The rule is that understanding
must precede advice.
Couples can practice that the goal of an intimate conversation
is only to understand,not to problem-solve.
We say this because premature problem solving tends to shut people down.
Problem solving and advice should only begin when both people feel totally understood.
Skill #1: Putting Your Feelings into Words
The first skill is being able to put one’s feelings into words. This skill was called “focusing” by master clinician Eugene Gendlin. In intimate conversations, focusing makes our conversations about feelings much deeper and more intimate, because the words reveal who we are.
Skill #2: Asking Open-Ended Questions
The second skill of intimate conversations is helping one’s partner explore his or her feelings by asking open-ended questions. This is done by either asking targeted questions, like, “What is your disaster scenario here?” or making specific statements that explore feelings like, “Tell me about what happened or is happening?"
Skill #3: Expressing Empathy
The third skill is empathy, or validation. Empathy isn’t easy. In an intimate conversation, the first two skills help us sense and explore another person’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. Empathy is shown by communication that these thoughts, feelings, and needs make sense to you.
That you understand why the other person’s experience.
That does not mean that you necessarily agree with this person. You might, for example, have an entirely different memory or interpretation of events. Empathy means communicating that, given your partner’s perceptions, these thoughts, feelings, and needs are valid and make sense. You have your own perceptions. Both of your perceptions are valid.
Taken From John Gottman's Three Skills for Couples