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April 14, 2006

COMMUNICATION TOOL FOR COUPLES

Below is a quick tool for communicating in a clean, respectful way: the feedback wheel. This tool has been around in various forms for many years. The form I use is adapted from Pia Mellody and Terrence Real.

Note: I add one step to their feedback wheel: Open with a gift.

Prior to using the feedback wheel, be sure to ask your partner if now is a good time to talk. This insures that your partner is in a good space for listening which increases the odds of a more positive experience.

The steps are:
· Open with a gift: Start with a compliment or something that shows you care.

1. Describe the behavior: State just the facts not your interpretation of them. For example, don’t say, “When you were angry”. Instead state, “When you slammed your fist on the table”. If I can’t see or hear it on a video camera, then don’t say it.

2. State what you make up about this: Explain what meaning you gave it or how you interpreted the behavior. Do not say things like: “What that showed me is”, or “What that made me think was..” etc.

3. State your feeling: Simply state feeling words: joy/pain, anger/fear, lust/love, shame/guilt. Don’t say what you think, state only what you feel.

4. State your request: State exactly what you want. Be concrete and clear so your partner knows how to give it to you. Don’t just complain without giving your partner a chance to fix it.

This is how it would sound if I wanted to talk to my husband about being on the computer every night...

First I would ask him if now was a good time to talk. After he said yes I would then move into the feedback wheel and say…

· Open with a gift: “Honey, I love you very much and I enjoy spending time with you at night so…”

1. Describe the behavior: “When you stay on the computer from 8:00-11:00 every night”

2. State what you make up about this: “What I make up about that is you don’t want to spend time with me.”


3. State your feeling: About that I feel sad, hurt and disappointed
a. Note: only state feeling words nothing else. Don’t say what you think.

4. State your request: What I would like is for us to agree to not use the computer after 8:00pm. Or… I would like for us to have an hour every night to check in and hang out with each other with no interruptions and no computer 3 nights a week.


This is a quick, easy way to state all the necessary information without going into a barrage of words. Before you use this however, take a moment to get clear about what you want from your partner (i.e. no computer after 8:00, more one on one time etc.). Also, when you are speaking, always speak from the “I” (i.e. I would like, I feel sad, I…). After you are done, try to make a plan with your partner on any changes you both agree to make.

Challenge: Choose an issue that is bothering you and figure out what you would like (come up with a specific request, not just a complaint). Ask your partner if you can talk to him/her and then sit down and use the feedback wheel. At the end, if your partner grants your request, say thank you.

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