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Love Homework: “Mirroring”

July 9, 2008

This is a guest post by Damien Riley of Postcards from the Funny Farm.

Hello, I am back again for the second in my “Love Homework” series. To recap, these are tips my wife and I use to keep our relationship happy, healthy and wise. I’m glad to share with you homework #2 today: “Mirroring.”

Mirroring is an activity where you and your significant other sit down and talk to each other. The goal of it is to get you really saying back what your partner is saying, thinking, and feeling and thereby you validate them. If you are like me, there are times when you just don’t get what the other is talking about. I can hear my wife go on and on about something and just shake my head because I’ve already judged her before I really took the time to listen.

Mirroring is taking the time to listen, and more.

If you would like to try mirroring, you have to see it as like an exercise at the gym: you may not do it right the first time but if you keep at it, it will have enormous benefits to your health. Here are some suggested steps as you try it:

  1. Imagine you both are not familiar with anything about the other. Our counselor put it like this: “Strangers on a bus.” As the first person speaks and the second listens, imagine you know nothing and simply pay attention to details about what they are saying. At first try something tame. Note: You may or may not want to try this during an argument until you are really practiced at good at it.
  2. Say “active listening” statements to the other as they talk, but don’t cut them off. Active listening is restating their ideas and feelings for them. ie; “So you said you really liked that taco, that it was better than anything you’d tasted at that restaurant.”
  3. When the speaker is done, summarize what they said, paying special attention to anything that was said about feelings. When you state these, you really validate the other.
  4. Switch and have the other person talk.

Though it sounds simple, this activity can be used like a life-preserver when you find arguing is getting out of control. My wife and I are almost to a point where when something comes up where the other is upset, we allow each other to mirror. It can seem condescending at first, my hope is that we will stop judging it and use daily even multiple times. It can be used to quell an argument but it doesn’t have to be intervention. You can use it when you go out to a nice restaurant for validating and clarifiying the feelings of the one you love.

More info on this topic at: Postcards from the Funny Farm.

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I’m a teacher and songwriter in California. It's always a pleasure writing for It Might be Love. I married my wife in 2002 and we have 3 kids. You can read more about me at my Google profile here. Get updates on Twitter and on my blog.

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