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Speaker/Listener Exercise

Speaker/Listener Exercise

Find a quiet, distraction – free space in your home to sit across from one another and take turns sharing about the stressors in your day.

Take Turns As Speaker and Listener

Speaker: talk about your stress in detail for 10 minutes. The topics must be about situations outside the relationship. This is not the time to discuss how worried you are about your financial life or your partner’s lack of organization and/or to complain about your partner.

Listener: provide support to your partner. This is not the time to try and solve your partner's problem. Clearly understanding the issues and feelings must precede any advice.

Giving Support Means:

  • Show genuine interest; maintain eye contact, and ask questions.
  • Be an ally for your partner; show empathy.
  • Communicate understanding: “Wow! That would bother me too."
  • Show solidarity: "this is our problem and we will face it together."
  • Don't side with the "enemy" even if you agree with them. You can still empathize with your partner’s reaction to a bothersome person or situation. Focus on what your partner is feeling, not whether he or she is “correct” about the situation.
  • Provide affection and comfort: "let me hold you. I'm here for you."

Show that you empathize and care:

  • "Tell me more about that."
  • "Wow! No kidding!"
  • "That's so sad."
  • "That would've worried me too."
  • "I'd be annoyed too."

Don't: Stonewall, ignore your partner, fail to respond, get defensive or criticize.

Ask Questions

The Listener should ask The Speaker if they feel heard and understood. Example: "anything else? I want to make sure I get it."
If the Speaker says yes then you can ask if he or she wants help problem solving.
If the Speaker does not feel understood, and ask more questions.

  • What's most upsetting to you about this?
  • What's the worst thing that could happen?
  • Is there anything I can do to support you in this?
  • What do you need right now?
  • What don't you like about this?

Switch roles As The Speaker and The Listener.

Repeat steps two and three.
Make a commitment to have a stress reducing conversation five days a week for 15 to 20 minutes each day.

Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS