Release destructive emotions

 

Use the Intentional Dialogue Technique to Make a Positive Attitude Adjustment in Your Home

I Love You So Big! Blog – Lynne Namka, © 2011-13

“I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die … By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”  - Charlotte from the book Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen Hunt have written two excellent books for parents called Getting the Love that Heals: a Guide for Parents and The Parent’s Companion: Meditations and Exercises for Giving the Love that Heals. Every home should have one of these books in their parenting library. Here are the three steps from their great communication enhancer called Intentional Dialogue. 

intentional dialogue, feelings, listening, empathy
Mirroring, Validate and Empathize are the three crucial steps from their great communication enhancer called Intentional Dialogue. Practice these step with your children and other to encourage honest, open communication.

1. MIRRORING: Parrot or paraphrase your child’s message back showing you got their viewpoint. Mirroring connects you with your child. It helps her feel like you are on the same wavelength as she is.

  • Let me see if I got this right . . .
  • I heard you say . . .
  • So you said…
  • Let me see if I understood this….

Then ask her for more. Get to the bottom of everything there is to be said about the topic. After you paraphrase, ask.

  • Is there more?
  • Tell me more about that.
  • Anything else?
  • Did I get it all?

Listen and repeat, and ask for more information is the basis of mirroring. Repeat what your child says until she wears her idea out. If you don’t get it right and she feels safe with you, she will clarify the message for you. Keep it going until the topic is exhausted for her.

2. VALIDATE what she has said: Validating is not agreeing with what your child says. It is accepting her feelings as being his true feelings. It is seeing it from her point of view. It is walking the mile in her shoes and understanding from her perspective. Never tell your child that she should not feel a certain way. Feelings are normal. Expressing them and being heard and validated by someone else often helps the excesses of emotion go away. Having someone hear you and not judge you allows a safe release of pent up feelings. Remember the research that said that most kids act out because they do not feel heard and validated by adults.

Listen to your child until you really get their internal logic! Remember you do not have to agree with it, just understand it. No attempts to correct the irrational thinking now – that will come later.

Let him know you might have a clue (however a small one and never, never say I KNOW what you are going through). You can say I understand or I might have felt that way myself, but never I KNOW. Validating their feelings by relating them to something you might have experienced does two things: 1. It forces you to see the experience from their eyes because you, yes, you ancient one, were once a teen yourself, and 2. It builds a bridge that the two of you could meet in the middle to talk.

Here is the hardest part: Empty yourself of the need to lecture. Do not go into problem solving with your child. Listen to her and he upset feelings! Tune into her message and say how you might understand (not that you do necessarily, but that you might.)

  • I can see that you might feel that because . . .
  • I can understand that because….
  • That once happened to me so I get where you are coming from…
  • That makes sense to me because once I . . .

Keep your example how you felt the same way very short! Only one or two sentences. Don’t retell stories she has heard many times before. All you need to say is “I understand, because something like that happened to me once.” Then turn the topic of concern back to your child and his feelings. This is about your being there for your child – not being the reactive parent.

3. EMPATHIZE and GUESS the Feeling: Really get what your child and take the conversation to the feeling level. Try your best to understand what your child is saying and try to get the feeling.

Pick one or more feelings and reflect that back to her. Help her give a label to the feelings. Guess if you have to. If you get it wrong, she will correct you. The key here is to be genuinely understanding of what your child is saying and express it back so she can label and validate the uncomfortable feelings.

  • That must make your feel . . .
  • I can imagine that you might feel confused about….
  • I wonder if you are feeling hurt under all that anger?

You don’t have to agree with your child’s feelings. And you don’t have to do anything about it other than give it a name. Just try to understand. Go to the place of “Given your experience, I can see how your might feel”  or “I don’t feel that way, but I’m big enough to understand that you might feel that way”.

Don’t just mouth the feelings words here. Be sincere. Sarcasm will distance you. Again, no problem solving. Sometimes all it takes is for the child to feel heard and empathized with; a solution is not always necessary.

Your child desperately wants your love. She wants to be connected not matter how she acts on the outside. Young people often feel misunderstood. Teenagers make feeling misunderstood an art form! Then he or she will react with anger, hurt or sullenness and refusal to talk. Intentional Dialogue gives a format where your child has a safe place to go with feelings.

Taking things down past the intellect (the head) to the feeling level (the heart) helps people feel understood. Remember, you don’t have to agree with what is being said. It helps when you get to a level of empathy as to the deepest part of what is going on – the feelings. Empathy is the ability to see things from the perspective of another person and feel compassion.

The ability to have satisfying personal relationships and a well-defined sense of self is boosted with developing the skill of empathy. This dialogue approach teaches your child how to become an empathetic person.

Check out Lynne Namka’s award-winning site www.AngriesOut.com for more articles on communicating with your families.



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