5 Ways To Create a Connecting Conversation

By Jeffrey Kraft, LMFT

We have all been there: you’re trying to say something to a friend, a colleague or even a family member and feel as if you were disregarded or that the message is not received in the way you would have liked. As much as working with a therapist can help with facilitating an effective conversation in your day to day life, we do not always have the tools to do so. 

It has been posited that all individuals are responsible for exactly 50% of any verbal transaction they have with another individual. Our goal should be to create balance in the emotional and verbal effort in order to communicate effectively with those around us.

In 2016, Dr. David Burns discussed how effective human conversation can be created with 5 easy steps. Dr. Burns discusses how empathy, assertiveness and respect can be utilized in order to create a message that can truly be heard. 

  1. Disarming Technique- The goal of this technique is to work hard to find some truth in what someone is saying. You do not get to say how someone is feeling in any given moment. Making an effort to understand the truth in the experience of another will allow us to start on an equal footing to then empathize with someone in hopes of fostering a connection.

  2. Thought Vs Emotional Empathy- Dr. Burns illustrates that there are two types of empathy; thought empathy and emotional empathy. Thought empathy is when someone expresses a thought or emotion and we reflect empathy based on what we heard. Emotional empathy is inviting communication by presuming how someone may be feeling and asking about this experience.

  3. Inquiry- Being curious about the emotional experience of another person. This is a process or stance to take that is based in curiosity. This allows for more information to be collected to really understand the message of another person.

  4. Assertiveness- This allows us to share with others our emotions and experience in a clear and concise manner. Try using an “I feel” statement. The most common mistake that I see in “I feel” statements is the utilization of blame within the message. Instead of saying “I feel sad that you were home late” try “I feel worried and scared when I don’t hear from you.” You can see how the former message is about the fault of the person rather than what’s most important, the emotion itself and your message.

  5. Respect- This is simply how the message is being presented. Any messaged laced in blame, yelling, or our own ego is bound to miss its mark. Attempt to stay calm and respectful even when things feel a bit tense in the conversation.

As easy as it is to see the utility in applying this to our intimate relationships, we can also see how these principles can create a more balanced, 50-50 type interaction with everyone in our lives. Of course we cannot control how someone else experiences our message, but we can do our best to make it as easy as possible for them. Our ultimate goal is to move past our own egos in order for someone else to hear us and our needs. Think about it, who is our message for? We already know what we think and what we feel. Our message is for another person to better understand and empathize with us. Utilizing these steps and understanding our role and responsibility in a message is our primary task to feel heard!