Patrick B. McGinnis, PhD, LMHC

Psychotherapy, Sex Therapy, Couple's Counseling, Addictions Counseling, Psychological & Psychosexual Assessment and Polygraph Testing


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The Couples Dialogue

Patrick B. McGinnis, LMHC


The following communication tool is the basis for healing in relationship. If you and your partner learn and practice this one skill regularly, you can create safety and begin making progress toward stopping the wounding process, opening the way for conscious healing.


One partner sends a message about an issue.


The receiving partner does all three of the following steps before responding in any way.



Paraphrase what you heard your partner say to you:

"I heard you say . . ."

or "If I heard you correctly, you said . . ."


Then check it out:

"Did I get that right?"


If not, mirror the corrected message. If so, ask:

"Is there more about this that I need to know?"


Repeat this process in two or three rounds of mirroring and then validate.




Validation is not agreeing. Validating is saying that you can understand your partnerís perspective. If you cannot understand where they are coming from, ask for more information. Do not ask leading questions, ask more open-ended questions to truly try to understand their point of view. If you do understand say something like:


"I can understand that." or "That makes sense to me because . . ." (keep this short)




Empathy is putting yourself in the other personís shoes and trying to catch the flavor of their emotional experience. Say something like:


"That must make you feel . . ." (Feelings are one or two emotional words, not phrases.)


If you really do not know-make an educated guess. They will correct you if you are wrong (mirror that).


Only when you have done all three steps correctly does the receiving partner respond to the message. The other person then mirrors, validates and empathizes. The reciprocal exchange of information using this process is the COUPLES DIALOGUE.


You will find that it takes work to stay focused on what you are hearing and to refrain from responding before it is your turn. Dialoguing is cumbersome, awkward and slow. However, it will pay you great dividends on your investment in time and effort if you practice and use it regularly. Practice daily for 20 minutes until you can do the process well. Begin with pleasant or neutral topics before you try to tackle the really tough ones.


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Copyright © 2000 Patrick B. McGinnis, PhD. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/09/09.

Hit Counter Last modified: 10/12/09