PAIRS Dialogue Guide is a helpful tool for confiding and listening to avoid misunderstandings, misperceptions or incorrect assumptions.
The Dialogue Guide helps you (a) explore different facets of an event that was upsetting, (b) assure full, accurate, honest information is shared, and (c) encourages goodwill, empathy and understanding as resources to find solutions that serve the relationship. A shorter version called Talking Tips
is also available.
Before doing this exercise with a partner, it's important for both of you to be aware of the basics of good communication skills. PAIRS suggests beginning with Good Talking Skills
and Stress Styles of Communication
When done in person, the Speaker begins by identifying the specific behavior or action that was upsetting.
The Speaker starts with “I notice…” filling in whatever triggered the concern or complaint, and then continues by going around the wheel clockwise, completing each sentence stem with what applies to the situation. Stay on one issue only.
After each sentence stem, the Speaker stops to allow the Listener to reflect on what was just said by the Speaker, and repeat back what was heard. This allows the Speaker to know the information shared was heard accurately.
Sometimes, when the Listener repeats back what was heard, the Speaker may realize that what was heard is not what was said or perhaps not what was meant. In this case, the Speaker goes back to the stem and repeats or rephrases so the Listener can repeat back what was heard until it is accurate.
Remember, the Dialogue Guide is not a conversation; it is a tool for confiding, understanding and, hopefully, deepening empathy.
Throughout the exercise, it’s important for the Speaker to appreciate the Listener for taking the time to listen and repeating back what the Speaker is expressing. So after the Listener hears each statement correctly, the Speaker should say something like, “Yes, thank you.”
For the Speaker, the Dialogue Guide is not a time to attack, guilt-trip, put-down or break significant relationship news.
For the Listener, this is not a time for discussion, argument, defensiveness, explanations, rebuttals, keeping score or emotional reactions.
The Dialogue Guide is an exercise in confiding that helps promote goodwill and allows many misunderstandings to be averted and resolved.
At the end of the exercise, after the Speaker has confided using each of the sentence stems and the Listener has clearly heard, repeated and understood each one, acknowledge each other with an embrace or other sincere expression of appreciation for both listening and confiding.
PAIRS Dialogue Guide App is designed to familiarize you with the steps and process, consider in advance what you, the Speaker, want to say, and can be useful to share by email when it's not possible to do the exercise in person.