The Magic of Three Part Communication

Often people in relationships complain that they do not feel heard. 

When I listen to them, I look for what is getting in the way. Is it the tone of their voice, the energy, the body language?  Why is the listener tuning out or responding defensively or aggressively?  I observe this breakdown in communication between adult partners, as well as between parents and their children.

What it often comes down to is the need for a more effective way of speaking to each other.  Most of us tell half a story when we express ourselves.

          I want you to stop asking for more candy…right now!

          I told you I don’t want to go to that movie tonight.

Those are valid statements of what it is that we want or don’t want.  Afterwards, however, the tone in the room may seem strained, unfriendly, possibly a fight may ensue.  Time for a new talking tool!

If you add two more parts to each of the above examples, you may achieve a more pleasant exchange.

Sweetheart, I know you want more candy and it is upsetting to not get it.  I love candy also. There isn’t going to be any more candy today, but I think there will be a chance to have more tomorrow.


I really appreciate that you suggested a movie for tonight. I know that is the one you would like to go to, but I’m not in the mood to go to that particular one and that is disappointing to you. Could we possibly consider that for another time  so that we can go to my choice tonight.

Notice that the first part of the response is pure empathy, the ability to acknowledge what you believe the other person may be feeling.   The second part is the clear statement of what it is you want. The third part communicates future possibilities.

When a person feels understood, and when there is a  hopeful feeling of potential, they are better able to hear the other’s point of view.  That is the magic of three part communication.