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An Exercise in Gratitude

By Dr. Allen Novian

This exercise is meant to encourage healthy, positive conversations. Often, couples get so caught up in the negative, critical, or stress-laden conversations throughout their day that the positive interactions we crave get pushed to the wayside.

The fact is that positive conversations need to be practiced so that the negative conversations do not create a downward spiral.

Positive conversations of gratitude happen in a set of 6 easy steps, but they are only effective if they are regularly employed:

Step 1: Begin with something you appreciate of about your spouse. You can choose to mention something your spouse has done in the last 24 hours or something that is done repeatedly which you don’t think get appreciated enough. The key is to stay on one thing you appreciate and to describe it as fully as possible. For example, “Tom, I saw that you picked up the dirty clothes around the house this morning and put them in the laundry basket. I really appreciated that! I was able to get all the laundry done without searching all over the house first, and now I have the time and energy to spend with you tonight.” Step 2: When the first spouse is finished speaking, the second spouse needs to “mirror” back what was just said. In other words, repeat back, as close as possible, what you heard them say. “Susan, I heard you say you appreciated that I picked up the dirty clothes because it made your job with the laundry easier and now you have time tonight to spend with me…”

Step 3: When the second spouse has repeated everything that was said, he or she should ask the question “… did I understand you correctly?”

Step 4: If everything was correct, the first spouse should say, “Yes” or make a gesture that lets the partner know they have understood. If there has been a misunderstanding, then the first spouse should describe again what he or she is grateful for and then repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 until you are understood completely.

Step 5: Now the second spouse gets a chance to begin at step 1 and go through steps 2-4.

Step 6: Once step 4 is complete for both spouses then the conversation ends with both spouses summarizing what was understood by taking turns saying, “What I learned from this conversation was…(fill in the blank)”

At this point, you can move onto discussing the rest of your daily checklist of things that need to be discussed, including the negative .

This process may feel uncomfortable at first and take some time, but continue to use it and revise it to fit your conversation patterns. In time it will become more comfortable and take less time for you to understand each other.

Take care and have a terrific week!

image: from, By Stuart Miles, published on 06 March 2013 Stock Image - image ID: 100144807

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