Communication How To’s with Imago and Sex Therapist Amy K. Bucciere, LCSW, CST

June 6, 2024

We’ve all thought about communication.

Am I doing it right? Why is this so hard? Why can’t my person do it better!? Turnkey advice and the ever-present listicles often fall flat.  Despite constant practice in the age of hyperconnection, it’s hard to feel confident about communicating well. I’m offering a series of blogs about a few basic components of communication I learned in my therapy training and that I teach my clients every day.

The Imago approach to relationships, spearheaded by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaHunt Kelly, gives us not just a way to think about communicating, but also a way to do it. The core of the approach is the Imago Dialogue. Let’s start with availability.

An example-- your first few months with a new love interest have gone well. You enjoy each others’ company, seem to share a sense of humor, and are getting to know each other. You get a call from your person and she says, “We need to talk.” Uh oh. What does that mean?!

Take a breath. It means you have an opportunity. You can take this moment to deepen the connection between you. That’s a great thing! All we know is that she’s asking for your attention, focus and consideration. So ask yourself, do I have it to give?

This will make or break the conversation. Check in with yourself: “Am I available right now?” Maybe you just finished a difficult meeting, or you’re on your way out. If you genuinely aren’t available, don’t pretend like you are. Otherwise, three minutes into this sensitive conversation, you get overwhelmed, she gets frustrated, and you’ll wish you had been more forthcoming.

“So,” you’re thinking, “I just say no, I don’t want to talk?” Not at all. It’s your responsibility to the relationship to find availability. Choose a time that really, actually works. Clear your head so you show up with curiosity and open mindedness. Take the lead in planning the alternative time. Know thyself well enough so you know 1. when you are and are not available and 2. how to become available when your relationship asks that of you. You say, “Of course I’m available to talk, but not until later tonight. Can I come over around 8?”

This, my friend, is magic. She will get that you take her seriously, and that her concerns matter to you. You are being an emotionally responsive and responsible partner. This is a relationship with staying power.

The takeaway: availability is key.

Without it, conversations will be unproductive at best, and damaging at worst. If you are asking to have a talk, or receiving an ask, make sure:

  1. Are both parties truly available?
  2. If not, how do we get there? (get ready inside yourself, decide on a time, create a supportive environment)
  3. And genuinely *show up* for the conversation.

It’ll work out so much better.

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