Relationship Minute: Three Skills and One Rule

When it comes to having intimate conversations, there are three skills and one rule.

The rule is understanding must precede advice. Drs. John and Julie Gottman tell couples that these talks between lovers are not meant to problem-solve. Premature problem solving tends to shut people down. Advice should only begin when both people feel understood.

Skill #1: Putting Your Feelings into Words

In intimate conversations, finding the right words, phrases, images, or metaphors make talking about feelings much deeper.

Skill #2: Asking Open-Ended Questions

Help your partner explore their feelings by asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Consider: “How did that make you feel?” or “Tell me more about that.”

Skill #3: Expressing Empathy

You can show empathy by validating your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. It means you understand where they’re coming from on a particular topic. Empathy looks like making genuine statements like, “I can see how you felt that way.” 

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.