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7 great tips for Imago Dialogue

  1. Never dialogue when you’re angry.   The Imago dialogue is a process of conscious communication.  It’s difficult to be conscious when you’re angry.

Conscious communication is about taking responsibility for your experience, your feelings and the deeper childhood experience that created the trigger for your reaction.  Also, it’s about keeping the space between you and your partner safe.  Remember that anger is a cover feeling.  We are never angry for the reason we think.  If either of you is angry because your partner isn’t listening to you, it’s more than likely true that you had a parent who didn’t listen in the way that you needed.  What’s underlying is probably feeling unimportant, sad, hurt, frustrated or alone.  Yours may be different, though deeper than anger.   Communicating when you’ve taken some time to figure it out will keep each of you from the automatic reaction.  If you want to switch, notice if that switch is to defend yourself or be right.  Take time to understand your partner, so you can consciously talk about your experience.  Often a switch isn’t necessary.


  1. Always ask for an appointment when you want to have a dialogue. “I’d like to have a dialogue about what happened this morning.  Is this a good time?” If it’s not, set up a specific time as soon as possible.

A dialogue needs to be set up for both of you to win.  Automatically dialoging will only lead to more reactive expression and behavior, where you ultimately continue to feel unsafe and disconnected.  You are both responsible for keeping the space between you clean and safe.  Remember that if you just start talking and expect your partner to mirror you, it will only create more disappointment.  That’s the reason for the dialogue structure.


  1. Do practice the dialogue.  I suggest doing more appreciations in the beginning.

You can also dialogue about your day, the kids, or something innocuous just to learn the process.  Keep your cheat sheet with you as you do this.  Many people think they’ve dialogued enough if they just mirror.  Going deeper into validation and empathy allows the listener to understand more deeply your experience, so more healing can take place.  You can reduce the dialogue sheet, laminate it and keep it with you for times outside of your home.


  1. Keep it short.  At first about 3 or 4 sends.  It’s much easier for the receiver to hold what you’re saying.

It’s amazing how clear you can be in 3 or 4 sentences.  Just practice and see if you can say your frustration consciously.  When it goes on and on, your partner may lose the essence of what you’re wanting them to hear.  It may be difficult at first to not want to go on and on, which is why I say…practice.  Also, if it’s a long process, when you ask for a dialogue, it may feel like a chore.  If as the receiver you feel like it’s too much to mirror, calmly put your hand up a little and say “let me see if get you,” letting them know that it’s important that you are able to hear them.


  1. When asking for a behavior change, ask for something positive.

For example; “When we’re out and walking, I don’t want you to walk ahead of me” becomes, “When we’re out and walking, I’d like you to walk beside me and hold my hand.”  Asking for what you would like, allows your partner to give you the gift, rather than pointing out what’s wrong. It becomes a criticism…we don’t connect through criticism.  Right? With a child, or even talking to yourself, “Don’t spill your milk” will almost assure the milk will spill.  If you change that to “please hold on to your glass”, you will get a more positive response.  I remember bringing my coffee into a supermarket and saying to myself, “you’re going to spill this,” and almost immediately it spilled.  Amazing how that works.


  1. Be patient and give your partner the benefit of the doubt. This process is not easy.  You may fall out of the process at first (and probably second and third).

Take a break and come back to it.  Make a specific time, so you know you will revisit it shortly.  You always want to let your partner know that what they have to say matters to you.


  1. The Imago dialogue is not about solving a problem. It’s about a process of learning to listen to your partner’s world with presence, compassion, understanding and empathy. There’s nothing more healing that that. Create a connection before trying to resolve issues. Stay present with your eyes. Holding hands when dialoguing helps to keep the connection.

Be kind to each other.  You’re in it together.  Thank each other for going on this journey with you.  You’re learning a whole new way to communicate.  It’s a very valiant journey toward getting the love you want

By: Bobbi Newman

Carol Dixon
Carol Dixon
Richard and I have been married for nearly 30 years. Imago saved our marriage! I first experienced Imago through Hedy and Yumi Schleifer in 2000 when my husband, Richard, and I attended a Getting the Love You Want couples workshop. I immediately “fell in love” with Imago and knew it was the answer to all my searching for a safe place to work on my relationship with Richard, as well as the best method to inform my own work with couples. I am continually learning and growing through Imago and have recently started to experience the “real love” stage after many years of journeying and doing the work with Richard. As Richard says – “we have learnt to think and be dialogical” and our dance is no longer characterized by reactivity. We are more and more responding to each other with deep understanding, conscious responsiveness and graciousness. No relationship is perfect and indeed ours is not, however we both feel so much more competent and equipped to deal with issues and find ourselves closer than we have been for years! I love working with couples now because Imago Relationship Therapy has provided me with a tool box sine que non, and being able to offer couples the option of attending a workshop provides the flexibility and depth many struggling couples need to grow and heal their relationship. I offer 2-3 day Intensive Couples sessions during which time I work with one couple to explore the dynamics of the relationship, help the couple re-connect emotionally, and facilitate ways of re-solving frustrations through the use of the Imago Dialogue.

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