The simple mistake so many people are making in their relationship.

Mistakes may look simple with hindsight, but the chances are that while they are going on they are complex and seem right.  After all, who would make a mistake deliberately and consciously? Not you, I bet.

In relationships the most common mistake is not to listen to each other.

We are usually thinking of our reply while the other person is talking, and as soon as they have finished speaking we launch into a response that is already half-formed in our mind.  Very few people concentrate on what is being said to them, or mirror it back before they start thinking of their reply.

I work with a very successful relationship therapy method called Imago. I use these tools and techniques in my couples counselling work and also in my online course with RESCU Me Academy Reignite Your Relationship where I teach in 33 video lessons what you would experience in couples therapy.

In Imago language therapists encourage a safe conversation which includes an element of validation and empathy for what the other is saying.

Imago is short for ‘Imago Relationship Therapy’ and is a way of having a structured dialogue with someone which ensures that each listens so the other feels heard, and talking so the other will listen.  It is invaluable in couples counselling work, but is also effective in all other types of relationships, at work or in the family, or with friends. Here’s a video from the Reignite Your Relationship course where two actors demonstrate the Imago Dialogue when dealing with the issue of anger. It’s powerful stuff and one of the best tools I can offer you in transforming your relationship.

Couples who don’t let the other know that they are being heard and understood find that both start to build a level of stress and frustration.

Small issues can build into major conflicts. For example if one partner asks and asks the other to do something or to stop doing something but there is never any change, they will feel disrespected and unacknowledged. If their partner only says something, such as, ‘I hear you say that you want me to ……’, even if they don’t heed it their partner will at least know that they have been heard. If we don’t feel heard something resentful starts to grow within us. However, if we feel that we have been heard, we feel soothed even if we are still perhaps irritated it is not to the same extent.


One of the most common complaints I hear in my couples’ therapy room are ‘He doesn’t listen to me,’ or ‘She just doesn’t hear what I say.’ As conflict grows, fed by the lack of good communication, the couple begins to break apart and drift into disconnection. But by using an Imago Dialogue technique the couple can move from conflict to connection and they can start to listen to each other and feel that each is heard.  The difference on the relationship is immediate and huge. Learning new techniques and relationship strategies is one of the best investments a couple can make to bullet proof their future. I like to think of this as more than therapy, and rather like having a love and happiness coach.

Not to listen to other people is a mistake that is fostered from early childhood.  We are encouraged to respond quickly and this is called a conversation. But by mirroring someone, validating what they say and showing empathy for how they must be feeling, it’s easy to understand the difference that makes to rapport. When you watch the video I have shared from my course, the technique may initially be seen as clunky and in practice you may find it annoying at first, but as it becomes smoother in use and more instinctive it becomes more powerful too. It is a truly transformative tool.

Chances are, you’ve had a baked beans partner in your life according to the Out Louders…

The technique is to mentally ‘cross the bridge’ between yourself and the person in front of you.  Don’t just respond to the face value of what you hear them say, actually cross into their world so that they know that you have heard them.

You don’t have to agree with them. You just need to say that you have heard what they have said.

When there is an argument between two people, often at its heart is frustration that the other does not seem to be listening, or showing any signs of wanting to listen and understand your position.  This frustration can grow into major conflict. But by using Imago you can move from conflict to connection very quickly.

So like many things which appear simple, not listening and learning how to listen effectively takes practice. And the quickest way to start to learn is with a teacher.

I encourage you to put the lessons in the video to practice with your partner and try it a couple of times so it’s a little more intuitive.

Annie Gurton is a relationship therapist and love coach for RESCU Me Academy Re-ignite Your Relationship online course.

Do this course if you want to…

Stop fights and arguments in their tracks, Speak so your partner listens, Set boundaries for space and privacy, Talk about money without fighting, Eliminate Jealousy and diffuse Anger, Understand childhood traumas that sabotage your relationship, Keep the sizzle and romance alive forever, Get off the power struggle loop, Re-imagine your partner to get the best out of them, Bullet-proof your relationship from affairs.

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