Sonya Thomas lcsw

Communication Continuums – Part 1 of 5

Continuing on with my high regard for the work of author and couples therapist Ellyn Bader and her husband Peter Pearson, we are going to be taking a look at three different continuums along which couples and their communication can be assessed.  Bader and Pearson use these continuums to help couples figure out where they are, as well as where they want to be in regards to how well they communicate and the extent to which they are engaged with one another.

  • the Initiator Continuum
  • the Inquirer Continuum
  • the Engagement Continuum

The first two relate to how couples communicate.  We recently looked at the 3 part Imago Dialogue.  I love this structure for couples who are just beginning to learn healthier communication skills.  Once the basics have been mastered, dialogue can be taken to another level, one in which a deeper exploration of self and other can occur.  This is where Bader and Pearson come in.  In their model, they use the “Initiator-Inquirer” process to facilitate communication.  It is a simple, yet also rich and multi-dimensional process of revealing oneself and truly “getting” the other.

In the Bader and Pearson model, they refer to the “Initiator” as the person who is asking for a dialogue and intends to reveal something of themselves as they share information with their partner.  This is the equivalent of the “sender” in Imago parlance.  The person who is listening effectively is  referred to as the “Inquirer”.  This person is the equivalent of the “receiver” in an Imago dialogue.  Using the Intitiator-Inquirer process of dialogue,  couples are asked to assess where they fall along a continuum of skills.  We will look more deeply at what each role entails in this series of blog posts.

The “engagement” continuum is a tool that is used to assess how engaged partners are with one another when it comes to communication ~ how open and supportive partners are as they share their concerns with one another.

Stay tuned for more as we continue to delve deeper into effective communication.  Until then, peace.