Communication Workshop


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What are some basic or essential skills or insights which people can utilize or learn in order to improve communication in intimate relationships?

What works for you? What doesn't?


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Excellent choice of thread JRM!

One of the things that have made communication between me, Redpepper and her husband flourish is the ability to read each others' energy. I will speak more of me and Redpepper as that is where the bulk of my experience lies. My communication with her husband is also based on a great deal of openness but involves less energy insight.

She can immediately see when something is affecting me, she feels it and so do I. I can do the same with her. This prevents any accumulation of even the smallest issue which could feed into a bigger issue.

Communicating isn't always about actually talking in the moment for us. If there is something we need to process we give each other the time. The key here is telling your partner that you are in fact processing and not repressing something. This provides the security and space to formulate thoughts and present issues in a clear manner .Speaking too soon can sometimes lead to confusion and misunderstanding which is frustrating for everyone involved.

Trust is essential to the level of openness in our relationship. Because most of my daily friends, such as co-workers, are traditional monogamists it is difficult for me to engage them in discussions that involve understanding a polyamorous approach to loving. They can be quick to judge and I have a tendency to be quick to defend. I share and learn while trying not to debate and convince.

Redpepper is the most trusted person I have ever had in my life..she is the one I turn to discuss my issues about everything including us! This is a new experience for me and pleasantly forces me to talk although sometimes she needs to push a little LOL!! I am actually glad not to have an “outside” sounding board. For me it propels me deeper into her.

Our level of communication has left both of us completely vulnerable to each other. There used to be fear in this for me, but no longer.


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I'm happy that you and your partner are in such a positive, growing, place with one another! I don't have any further response to what you have said just now. I'm just happy you're on a growth-path and in a happy place.


Here's a web-page on effective and ineffective communication. I offer it only as "food for thought" and for discussion purposes--not as a sanctioning of this perspective over others.

I will also offer other tid-bits over time. I'm hoping to learn how to be a better communicator as well as to help those I am close to to do the same. It seems to me that good communication skills are crucial to healthy relationships, but that most of us are not as good at it as we'd like to think: including myself.


Lately, I call myself a "high verbal" person, meaning that

(a) I like to talk and be heard and have it known that I'm being understood.

(b) I "process" my "stuff" better if I can talk about it and feel heard and

(c) I find verbal communication nourishing and nurturing in loving relationships
--especially when it is flowing smoothly and going well, and when there
is mutual respect, kindness, and risk-taking.

My partner appears to me to be a "low verbal" person, meaning that he generally has preferred, over most of our relationship, to

(e) prefer to "process" his "stuff" (e.g., personal challenges, emotional
"issues" and difficulties) inwardly and quietly, often while alone.

(f) hasn't been much of a talker for most of his life, often spending large
spans of time not saying much -- even when spoken to.

(g) doesn't have very highly developed verbal skills, such as those which are
developed by practices such as writing, talking a lot with others (not to
others), reading, etc.

This difference between my partner and I (I'm not ready to say I have a second partner, yet; though that may be developing--too soon to say) has been very challenging for both of us. But we do love one another, and things do seem to be improving--though not without frustration on both of our parts at times.
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More food for thought on communication -- this time specifically directed at polyamorous situations:

Quote from that:

Wow. Okay, so now I've got it licked...

Not quite. There's still the "Blue fish tuba" effect.

The who what? That makes no sense!


Each of those words individually has a simple meaning, but put together in that order, they make no sense. Often, that's what it seems like to someone who does not share your conceptual worldview. Communication on the one hand is quite robust, but on the other hand is very fragile; it's robust in the sense that language is quite resilient, but it's fragile in the sense that when you are talking to someone whose philosophical worldview is vastly different from yours, then when you try to explain a difficult concept, your words end up sounding like "blue fish tuba." It's the concept that's difficult; if the concept itself is foreign to your listener, then the words stop making sense.

