MAR: Describe Rather Than Judge: A Marriage Communication Skill
When counseling couples, you have probably noticed that they often judge and condemn each other when their emotions get heightened. It is common for couples to judge each other for differences that they don’t like (ex., That’s ridiculous! You’re so selfish! What’s wrong with you?). Yet often, differences are a matter of taste and personal preference, not good or bad, right or wrong. Instead of just talking about their preferences, couples begin to criticize one another. That leads to even more heightened emotions like anger and control, or can even lead to shame and hiding.
As a counselor, you can teach couples that judgmental statements are closed statements (ex., You never listen to me!). A verdict has been rendered, which leaves no room to dialogue and negotiate. This month’s tool is an exercise that you can use to help couples open up conversations for exploration and discovery. This communication skill will help them describe their experiences and emotions and remain curious, instead of being quick to judge. Also, if you are interested in more practical tools like this, consider attending our March training for marriage counseling, in-person or livestream.
Lois Kehlenbrink, LMFT
Clinical Director and Counselor