Let’s look more deeply at the role of the initiator, the person who is interested in exploring a complaint, frustration or something that may be weighing on them. The initiator does the following:
- Bring up one and only one issue to discuss – get clear about your main concern before you ask for a dialogue and stay on track with this one issue.
- Use “I messages” to describe thoughts, feelings and wishes about the issue. Feelings are often complex and can even be contradictory. Look for the vulnerability that may be underneath your feelings and share that.
- Avoid blaming, shaming and name calling.
- Be open to learning more about yourself than was known before you started the conversation- remember “this is my problem; it’s about me revealing something of myself and respectfully expressing my thoughts and feelings.”
The last bullet point is what sets apart the Bader and Pearson process from others. It is not as if other models exclude learning more about self as a function of communication. Bader and Pearson are just explicit about it.
Let’s look at the skills that are assessed along the “Initiator Continuum.” They range from less mature communication skills to more mature skills. Can you locate where you see yourself?
- I recognize when I am upset but I don’t bring up my feelings;
- I tend to express judgement, get critical or lecture my partner instead of talking about my feelings;
- It’s hard for me to be specific, I tend to globalize and stay vague;
- I only express feelings when I am angry, then I blurt them out and blame my partner;
- I stop and think about what is bothering me and why before I talk to my partner about it;
- I am able to manage my urgency and ask my partner for a good time to talk;
- I tell my partner what is bothering me without blaming;
- I recognize that sometimes my feelings are hard to identify so as I am talking, I am also thinking about what other vulnerable feelings I might be experiencing;
- As I recognize that I have other feelings, I am able to honestly reveal these to my partner;
- Throughout the conversation, I am interested in learning and discovering more about myself and how I function.
Next up, the Inquirer . . .