For example, take a person whose idea of relationships is "commitment means exclusivity." If you tell such a person "It is possible to be committed to more than one person at a time," your words sound like "blue fish tuba," because the concept of commitment inherently implies exclusivity to that person--saying "commitment to two people" is about like saying "the tuba was so huge it was tiny."


What about "I-statements"?



7. Communicate. If you want a healthy relationship, strong communication skills are a necessity, not a luxury. Trouble usually starts when talking stops. Things come up all the time that have to be worked through patiently and lovingly, even when you're having a bad day. It gets easier over time, but it takes work and a willingness to break up scar tissue and tear down walls. Communication skills are what make a person a good lover.

Arguing skills are not communication skills. Arguing better than someone doesn't make you right, it just makes you better at arguing. Sometimes people strive to `win' an argument at the cost of their own relationship. Negotiate a way for everyone to win.

Listening is more important than talking. Listen actively and don't just hear. Make eye contact. Be here now, don't wander. Paraphrase their words to see if you heard them right. Notice your own words and feelings, ask why they are what they are. Listen to unhappy feelings (yours and those of others) without needing to fix them. Listen to disagreements without taking sides. Listen to non-verbal communication, which usually speaks more clearly than words. Be aware of how the people in your life are loving you.

Some talk is not communication. If you get lost in the woods and pass the same landmark several times, you are making the same mistake over and over. Raising your voice or speaking harshly makes you harder to understand, not easier. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. "I think you're wrong" is easier to accept than "you are wrong." Directness works better than manipulation.

Clearly express yourself; people can't read your mind. Tear down the wall between your feelings and your words. Set limits and boundaries and communicate them. Make sure everyone knows what they are getting into. Learn how to defuse arguments. If necessary, learn how and when to say goodbye. Actions communicate better than words. Show people that you love them. Share kindness and affection and laughter. When in doubt, rub their feet.
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I've learned some important lessons from a close friend about giving feedback to friends and co-workers. I haven't attempted it with lovers yet, but for all other purposes it has worked amazingly well so far.

Giving proper feedback

Step 0) Make the person aware you will be giving some feedback and how you will be doing it (if he/she is used to the method already, you can skip this step)
Step 1) Tell the person 3 things which you REALLY like about him/her. It can be anything - but you should really mean it.
Step 2) After these 3 things, you say the words AND I also wanted you to know (don't use 'BUT' or something else cause that's gonna put up a wall right away.
Step 3) You give the 'less pleasant' feedback
By giving a clear fact that happened, and how that fact made you feel

For example, if the person hurt your feelings because he or she always comes too late, you don't say 'you don't care about me enough'. This only creates confusion or defense response. Instead you would say 'AND I also wanted to let you know that the fact that you were 1 hour late yesterday really makes me feel like you don't care about me enough and you don't value our relationship'
Step 4) Give the person a chance to respond, and talk about it as long as needed.
Step 5) The person who has received feedback should say 'Thank you for the feedback'. After all, this is not something that is easy to do, and he/she should respect the fact you do it. It might make him/her better as a person instead of remaining in the unknown.
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Thanks, Olivier.

I like the spirit of that, although I'd probably not follow it to the letter. It's true that if the only "feedback" we get from a given person is negative or critical, we're probably going to become less and less receptive!


This topic -- Communication -- is probably the most crucial one in the forum, for most of us. So, I'd like to see if we can't figure out, together, how to make better use of it than we have been, generally.

There are a few people in our forum who have reported having surprizing and very delightful success in discussing difficult matters with their parner/s. Breakthroughs, really. And I'd like those who recognize themselves in these words to share their stories about these breakthroughs here--, but, as a sort of experiment, I'd like these folks to direct their words to folks (unnamed) who have a difficult matter in need of discussing with their partner/s. That is, I'm curious what those who have become happily unblocked would say to those who are feeling blocked.

My hope is that -- somehow -- this topic will generate some practical wisdom (on communication skills and principles) for reference by those who have need of it.


