Countless studies, surveys, books and articles have been published on what makes a successful relationship. While there is no single formula for a perfect relationship, not surprisingly the research overwhelmingly concludes that good communication skills and habits are critical to happy relationships.
Good communication takes effort, it’s hard, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Yet, while almost all relationship experts agree on the importance of healthy communication, not many provide practical, sustainable, and commonsense strategies for developing effective communication skills.
At Evergreen Psychotherapy, our goal is to help couples learn how to share and listen in honest, deep, positive and constructive ways through a program we have developed called Attachment Communication Training (ACT).
ACT provides step-by-step directions for building a framework that facilitates effective communication and allows couples to safely confide and connect. Couples can work through the process on their own or with the support of a therapist.
ACT Training Steps
- Set ground rules — Before starting to practice any communication strategies both members of a couple need to agree on certain ground rules. These include: — No blaming, criticism, contempt, defensiveness or stonewalling. — No interrupting. — Agree to disagree. — Pause the conversation if it gets too emotional. — At the same time, no running away from a difficult conversation. — Commit to setting aside enough time to practice communication skills. — Get help from a professional if you get stuck.
- Share – Begin by having one person speak while the other listens. Be clear and concise and honest with yourself and your partner, share thoughts and feelings and make “I” statements.
- Listen — While one partner is speaking, the other partner needs to be a good listener. This entails listening with empathy and without judgment. Try to relax your mind and body so you can really hear what your partner has to say. Avoid becoming defensive and formulating your response while your partner is speaking. Pay attention to both the content of what your partner is saying and the nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and gestures.
- Restate — Once your partner has finished speaking, repeat back what you heard. Begin with “I heard you say….”
- Provide Feedback — The speaking partner has a chance to clarify anything the listening partner may not have understood, providing another chance for the partner to listen.
- Reverse Roles — Now the speaking partner becomes the listening partner and vice-versa, repeating the process.
- Discuss — After you and your partner have had several turns sharing and listening, talk with one another about the experience: — What was it like to communicate this way? — How does it feel to share honestly? — Did you get the sense that your partner was really hearing you? — What was more difficult for you, sharing or listening? — What are some issues you want to discuss in the future using ACT?
For more detailed information about ACT training contact firstname.lastname@example.org or consider ordering Healing Parents, Helping Wounded Children Learn to Trust & Love or Attachment, Trauma, and Healing, two books that outline ACT in detail.