The Appreciation Dialogue is one of the most simple, yet transformative exercises we teach couples. What’s great about it is that it is positive, connecting, and only takes a few minutes a day. Couples sit face to face, look into each other’s eyes and share a quality or behavior they appreciate about the other. Once the sender shares the appreciation, the receiver repeats, or mirrors, it back for accuracy. Then the sender deepens the appreciation by sharing the reason he/she appreciates it. This exercise is impactful for the following reasons:
Appreciations mean so much
1. Positive Reinforcement– Straight out of Behavior Psych 101, if you positively reinforce a behavior, you will get it to continue. This means if you appreciate something your spouse has done, he/she will likely repeat it, which is good news for you. This allows for a snowball effect of loving behaviors and gratitude that get bigger and bigger and crush any negativity either of you may be experiencing.
2. Deepening Connection– If we do appreciate our spouse, it is often a half-hearted thank you as we are running out the door. Sitting face to face and making eye contact for a few minutes can instantly put you in your relationship happy place. As you share the impact of the appreciation, you go beyond saying a mere thank you, but explain how their act touched you. It’s a deep moment of connection to share which brings you closer.
Keeping things positive between you both
3. Accent the positive– When a relationship is struggling, discussing problems is usually not a safe place to go. In fact, it can make things worse, without a safe process and direction. Instead of getting stuck in the negative, focusing on what’s right with the relationship can be as or more reparative than working out the issues. Many annoyances in relationship are really rooted in the pain of disconnection. If the couple were connected, they would be over to overlook much of what is disturbing them. The Appreciation Dialogue helps you shift to a more positive place and enables you to enjoy more of what’s right than what’s wrong.
4. No more mind reading– While you may appreciate many things about your spouse, if you don’t tell them, it doesn’t count. Your spouse can’t read your mind so you need to specify what it is you feel grateful for. Even if it’s something obvious, you still need to put it into words. Not only will it make sure your spouse feels good, it will help you feel more grateful for when we articulate our thoughts and feelings into words, it magnifies and intensifies our positive feelings for each other.
Try the Appreciation Dialogue. An appreciation a day, using this structured format, keeps the divorce attorney away.