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Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. "I think you're wrong" is easier to accept than "you are wrong." Directness works better than manipulation.
I found this one to be important. The basic rule we worked out was that if you are talking about emotions, they rarely start off with "You." Don't say "You are being a jerk" instead say "I am feeling like you are not listening to me." It is much more informative and less likely to put up emotional defences.

Step 2) After these 3 things, you say the words AND I also wanted you to know (don't use 'BUT' or something else cause that's gonna put up a wall right away.
I have heard this one before. At first I was skeptical. However, I played around with it and I realized that "and" makes the other person more open than "but."


Don't say "You are being a jerk" instead say "I am feeling like you are not listening to me." It is much more informative and less likely to put up emotional defences.

If you can add a fact that happened which lead to these feelings it really helps a lot in my opinion. For example you would tell them which event made you feel like you were not being listened to. Example: 'Remember the time you were talking to your ex and you didn't want to come downstairs all night'. That fact cannot be disputed cause both of you know it happened like this, and the reason it made you feel this way cannot be disputed either, cause these are your feelings. Then you can easily go from there, instead of the person getting defensive.
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Well done, ma'am.

Huh? Who's the ma'am in this response?

I'm viewing the postings in chronological order, though I've recently heard that there may be another layout(?).

(For any who don't already know... I'm a guy. My first name is James. And, yes, I do have a boyfriend.)
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(For any who don't already know... I'm a guy. My first name is James. And, yes, I do have a boyfriend.)

Oh my god! You're a guy!? With a boyfriend!? Eww! :eek:

(So sorry. I know this isn't useful to the thread but I couldn't resist. :p)


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But not to worry, ladies. I like both flavors.:D:p;)


Resurrecting this thread

I thought I'd throw this thread back up here because it allows me to show Y-girl how great I am at not replicating threads :)P) and lots and lots of threads have been giving lots of advice to "communicate communicate communicate!"

I thought it would be good to revisit actual practical tools for communication. It's one thing to sit in a room with a partner or friend with the goal of talking things through and communicating, but often that's not quite enough to facilitate effective communication and understanding and many dead horses can get beaten without feeling like progress is being made. Here are some techniques gathered from the meandering experiences of mine and other friends and acquaintances.

The "What's the Worst that Could Happen" Game

One married couple I know plays this game anytime one of them is about to embark on a first date with somebody new. It's kind of their way to deal with whatever fears and insecurities that arise and letting their partner know about those fears without having to set hard boundaries for each other. They begin with the assumption that their partner will make choices that honor the relationship and the needs of their spouse.

They basically tell each other the outcomes they most fear from this date. "I'm afraid that you will find this new person more interesting than me because she does these things I don't." Or "I'm afraid that you'll fall for her very quickly and make choices that make me feel less loved", or "I'm afraid you'll come home drunk". For them, they are allowed to lay any and all fears out there. The other partner is not obligated to do anything other than listen and honor those fears. They say that it does a lot to help keep them aware of their partner's goings on when embarking in a new relationship.

The Switch-Up Debate

I find this pretty effective if there's a conflict going on and people feel like they're just not getting anywhere with the talking. Basically, each person has to switch sides in the conflict. They lay out and debate the conflict from the other person's point of view. Afterwards, you both sit down and resume talking about it from your own point of view, noting what differences in perception there might have been. Generally, it works well to not set the goal of having things resolved by the end of this game. It's more about having more perspective and information and just living with it for a bit before going back into resolving the conflict.

The "This is Me When I'm Upset" tool

One of my friends who's enjoying some lovely NRE did this with her new partner (who also happens to be an old friend of hers) was recognizing that she has very different ways of handling arguments than he does. When he and his wife argue, they sort of do it "Italian Style" with some degree of yelling and brashness, but for them they're completely ok with it and it works well for them. My friend is a bit more introverted and generally feels more disturbed by such conflicts so she will usually want to intervene to make peace. In her partner's eyes, that's the worst choice.

