Principles of effective communication


  1. Be accepting.
    • This means to accept the other person exactly the way he or she is. We tend to marry fixer-uppers so we need to accept the person as they are when we enter the relationship.
    • Demonstrate empathy.
  2. Be interested.
  3. To really study that other person in order to UNDERSTAND him or her.
  4. There are two major advantages to being interested:
    1. It is the highest form of caring.
    2. We are similar because of our unconscious choices and therefore we can learn about ourselves.
  5. When someone tells you about their feelings this cannot be thrown up to them at a time in the future.
  6. The reason people are not trustworthy is so there can be sufficient distance maintained in the relationship.
  7. We must learn to ask questions for purposes of understanding.
  8. Questions are often used as indirect criticisms and often the other person answers them.
  9. Learning to ask questions is a skill that has to be acquired and practiced.
  10. When talking about feelings, often there is no perceptual agreement.
  11. This involves joining the other person in his or her perceptual world. This does not mean that you agree that the other person’s reality matches your perception or what you consider reality.
  12. Dr. B uses a glass bird in his office.
  13. Be trustworthy.
  14. Ask questions.
  15. Establish perceptual agreement.
    • One person says to the other, “I don’t like that glass bird.” The other person asks, “What glass bird?”
    • If the couple cannot agree upon reality, they have nothing to talk about. This stops no one and leads to arguments that go long into the night.
    • This evokes the Need to be Right phenomena:
      • I am right and you are wrong.
      • This results in your self esteem elevator going down and mine going up.
      • If you are right and I am wrong, I must give in to you and give up a portion of myself. This feels like giving up the totality of who I am and I will feel, consumed, dominated, swallowed up and die.
      • Since I don’t want to die, I must fight to the death to be right.

Keep Any Criticism Constructive.

No one wants criticism, whether it is negative or positive (constructive).

Positive or constructive criticism is advice given which does not in any way benefit the giver.

Do not give any advice unless specifically asked for.

Choose Time and Place Carefully.

The time and place that emotionally charged information is delivered is important.

This place should be as emotionally neutral as possible.

Choose Being Loved.

Everyone wants to be right.

Choose being loved instead of being right.

As stated above, if you are right and I am wrong, my self-esteem elevator goes down. If you are right and I am wrong, then I must give myself to you. The result is that I feel controlled and enveloped.

Ask and Do Not Demand.

Asking is requesting and does not require a yes.

Demanding is asking where no is not an acceptable answer.

Demanding taps into the closeness disease.

Abide by the Always and Never Principle.

Couples will argue over whether it is always and never and lose sight of the surface issue that is part of the pathway to feelings.

Always and never are redefined as frequently and infrequently.

Always and never are overlying issues.


  1. Take responsibility for another’s for another’s feelings.
  2. Don’t Submit.
    • You don’t have to do what you don’t want to, but, if you do, do it willingly. If you force someone to submit, he or she will become passive- aggressive and punish you.
  3. Don’t Retaliate or Withdraw.
  4. To retaliate is to vent anger.
    • Anger is a first line defense and protects against pain, fear, shame, and guilt.
    • Withdrawal is a primitive defense designed to protect.
    • Withdrawal produces distance.
    • Retaliation pushes away.
  5. Reassurance is good and raises the self-esteem elevator.
  6. If you reassure too quickly, it shuts off communication and produces anger.
  7. To not listen is to not care and to generate feelings of not being important and of being invisible.
  8. To assume is to make an Ass out of U and Me.
  9. The problem with assumptions is that they are frequently wrong.
  10. Assumptions are based on unconscious conflicts and are related to transference distortions.
  11. To interrupt is a mark of anxiety.
  12. To interrupt is a mark of narcissism.
  13. To interrupt is a mark of insensitivity.
  14. To interrupt is to not listen.
  15. To interrupt disrupts communication.
  16. To interrupt is rude.
  17. The best defense is offense.
  18. Counterattack is a defense against lowering of the self-esteem elevator.
  19. Counterattack is also known as Tit for Tat.
  20. If something is bothering you, discuss it as a separate issue at a separate time.
  21. If a point is about to be won, the subject must be changed.
  22. This effort is made in order to be right.
  23. Do you want to be right or do you want to be loved? Everyone wants to be right.
  24. We need to be right to maintain elevated self-esteem and to avoid being controlled.
  25. It is not possible for one person to change another.
  26. The reason we marry a fixer upper is because we have recreated with the other a relationship which is in part like the relationship we had with the parent or parents of conflict, for purposes of fixing our childhood.
  27. To argue over past realities struggles for right and accomplishes nothing.
  28. The correct thing to do is move the issue to the present and establish a current reality.
  29. This is an overlying issue.
  30. The issue being argued is once removed and avoids dealing with the surface issue.
  31. Don’t Be Too Quick To Reassure.
  32. Don’t Make Assumptions.
  33. Don’t Interrupt.
  34. Don’t Counterattack.
  35. Don’t Change the Subject.
  36. Don’t Try To Change Another.
  37. Don’t Argue Over Past Realities.