The Imago Dialogue is a powerful tool for transformation. While it is a structured process to facilitate safe conversations, its results can be much more profound than just a communication technique.
Here are 3 Imago Dialogue Steps for Couples
A) Mirroring– After making an appointment to see if now is a good time to talk, begin to share your topic for dialogue. This could be a frustration or anything else that is on your mind. Take responsibility for your feelings by using “I” statements to share your experience. When you share, your partner’s job is solely to mirror back. This means repeating back as close to verbatim as possible what you said to make sure he/she got it right.
After mirroring a statement or two, he/she will ask , “Did I get you?”. If the answer is yes, the next question is, “Is there more?” If there is more feel free to continue sharing. If your partner didn’t get you, repeat or rephrase what you said by telling him/her, “ the part I’d like you to get is…” When you are fully done sharing, your partner will summarize what you said in the form of a summary mirror.
Mirroring is effective for a variety of reasons.
1) It ensures accuracy and prevents potential miscommunication. We all have our own filters and we process external information thereby. By mirroring, we ensure we heard what our partner really said, as opposed to our interpretation.
2) It helps our partner feel heard. Sometimes all we really need to de-escalate is to feel heard. Mirroring back without a rebuttal or a response ensures that.
3) Finally, it helps the listener not react and self regulate. By mirroring back, we acknowledge that this is our spouse’s experience, not necessarily ours. Consequently, we need not defend ourselves or take it personally.
B) Validation– The next step is to validate your spouse’s perspective by saying, “what your saying makes sense and you make sense.” This is not tantamount to agreeing or saying your partner is right. You are still entitled to your own opinion. What you are doing is letting your spouse know that they are entitled to their own perspective and that their perspective is equally as valid as yours.
C) Empathy– To truly listen and enter your spouse’s world necessitates feeling their pain and experience. Empathizing allows your spouse to know that truly get them. Guess two emotions your spouse is feeling by saying, “ I Imagine you are feeling …. Is that would you are feeling?”
If you didn’t guess correctly, ask your spouse to tell you. Remember frustration is not really an emotion. There is usually sadness or fear underneath.
While there are some advanced dialogue steps to explore your spouse’s issue in greater depth, there are the basic 3 Imago Dialogue Steps for Couples: Mirroring, Validation, Empathy.