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  • Writer's pictureLen Benoit

Communication Harmony: Building Bridges in Relationships

Mastering Imago Dialogue: Building Connection One Step at a Time

In the realm of effective communication and relationship building, the Imago Dialogue provides a structured approach that fosters understanding and connection between partners. Rooted in the idea of talking and listening one person at a time, this method establishes a basic ground rule that lays the foundation for meaningful conversations.

The Three Main Steps of Imago Dialogue:

Step One: Mirroring

In the first step of the Imago Dialogue, known as Mirroring, one partner takes on the role of the Sender, expressing their thoughts and feelings. The Receiver's task is to mirror back what they've heard without analysis, critique, modification, or immediate response. This ensures that the Sender feels heard and understood. The Receiver may use phrases like "If I got it, I think you said..." or "So you're saying..." and can encourage further sharing with prompts like "Is there more?" or "Tell me more."

Step Two: Validate

Once the Sender feels they have expressed everything, the Receiver moves on to the Validation step. Here, the Receiver acknowledges the logical sense of what the Sender shared. If there are parts that don't quite make sense, the Receiver tactfully communicates what does make sense and invites the Sender to elaborate on the unclear aspects. Validation phrases include "You make sense to me because..." or "That makes sense, I can see where..." followed by prompts like "This part (X) makes sense, but help me understand, can you say more about...?"

Step Three: Empathize

In the final step, Empathy, the Receiver delves into the emotional realm. By taking a guess at what the Sender might be feeling based on their expressed thoughts, the Receiver offers a deeper level of understanding. It's crucial to distinguish feelings from thoughts; while it's acceptable to say, "I can imagine you might be feeling...," using feeling words like happy, excited, hurt, or scared adds authenticity to the empathetic response. The Receiver can also ask for confirmation by saying, "Is that how you feel?"

Closing the Loop: The Dialogue Continues

Once the Sender has shared their perspective, and the Receiver has mirrored, validated, and empathized, the roles reverse. The Receiver now becomes the Sender, expressing their thoughts and feelings while the initial Sender assumes the role of the new Receiver. It's essential to note that the new Sender responds to what the first Sender shared, maintaining continuity in the conversation.

Mastering the Imago Dialogue cultivates a space for open, honest, and empathetic communication between partners. This structured approach ensures that both individuals feel heard, understood, and valued, fostering a deeper connection. As partners trade places in this dialogue, they embark on a journey of mutual understanding and growth, strengthening the foundation of their relationship.

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