from Talk To Me Like I’m Someone You Love
1. Where the idea came from...
2. How easy it is to have a rupture...and maybe easier than you th ink to repair it.
3. A little instruction and a little good advice

3. A little instruction and a little good advice

Before using the provided messages in the trenches, it’s a good idea to read through them all in the next day or so, noting the ones that evoke a pang of recognition or appreciation (“Boy, that would have been handy last week when….”). In most relationships, what would have been handy a week ago will almost certainly be useful tomorrow.  Some of the messages will be thoughts you never thought to share before.  Some will feel more “you” than others.  Just allow yourtself to take in this universe of repair possibilities.  On the opposite page of each ready-to-flash message, I have included some field notes on the particular message and some suggestions as to when its use might be optimal.  Just by reading the flash cards and field notes, you are majorly expanding your response repertoire.

The messages in this book are divided into eleven categories to assist you in finding the right tone and optimal words for whatever uncomfortable or painful encounter you happen to find yourselves in: I. Shifting gears; II. Setting Limits; III. Feeling Vulnerable; IV. Taking Responsibility; V. Aplogizing; VI. Giving Information; VII. Getting Clarification; VIII Loving; IX. Making Up; X Making Love and XI Deepening Trust.  These divisions can be used as a starting point to get clearer about what is really feeling off to you about how any particular interaction is going.  What you are trying to do is switch from escalating your annoyance at your partner to dealing with the real heartache underneath the escalation: for example, stop yelling and simply flashing, “I don’t feel heard.” 

Imagine you are stuck in a combative stance and are somewhat motivated to move in a kinder direction. (I say “somewhat” because that’s usually the case initially; the messages are designed to move you towards wholeheartedness.)  If you do not have a pre-designated message to go to, scan the index and let yourself gravitate toward the section that seems to match your current emotional climate—feeling intimidated by your partner might lead you to Setting Limits; feeling exposed and defensive might lead you to Feeling Vulnerable and feeling confused and worried about what your partner seems to be suggesting, might make Getting Clarification a good place to start.  And so on.  Please keep in mind that the indexing is understandably subjective and the “perfect message” may turn out to be not what you’d initially suspect.  But familiarizing yourself with the messages when you are in Calm Mode can only help you.

Over the years, as I have presented the concept of Flashcards for Real Life, people sometimes question me on the user-friendliness of the whole idea.  Typically I get, “How am I supposed to go look up a message and use it when I am triggered?…….It feels klunky…..and it takes time!”   Brilliant graphics designers and I have spent hours and hours trying to make the indexing and mobility of the set maximally functional.  But recently I have rethought this.  If the “Magic Communication Elf” instantly put the perfect message in your hands, believe me, something would be lost.  The point isn’t to just calm your partner….it is to create a lucid interval where you are consciously shifting gears and choosing to be in your right mind over your reactive one.  You should be part of making this happen and it should take a little time and effort on your part.    

Rarely do you leave Starbucks or the ATM machine because two people unfortunately happen to be in line in front of you   If you know where the set is (not an insignificant point, and the reason why in a perfect world, you should each have your own set), finding a relevant message takes far less time than the order and delivery of your latte. This is Your Relationship for goodness sakes! 

So here’s the truth:  it is less important that this gift in your hands is “userfriendly” than that the user be friendly.....



sample flash cards including anytime Valentine's Day card.

"...Dreyfus has developed some very real tools to effect conflict-intervention for real life — and done so in gorgeously concrete detail....She has figured out a way to ‘make meaning’ and, therefore, enable the couple to move out of a war zone and to a context where peace is actually possible."

– Barbara Jo Brothers, editor of The Journal of Couples Therapy