The way a conversation begins often sets the tone for its trajectory. When conflicts or sensitive topics are approached with criticism, blame, or harsh language, it tends to trigger defensiveness and escalates the conflict. On the other hand, a gentle start-up allows for a more productive and positive exchange.
Here are some key elements of a Gottman gentle start-up:
1. Use "I" statements: Express your thoughts and feelings using statements that begin with "I" rather than "you." This helps to avoid sounding accusatory or attacking the other person's character. For example, saying "I feel hurt when..." instead of "You always..."
2. State specific behaviours or situations: Focus on describing the specific actions or events that have affected you rather than making generalisations or assumptions. This allows the other person to have a clearer understanding of the issue. For example, saying "Yesterday, when you didn't call me as you promised..." instead of "You never keep your promises."
3. Express emotions and needs: Clearly communicate how the situation made you feel and what needs or concerns are arising from it. Sharing your emotions and needs helps your partner understand the impact of their actions and encourages empathy. For example, saying "I felt disappointed and worried because I value open communication and reliability in our relationship."
4. Be respectful and kind: Approach the conversation with a genuine desire to find a resolution and maintain respect for your partner. Avoid derogatory language, sarcasm, or insults, as these escalate conflicts and damage emotional bonds.
The goal of a gentle start-up is to create an atmosphere of safety, openness, and understanding. It encourages active listening and empathy from both partners, making it more likely for conflicts to be addressed and resolved constructively. By practicing gentle start-ups, couples can establish healthier patterns of communication that foster connection, intimacy, and mutual respect in their relationship.