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  • Writer's pictureDr. R

You Said vs. I Heard

Updated: Jan 4

An effective method of initiating Real Dialogue between individuals.

When speaking with others, it is natural to say “you said” in response to their words. This can sometimes result in the other person feeling misunderstood, or that their words are taken out of context or even used against them. Using “you said” may also activate defensiveness in the other, particularly when what you are stating is not what the other person believes they said. This type of interaction often escalates into a conflict where one person tries to convince the other that something was said or happened a certain way, and the other person is confused at best, or reactive at worst, as they don't remember it in that manner.

In order to create more space in the interpersonal field, it can be helpful to say “I heard” or “I understood” instead of “you said” or “you meant” in response to the other. This way of communicating creates a pause where one can state what they heard and be curious about what the speaker meant. It allows the other person to recognize how their words were heard and to clarify their intent, and may ultimately lead to less conflictual, and more productive, conversations.

This is a technique used in Real Dialogue, a method created by Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath, and I encourage you to try it some time. It can introduce a breath of fresh air, especially when you are stuck in repetitive conflict with a loved one. It may also help you lower the emotional threat in a conversation and even allow you to learn something new about each other in the process!

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