted that Imago Dialogue is also about taking turns. Therefore, the person who is the initial listener in any dialogue will have the opportunity to be the speaker, but not until the first person has stated his or her concern, thought, or point and the listener has received that information to the satisfaction of the speaker. This process helps us be fully present and be the best communication partners that we can be for each other.
The second step in this process after reflecting is validation. Validation is key. It is the part of any communication where the listener communicates to the speaker that he or she has been seen, heard, and understood. When Kim and I were first learning Imago Dialogue, this was the aspect of the process that blew me out of the water. The lack of validation in Kim’s and my communication was why I often felt flat after we had spoken about a concern. Kim was doing her best to listen attentively. She provided eye contact. She followed my tale of woe. However, many times Kim would then try to fix whatever was bothering me. After she offered her suggestion, my response would be, “I am not asking you to fix anything! I just want you to listen!” Kim would respond that listening did not seem like enough. Actually, listening is more than enough. However, I was ill-equipped, prior to dialogue, to explain to Kim that true listening involved multiple steps. Validation was one of the missing pieces for the two of us. Validation is the ingredient where the listener communicates to the speaker that his or her thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and sensations are valid and make sense to the listener. Since people are hardwired to be accepted and belong, validation is crucial to that process. According to Karyn Hall, PhD, from her blog The Emotionally Sensitive Person, “Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s internal experience as being valid. Emotional validation is distinguished from emotional invalidation, in which your own or another person’s emotional experiences are rejected, ignored, or judged.” What I now realize is that prior to dialogue when Kim and I had conversations and I felt unsatisfied afterward, I didn’t necessarily feel judged. However, I know for a fact that I did not sense from Kim’s listening that she accepted my thoughts or concerns to be valid. The lack of validation in our communication kept us from truly connecting and truly hearing one another. We were doing our best with the tools we had. However, our tools were not going to allow for a full, healthy, intimate relationship.
It’s important to realize that my relationship with Kim is not the only area of my life where validation was absent. I can guarantee that anytime I struggle in communication with anyone, reflection, validation, and empathy are absent. I know this to be true with past communications with friends, supervisors, and family.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who shared with me her concerns about our relationship. I listened and reflected back to her what I heard and even validated her concerns, even though we were not dialoguing. When I went to share my thoughts, I was met with that same old sensation that I would experience with Kim years ago. Initially, I got frustrated and angry about whatever it was we were discussing. However, after coaching myself, I came to realize that I wasn’t truly angry or frustrated about the content. I simply did not feel validated by my friend. I was able to communicate this to her through dialogue (which I taught her). I believe that I was able to forgive her so easily because I was able to see that she did not possess the skills of dialogue, and therefore, she was communicating the best way she could.
Validation is one of those concepts that is easy to understand and yet challenging to put into place. However, I have found that learning and practicing validation when you communicate is absolutely worth the effort. Validation can act as a diffuser of any disagreement. Validation helps us perceive the world from another person’s perspective, which is crucial to creating and maintaining healthy, intentional relationships.
Would you like to learn more about Imago Dialogue?
Would you like to become more intentional in your communication with others?
I would be happy to teach you what I have learned.
The Hero’s Journey Retreat is around the corner. Melissa Madill and I are super excited to share in this retreat with folks. We have been planning, playing, and getting ready for this wonderful retreat, which is designed to wake us up to our true selves! Register today here.
I recently spent some time thinking about what is inspiring me to get ready for the retreat, to be active in our world, and to continue to be the best me I can be. When I was contemplating this list, many things came to mind. There are inspiring performances, inspiring videos, and people who simply live from their truest self and share their life with us in one form or another. Right now, I am reading I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, written by Malala Yousafzai. This book and Malala’s life are nothing short of amazing! She is the Anne Frank of our time. I am grateful for Malala Yousafzai, who continues to teach me to be true to myself, speak up for what I believe in, and to never give up on my dreams! It’s a phenomenal, educational, and inspiring read!
Until next time,
Safe Space Life Coaching