So one day, they sat down together while all calm and happy and just laid out how these things manifest for each other. They both said things like:
  • This is generally what I'm like when I'm upset about something
  • This is generally what I'm like when I feel hurt
  • This is generally what I'm like when I'm angry about something
  • This is generally what I need from you when I'm feeling this way. (I need a day or so of space, or I need you to ask me more detailed questions or I won't be able to articulate it, or I just need a cuddle from you first before we try to resolve it, etc.)

I'll leave it at these three for now. Anybody else have any practical techniques or games or what-not that they use for communication?
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OOh Ooh! My kind of thread!

Hands down, bar none, my favorite form of communication is Non-Violent Communication, (NVC).

The basic idea is that there are giraffes and jackals.

Our conventional, "you" language, "violent" communication is done with "jackal" ears on. Jackal language includes criticism, blaming, taking things personally...

Giraffes have huge hearts, so it is used to represent the kind of language that comes from our hearts; compassionate, responsible. The basic form of giraffe listening is to hear the needs and feelings behind what people are saying.

Pardon me if I use a relevant, possibly heated example. But, I think it's ideal.

I was new once too and I figured it out, and I'm not THAT smart, but I do know how to type keywords into a search engine.

could be heard, in giraffe language as:

Feelings. I hear frustration and impatience.
Needs. It sounds like she is needing a break from educating new people about things like terminology.

In NVC, it would be expressed as an observation, need, feeling, request. So:

Observation Many new people ask questions that have already been answered.
Feeling I'm feeling frustrated because I would prefer not to sift through these questions in order to post on this board.
Need I need a break from answering questions.
Request I would prefer it if more people used the search function before asking questions.

This is very formulaic, but after trying to adopt this kind of language into my life, it's become a lot less so and more natural. I'm still working on having giraffe ears. I still take things personally and forget to hear needs and requests...

There's more to NVC than this, but this is a good start. I love it because it sorts through all the drama and gets to the point. Which unmet needs are causing the conflict here? It removes blame. (You're no longer a selfish person, rather I have need for attention that is not being met). It places the responsibility square on the lap of each person - to recognize and have their own needs met. To hear what's "clear and present" in the ones they love.

Personally, I get warm fuzzy feelings from hearing my lover tell me what s/he is feeling and needing. It is a gift when someone tells you what they're needing. Their requests are opportunities for me to give them a gift. It is one of the most beautiful ways I can give to my lover. My darling, how can I make it easier for you to meet this imporatant need?

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Thanks for including that one, rolypoly! That was a great explanation too. I do love NVC technique. Actually we use that technique quite a bit with children who have autism to help them better understand their feelings and how to express them. What's nice about it is that it encourages you to take responsibility for your own feelings and not defer that responsibility onto another person or partner etc. Thanks again!


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thanks for the resurrection.

I don't really remember the names of stuff, but I do remember taking non-violent communication a million times for work and with my husband before we married.. among other workshops... I work with people with developmental disabilities (needless to say if I hear the term "retard" used I go crazy!) and we do anything to communicate. including sign, which I don't recommend using with your partners unless you are fluent. LOL:D

My main aim in communicating is simply to stay as clear as possible, keep it as simple as possible and say it like it is with as much tact as I can muster. All the while staying in tune with what is going on with me in my body and mind... I spend a lot of time staying in tune with myself for this reason... I can get on things quickly that way.

I find all too often people skirt around issues because of fear. Feel the fear and communicate anyways I say. The quicker a situation, feeling, whatever is gotten to the better. If things are dealt with right away they don't build and don't turn into something they aren't.

I also like to tell people what I like to hear from them. I do this with everyone... if I do something extra I will jokingly tell people that I want them to thank me. I do this BEFORE I get resentful that no one has noticed. That way I hardly ever resent anyone and hardly ever feel unappreciated.


I thought I'd throw this thread back up here because it allows me to show Y-girl how great I am at not replicating threads :)P)

Impressive, Padawan! No more training do you require. Already know you that which you need.


