Probably the Speaker-Listener Technique, our marriage counselor's first lesson for us. This communication protocol is priceless for any kind of sticky conversation, provided both parties agree to it. It's essentially an algorithm for clear communication, and it goes like this:
- Select an object, let's say a waterbottle, to represent "the floor."
- Choose one person to be the Speaker. The other party will be the Listener.
- The Speaker takes the waterbottle. He or she now has the floor (the right to speak).
- The Speaker says a sentence or two about the topic at hand. (Some types of statements are not allowed, for instance name-calling.) Ideally he or she uses "I"-statements but this isn't required.
- The Listener may ask a clarifying question if he or she is confused. Then the Listener reflects or summarizes what he or she understood from the Speaker's statements: "I hear you saying that..." "What I heard you say was..."
- If the Listener has understood correctly, the Speaker confirms this and the process returns to step 4. If the Listener's statement was not an accurate paraphrase, the Speaker restates him or herself and the process returns to step 5.
- When the Speaker has said as much as he or she wants to say at that point, he or she gives the water bottle to the Listener. Now the Listener has "the floor" and becomes the Speaker; the previous Speaker is now the Listener.
- Repeat steps 4 through 7 as necessary.
- Exit the conversation, having avoided a lot of misunderstanding.