Listen up! How to get your partner to hear you.

In the last two posts, I wrote about one of the most common complaints that couples have when they come to see me for Relationship Coaching – not feeling heard – and the reasons why this happens (having our own perspectives, making assumptions, mis-interpreting). If you haven’t already, read these blogs now by clicking the links below:-

As promised, I now want to give you a 5-step technique which not only highlights just how much you interpret rather than listening to each other (you’ll be surprised!), but that actually gives you step by step guidance on HOW to listen so that you really understand your partner.

This tool is POWERFUL.

So here goes!

Mirroring: Taken from a type of relationship therapy called Imago, this is the process of accurately reflecting back the content of a message your partner has sent you. It indicates that you have heard and understood what your partner has said.  Any response made before actually arriving at an accurate understanding of the meaning of your partner’s message is actually not a response to your partner at all. It is a response to your own interpretation of your partner’s message. When you’re mirroring your partner, the sending and repeating back of the message are repeated until your partner affirms that you have clearly understood the message they sent.

Step 1

With your partner, decide who will be the sender and who will be the receiver.

Step 2

Sender – say a simple sentence that begins with the word “I” and describes a thought or a feeling.

For example:-“I woke up this morning and felt anxious about going to work.”

Receiver – if the sentence seems to complex, ask for simplification: “Could you say that in fewer words?”

Sender  –  if  your  partner  asks  for  a  simpler  message,  repeat  your communication  as  concisely  as  possible.

For  example:  if your initial communication was: “I  was really thinking a lot about what was going  to happen at work this morning when I woke up, and that upset my stomach, but I got up and went anyway”, your concise repetition might be  “I woke  up this morning and felt anxious about going to work.”

Step 3

Receiver  –  once  a  clear  and  simple  communication  has  been  sent, repeat your partner’s message to them and ask for clarification. For example: “This morning, you woke up feeling you would rather stay home than go to work. Did I get what you said and felt?”

  • Asking for clarification is important, because it shows a willingness to try and understand.
  • Do not  respond  in  any  way  with  your  point  of  view  or  try  to psychoanalyse your partner.
  • In the beginning, as you learn to mirror, if you find yourself repeating word for  word  exactly  what  your  partner  said,  make  sure  you  fully understand the message and are not simply repeating parrot fashion.

Step 4

Sender if your partner has not completely and accurately repeated your communication,  help  their understanding  of  what  you  said.  For example: “Not exactly.  I  woke  up  this  morning  wanting  to  go  to  work  but  dreading what was going to happen.”

Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until the sender feels completely understood.

Step 5

Sender – acknowledge that what you said, thought and felt was accurately communicated. For example:-“Yes, I feel heard.”

Then swap roles and repeat the process, so that you each have the opportunity to be both the sender and the receiver.

How was that? Was it easy? Difficult?

When you were the receiver, did you find yourself using words your partner hadn’t said, or were you finding it difficult to remember enough of what they had said to repeat it back accurately? If so, the chances are you were interpreting rather than really paying attention and listening.

Don’t be disheartened if  struggled with this – most couples find this really challenging and good communication sometimes takes practice.

Of course, it doesn’t stop at Mirroring – there are many layers and techniques involved in good communication. Learning to listen effectively is just the foundation of effective communication! Once this is in place, what comes next are the tools and skills to take your communication to a whole new level of understanding, validation, empathy and deep connection!


If you feel that this has highlighted communication difficulties in your relationship, and would like to strengthen your skills further, contact me by clicking the link below to find out the different ways you can work with me.


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