Deep Talking: Deepening the DialogueApr 29, 2022 09:30AM ● By Ronica O’Hara
When the going gets tough in a blended family, an Oprah Winfrey-endorsed dialogue technique known as Imago Therapy can help transform animosity into harmony. As laid out by relationship therapist Harville Hendrix in his New York Times bestseller Getting the Love You Want, it involves specific conversational steps that ensure each side is heard and responded to with empathy.
“Imago is effective for parents of blended families because it teaches them to listen and validate the feelings of the children, as well as to better communicate with each other about the challenges,” says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, of Baltimore, whose own marriage was saved by the process and who, with his wife Rivka, teaches it to couples. “If your children are not adjusting well, it is important to be able to give them a voice. The Imago dialogue process does just that, without judgment.”
The three basic steps include:
Mirroring. Person number one describes the problem in a few sentences, using “I” and feeling words. For example, “I feel shut out when you pick up your phone when I’m talking.”
Person number two repeats it back as closely as possible. “You feel shut out when I pick up my phone when you’re talking.” It may take a few attempts to get it right. Person number two then asks if there’s more to that feeling, and again repeats the phrases back.
Validating. Person number two responds showing respect for the problem, with words like, “I can see why …”
Showing Empathy. Person number two searches for the place inside himself or herself that connects with person number one’s concerns. “I get upset, too, when it feels like someone cuts off a conversation.”
Then, they reverse positions and go through it again. Demonstrations can be found on YouTube and worksheets can be viewed at PositivePsychology.com.
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