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  • Writer's pictureDr. R

You Said vs. I Heard

Updated: Jul 10

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 were taken out of context or are being 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 stick to "I" statements, such as "I heard" or "I understood" or "I remember it this way". This enables you to connect with your subjective experience and move away from debating what the other expressed. This technique of "speaking for yourself", often 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 feel like a breath of fresh air, especially when you are stuck in a repetitive dialogue with a loved one. Speaking for yourself may also lower the emotional threat in a conversation, and create a space to listen differently where you may discover something new about your beloved.

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