July 13, 2005
If you respond to stress or conflict with an ingrained pattern that includes avoidance, anger, denial, etc., it can get in the way of effective communication, distancing you even further from your partner. Dr. Phil suggests using the steps below in order to communicate with emotional integrity.
Give or receive input.
Be open to receiving input from your partner. You have to be willing to test and be tested. You don’t have to say everything you’re thinking, but everything you do say has to be accurate. If your partner asks you if you’re upset, and you are, you have to be willing to say, “Yes.” It’s important that both partners know they are going to be told the truth.
Reflect content and feelings.
After receiving input from your partner, verify that what you are hearing is what your partner is actually saying. You’ve got to say, “What I hear from you content-wise is…” Then, to make sure you understand what he/she is feeling, you can say something like, “The feeling I’m getting from you is resentment/anger/hurt, etc.”
Accept feedback and respond.
If you are the person who is giving the input, you have to clarify things if your partner isn’t hearing what you are honestly trying to say. If you are the person receiving the input, you can respond once you know what you are responding to. Now that you are clear on what your partner is really saying, you can accept the feedback.
Stay in the moment.
Stay with the issues at hand. Do not discuss past history at any time during this process.
Do not leave.
Do not leave the discussion until it is completed. To keep it from dragging on, you can negotiate a time limit beforehand so that both of you know how long the conversation will last.