Over several decades of working with hundreds of couples we have observed that the vast majority of people are capable of being great listeners when motivated and under supportive circumstances. On the other hand, nearly all of us are shockingly inept when it comes to asking for the really important things from the people we are closest to. Basic True Love is largely focused on developing this skill set. This video illustrates one of the basic concepts.

Here are some examples of what it means to speak for myself in a compelling manner. Following that are two ineffective, confusing, or even offensive ways we commonly communicate.


“I” statements

Indicates that you are taking responsibility for your own experience. This leaves more room for others to be themselves. As a result people are more likely to accept what you say and not feel threatened, bored or oppressed. The “I” statement consists of information about direct experiences (as opposed to inferences or assumptions). This information can be external (what I have seen and heard) or internal (what I think, believe, feel or desire).

I notice you looking away and tapping your fingers.

I believe this is very important.

I’m relieved and happy to hear from you.

I want more time to think about it.


“You” statements

Stimulates defensiveness and resistance in others. Others feel controlled, misunderstood, invaded. The statement comes across as rigid, arrogant and/or manipulative. Often the substance is not truly even heard.

You shouldn’t have done that.

I feel that you are being irresponsible and vague.

You’re angry.
You don’t really mean that.


“Undirected” statements

These messages are often voiced in an indirect way that is too passive to be effective. Clarity and straightforwardness are missing. Listeners tend to devalue or discount what is being said, as they resist the use of unnamed others being brought in to back up our position.

Wo/men are like this or feel this way…

It might be nice if we could spend more time together.

I wish that someone would think about taking out the trash.

Everybody knows…

—Adapted from Talking and Listening Together by Miller, Miller, Nunnaly, Wackman

Relating can be a hassle
Even though you love them a passel
You start off real nice
But then you think twice:
Did I make a mistake?
Is there no give and take?

Joy’s hard to find
When you’re losing your mind
It’s hard to know
Which way to go
Things are so fraught
My efforts are naught
How can I make things better?

I heard about this class
And figured… I would pass
But then, I thought again
If there’s any chance to win
I oughta give it a try
There’s lots of reasons why

Much to my surprise
I found love in my partner’s eyes
Now our life’s so sweet
At last I feel complete