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Communication Skills for Lifelong Relationships

Communicate Without Blame

Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D., and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D, founders of the Hendricks Institute and authors of more than 17 books, including The Conscious Heart and Conscious Loving, say the most valuable skill they have learned over the years is how to communicate without blame.

"You need to learn to be sensitively aware of the uniqueness of your partner," says Kathlyn Hendricks. The Hendrickses teach people how to create harmony and intimacy and still "tell the microscopic truth." Their top five communication skills are:

  1. Listen generously. Reflect back what the person said accurately. Hear the person's feeling. Tune in to what the other person wants and feel what's underneath it. Listen with your third ear.
  2. Speak unarguably. That means speaking in statements of fact that can't be argued. For example, you may say to your partner: "I feel bad when you leave for work without saying good-bye." You're saying that you feed bad (a fact) when your partner does not say good-bye (also a fact), and that cannot be argued. This way of speaking places no blame and allows a conversation to happen without argument.
  3. Focus on appreciation. The Hendrickses recommend a 5-1 ratio of appreciation to complaint. Focus on positive aspects of your partner and your relationship.
  4. Turn your complaints into requests. For example, ask your partner: "If I make dinner, will you clean up?" Be committed to making clear agreements.
  5. Shift from blame to wonder. Ask yourself how you might be contributing to a communication problem. Kathlyn Hendricks asks people to "hmmm," which shifts you from your critical mind to your creative mind and, in turn, causes you to shift from being right to having a healthier relationship. Would you rather be right, or happy?