Mutually Validating Conversations

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

~ Mother Teresa

Successful relationships are built upon respect and trust; communication is a key element in strengthening both. Talk about issues as soon as they come up. If there are strong feelings involved, wait until you are calm enough to be kind, then guarantee the best result by talking face to face. If it isn’t possible to resolve the problem in person, a phone call is the next best option; then at least they can hear your tone of voice. Email would be a last resort. In stressful situations texting seems to do more harm than good.

I have a friend who has been in my life for nearly a decade. There was a time when we didn’t communicate for an entire year. I think we both took offense at something the other person said and it was easier to ignore the problem than to reach out and resolve it. One day I finally sent her a text asking if we could get together. We agreed on a time and place and ended up having a long talk.

My friend and I view life very differently, which is what has made our relationship so challenging in the past. Gratefully I had learned some new communication tools called Mutually Validating Conversations, (described below) and applied them during this potentially tense interaction.

We talked about the time that had lapsed since we’d been together. I asked her to share what had been going on with her. She was open and honest. As I listened, it was interesting to learn how many things I had said or done which had been misconstrued or misinterpreted. I was grateful to have the opportunity to apologize and clarify.

We talked for hours. We came up with ways to avoid misunderstandings in the future and agreed to be brave enough to address problems immediately. It’s been a long time since that important conversation, and we have both experienced our share of challenges and trials. Through it all we have been able to support and understand one another.

When you are committed to resolving your differences in this manner you build bridges instead of fences. Love is strengthened, and trust is restored.

Do you have a relationship that means a lot to you that is in serious trouble? Have you been masking your emotions and stuffing your feelings? When things are left un-communicated for too long, the pressure builds. Misunderstandings and assumptions wreak havoc. Sometimes you view a specific event in a drastically different way than the person you’re communicating with, and this causes a rift between you. Thoughtless, unkind words may be spoken and you’re both left feeling fragile and frustrated.

There are some wonderful resources out there to help us communicate better. I was introduced to an amazing book by the Arbinger Institute entitled The Anatomy of Peace. This book provides great insights on how to communicate clearly, honestly and completely, while ensuring that the other person still feels valued; they’ll actually feel reassured about how much you care about them. Following this model creates a mutually validating conversation and strengthens the relationship.

Here are the basic tenants:

  • Accept what is
  • Focus on understanding the other person’s feelings
  • Take 100% responsibility for your words own and actions
  • Be proactive; focus on the solution instead of the problem

When these guidelines are followed there is a better chance of having a respectful, caring, peaceful, interaction. Try it. You’ll be amazed at the results.