This is a summary of the process described in this post.

  • If the issue at hand is complicated, set aside time that won’t be interrupted. Turn off cell phones and commit to focus until you can work through the issue at hand.
  • Ask the other if this is a good time. Bringing up a complex issue when you’re trying to go to sleep—no bueno. There may be a number of reasons that it’s NOT a good time to start this conversation—honor the other’s time/energy/stress level. Find an option that works for both of you.
  • The process has 3 components: mirroring, validation, and empathy.
  • One person begins as the speaker.
  • State your position, using “I” language. I think, I need, I feel. Try to keep the speaker times under 2”, before asking the listener what they are hearing.
  • Listener says back what they hear (MIRRORING). “What I’m hearing you say is…”. It’s OK if this feels awkward or scripted at first. You will find your own way to say it with some practice.
  • Listener, try to identify an emotion (EMPATHY)—sad, mad, disappointed, anxious, etc.
  • The listener is trying to understand the speaker’s position enough to VALIDATE the other. Validation does not mean AGREEMENT, it just means you can understand what the other is feeling. “I think I see that you felt _____ when I ______.”
  • Alternate speaker and listener, so both people can express and clarify their perspective. No one should have the floor or speaker position for an extended length of time without asking for feedback or giving the listener a turn to speak.
  • If the topic is difficult or the discussion continues to get heated, it’s ok to TAKE A BREAK, but say what you’re needing. “I’m just too upset right now to continue. I”m going to take a walk. Can we continue this later?” Try to set a time to pick the conversation back up. Don’t leave it hanging.
  • ONLY after both parties affirm that they feel their side has been heard, then move on to problem solving, or repair if there is need for an apology.


  1. 3 important components: mirroring, validation, empathy
  2. The speaker has the floor.
  3. Share the floor frequently to ensure both people have a chance to speak and be heard.
  4. No problem solving UNTIL both agree their perspective has been heard.


  1.  Speak for yourself, use “I” language
  2. Talk in small chunks
  3. Stop and let the listener paraphrase


  1. Paraphrase what you hear (mirror, validate, empathize)
  2. Don’t argue or give a rebuttal. Focus on the message of the speaker. If you disagree, you can share your perspective when you have the floor.
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