THE INTENTIONAL DIALOGUE

Trying to talk about conflict can get tough when we are listening to something our partner is very upset about, especially when it involves something we’ve done, while at the same time trying to manage our own reactivity or defensiveness. Even our best efforts can quickly escalate into battles over whose perception of what really happened is right. Sound familiar?

Although conflict is inevitable in all intimate relationships, it is not the fundamental threat. The threat is in our inability to communicate constructively in ways that make it possible to manage and repair conflict and get back to intimate connection. The Intentional Dialogue, the heart and cornerstone of Imago therapy, facilitates this process by providing a much needed communication structure that enables us to communicate thoughtfully and respectfully in an open, honest and non-defended way, even when things get heated.

The Intentional Dialogue is a skill-based template that interrupts unworkable, self-defeating communication habits (i.e., criticizing, blaming, shaming, interrupting, stonewalling…) that undermine our best efforts to work through conflict. The Dialogue deepens feelings central to authentic and meaningful communication: safety and trust. In their absence, we remain guarded and defensive. Why risk being open or vulnerable if we feel misunderstood, challenged or invalidated or that our partner lacks the empathy to really get how bad we are feeling?

The Intentional Dialogue provides the skills you need to:
• Slow the action down
• Calm your reactivity
• Quickly get to the heart of the conflict and move out of it
• Hear what is really being said so that your partner can be fully heard and understood
• Relate to your partner’s frustrations with compassion and empathy
• Be centered and fully present when your partner is speaking, even if you don’t agree with their perspective

Sometimes using the Intentional Dialogue to talk about a particular problem is all that is needed. But often the insights and results gained must be turned into action in which we learn how to give our partners what they need, not just what is easy to give. When we have successfully reconnected intimately with our partner, we can then use the process to make small, successful changes in our behavior (called "stretching") that are good for both ourselves and our partner, ones that lead to healing and growth and to deeper connection. In so doing, together, we experience an ever greater, empathic sensitivity to one another that broadens into greater self-awareness, positive mutual openness, and hope.