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As requested by Ceoli :)

Believe me-for as obnoxious as it might sound-it freaking works. After 11 years together-we suddenly found happy doing this. And I do mean SUDDENLY-the DAY we started doing the step I outline below our whole life changed. I'm sharing it here as Ceoli asked me to after I shared some of it on another thread.

IF you want a RELATIONSHIP you have to COMMUNICATE.

Not talk.


Name calling, yelling, walking out, these aren't helpful in communicating.

Slow down!


For example, YOUR take on safe sex.

You say ONE sentence, he repeats it back in HIS OWN WORDS "If I understand you correctly you are saying _____. Is that correct?"
If so you say yes. JUST YES.
Then he can ask "is there anything else.

You get THREE sentences. THAT IS IT.

Then it's his turn and you do the SAME THING.

Once he gets his three you switch again.

KEEP GOING until you BOTH understand each other's point of view.

THEN GO HOME and digest it.

[This step is easily skipped-BAD IDEA!!!! Each step was designed for it's ability to benefit YOU and YOUR relationship. Don't waste time by skipping around-the steps work TOGETHER.]

THEN come back and do it again about dealing with it.


"I don't feel I can have a sexual relationship with you because I don't feel safe with your terms for safe sex".

"If I understand you correctly you aren't feeling safe and therefore you want to stop having sexual relationshions with me. Is this correct?"


"Anything else?" [no sarcasm, be sincerely interested]

"Yes I love you very much and I want to be friends but I don't know how to change the dynamic of our relationship without hurting you/me."

"If I understand you correctly you love me and even though you don't feel safe enough to have sex with me you want to remain friends but aren't sure how to get from where we are to being friends without causing damage. Is that correct?"


"Is there more?"

"I am scared that you don't love me as much as I love you and therefore you won't care about how important it is to me to have you in my life."

"If I understand you correctly you are afraid I don't love you enough to work through this with you so we can remain friends. Is this correct?"


"Ok so to paraphrase, you love me and want to keep me as an important part of your life but you aren't able to feel safe having sex with me due to my choices in regards to safe sex. This makes you feel hurt, frightened and disappointed. I can understand why. I would feel hurt if I thought you didn't love me as much as I love you and I feel frightened just thinking that there is a chance we can't find a way to remain friends at the very least. I imagine it's disappointing to you to think I wouldn't care about these things like you do."

At this point nothing has been "solved" but a connection has been made with your partner and understanding has been achieved about what the issue REALLY IS for your partner.

Now you switch and maybe it goes like this...


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Now maybe part II goes like this...

"I feel like you don't trust me to ensure that I use safe (enough) sex practices with my other partners."

"If I understand you correctly you feel like I don't trust in your safe sex practices. Is that correct?"


"Is there more?"

"I feel like I'm using the best option I know of but that's not good enough for you."

"If I understand you correctly you believe you are using the safest practice available. Is that correct?"


"Is there anything else?"

"I wish if you had better ideas you would share them with me so that could take them into consideration because I love you and I respect your opinions."

"If I understand you correctly you love me and respect me and want me to share my ideas for safe sex so that you can decide if they are agreeable to you. Is that correct?"


"So to paraphrase, You feel like I don't trust your safe sex practices, you think you are using the best options available but are interested in hearing any other ideas I have so that you can consider them as possibilities because you love me and respect my opinion. This must make you feel hurt and discouraged thinking that I don't trust you, frustrated that I might be keeping from you a solution that would be agreeable to both of us and disappointed that I seem to not approve of you even though you are trying so hard. I can understand that because I would feel the same way if I thought you didn't trust me or approve of me and thought you were keeping solutions from me that could help us. I'm going to go home and think about this conversation. I think we can find an amicable solution. Can we talk again tomorrow about it?"

THIS is the point where you GO HOME and THINK about it.

Then come back tomorrow with ideas and DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN!!!

Our counselor says all the time
"Connect before correct"

Connect-make sure you understand, then correct misunderstandings so you can make adjustments and finally you can make EDUCATED decisions about what to do in order to ensure you meet all parties needs.