How to Resolve a Communication Breakdown

You’ve tried to explain your point of view and the other person just won’t listen.  You know you’re right so why should you waste time asking what they think?  If this isn’t you, you have probably experienced a communication breakdown with someone who takes this approach.

Do Your Homework

The first step in resolving a communication breakdown is taking time to reflect.  While this might make some people uncomfortable, feelings are involved.  The Gottman Institute recommends considering the following:

  • Feelings: Examine how you felt
  • Realities: Explore your perceptions, what you saw and heard and what you needed
  • Triggers: Identify previous experiences that might have escalated your reaction and why
  • Responsibility: Acknowledge your own role in the communication breakdown

Move Forward

When you’ve completed your homework, try utilizing The Imago Dialogue format to move the conversation in a new direction with these tools:

  1. Mirroring what you heard
  2. Validating the other person’s perspective even though you may not agree with it
  3. Empathizing with their feelings


Be an MVP

You can be a Most Valuable Partner if you practice MVE (Mirroring, Validating and Empathizing) using this script:

  • Agree on a good time to talk
  • Mirror: “What I heard you say is…Do I have that right?”
  • Other person says “Yes” or corrects your statement
  • Validate: “That makes sense”
  • Empathize: “I can imagine you might be feeling…” This List of Emotions can help.
  • Other person says “Yes” and/or shares other feelings – none are right or wrong
  • Ask the other person whether they are ready to practice MVE or agree on another time in the next 24 hours

As with anything new, this approach takes practice.  You’ll know you’re getting better when your goal is to understand the other person’s perspective – not to defend your position – and when both parties feel heard.