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  • Writer's pictureTamsin Hartley

Building understanding in relationships

Healthy relationships are built on reciprocal respect and consideration. They are built on understanding that comes through dialogue, where each person is an equal partner in the communication exchange, prepared to be influenced and affected by what the other says. Conversations become an opportunity to see the world as others do – rather than taking their thoughts and feelings as a personal attack. Dramas can be aired and become a springboard for collaborative problem-solving (you can learn more about 'drama' from my previous blog series).

Curiosity is the key to building understanding in this way. This is not a space for interrogation or one-upmanship. It is not a space for ‘speaking into the life’ of others. Or for surrendering your viewpoint. You may not even agree with the other person.


Without a mutual desire to build understanding through dialogue, resentments build and a sense of hopelessness can develop. The lack of emotional safety that arises in these situations can be a warning sign that you need to put boundaries in place to protect yourself from manipulation or harm.


Fortunately, when both parties are committed to building understanding, there are some simple guidelines for dialogue that can be used:


  1. Each person takes it in turns to speak without interruption whilst the other listens

  2. Each person speaks only from the self, of the way that they are experiencing the situation:    


I think/ believe/ feel that …

I am concerned that …

You may need to do several rounds of listening in order to feel like you've both fully been heard.

You can learn more about building understanding through dialogue in this video taken from the Coming to Calm video course:

Why not give it a go.

You might be surprised by how liberating it can be, both to listen and be listened to in this way.

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