Conversations in a couple’s life together range from the profound to the mundane. One moment we need to talk about who’s taking the kids to school, and the next we’re needing to share our deepest fears and longings.
There’s a time and place for all of it.
It would be exhausting if every conversation with our partner was about processing feelings and deeply probing our emotions. It would be equally unsatisfying for every conversation to skim the surface of life focusing on practicalities and tasks.
Being able to identify different levels of conversation can help couples communicate more effectively.
When couples can identify the different kinds of conversation available to them, they can become more intentional about what level of conversation is needed in the moment and how to respond to it. This can help them communicate more clearly, set expectations for that conversation, and avoid misunderstandings that lead to conflict.
Consider using the short-forms Level 1-4 next time you want to converse with your partner about something.
If you need to talk to your partner about a sensitive matter that you feel deeply about, you might want to start off with saying something like:
“Sweetie, can we put aside 20 minutes this evening to have a level 4 conversation about my work. I need to share my thoughts with you.”
“My day was exhausting. Do you mind if we keep things on level 1 until I feel more rested?”
“I haven’t been feeling very connected to you lately. I think we’ve been stuck in Level 1 conversations these past weeks. I’m missing our Level 3 talks.”
Defining the 4 Levels of Conversation
Level 1: Small Talk and Its Role in Daily Life
This is the most superficial level of conversation, where couples engage in light and easy conversation about everyday topics like the weather, current events, or work and family schedules.
Level 1 are conversations that many of us fill our days with. We need these conversations to handle daily life and coordinate with our partner.
Usually, our engagement in these conversations are more rational, observational. They are generally emotionally neutral and goal oriented.
Level 2: Opinions and How They Deepen Emotional Connection
At this level, we share more personal information and opinions about topics like our hobbies, interests, and beliefs. We may also discuss current issues that are important to us or debate different perspectives on various topics.
Level 2 conversations can deepen emotional connection. They usually involve more personal topics where partners reveal themselves to each other.
We come to understand our partner’s feelings and learn more about things that matter to them. We learn about their background such as family memories, fun activities, past challenges and experiences that contributed to who they are today.
By moving beyond superficial small talk and sharing more personal aspects of ourselves, couples can share their experiences and develop a deeper emotional connection. Level 2 conversations help build trust and strengthen the bond between partners.
Level 3: Dreams and Aspirations for a Stronger Bond
Level 3 conversations are defined by a deeper emotional revealing, often including unedited sharing that is based on trust, safety, and vulnerability.
In the more profound levels of conversation, couples share their ultimate goals and aspirations for their life together.
Here we talk about feelings, what’s important to us, what excites us and why, we openly share our fears, disappointments and insecurities.
“I’ve never told anyone this before but…”
“What I really want you to know about me is…”
These conversations can include subjects like, beliefs, values, faith and shared dreams.
They can also help to create a strong sense of unity and support in the relationship, as well as build a shared sense of meaning and purpose in our life together.
By discussing our dreams and our doubts we learn to be more honest about who we are and trust that our partner has our back, no matter what.
Level 4: Presence and Being Transparent in the Moment
Level 4 conversation requires us to be even more open and transparent. It’s less about conceptualizing, explaining or dreaming. Level 4 is about presence. It’s about noticing and being with what’s happening in the moment we’re together.
“Right now I feel peaceful, excited, nervous, relieved.”
“I’m feeling grateful for…”
“I’m scared to say this but…, when you expressed your desire just now, I feel insecure that…”
We want to trust that whatever we express will be met with compassion and understanding.
When we share our present-time thoughts and feelings, we’re letting our partner into our inner world in that moment. In a relaxed and trusting state, partners can flow with what is arising in the moment and follow that, wherever it leads.
Level 4 makes room for moments of silence beyond words. It allows our partner to see us, as we are, for who we are, with all our imperfections and emotional complexity. It’s trusting that whatever arises in the present moment is welcome and accepted.
Each level has its time and place
There’s a time and place for every level of conversation. If we’re always in Level 3, talking about feelings, we can become weighed down with the emotional processing that deep sharing requires.
If we’re always in Level 1 conversations we can slip into auto-pilot, talking about tasks, kids, work, news. We end up feeling drained by superficiality and unfulfilled in our desire to be seen and felt on a deeper level.
Identify what level of conversation is best suited for the moment. Use your words to handle the practicalities of life and look for the opportunities to engage in conversations that nurture connection and reveal more of who you are.
Learn to step out of your conversational comfort-zone
If you avoid some levels of conversation, ask yourself why you’re avoiding them. Does it feel risky? What are your fears? What patterns of conversation have you and your partner fallen into? Do you assume there’s nothing new to learn about your partner? Have you lost the trust you need in order to go deeper?
If you grew up in a family that avoided the deeper conversations, you may find yourself always gravitating to Level 1. If you were taught that being vulnerable and sharing your emotions is a sign of weakness, you may even fear ridicule or judgement if you opened up to your partner. Stay with it.
Your relationship is your greatest teacher, when it comes to learning how to effectively communicate and deepen your connection with another human being.
If you feel emotionally disconnected from your partner and you want to initiate levels 3 or 4 set aside time for those conversations to take place.
• Ask questions that show interest in your partner’s thoughts and experiences.
• Lead them gently with questions that will open them to sharing what’s meaningful to them.
• Stay clear of judgments or telling them what to feel.
• Give them time to express themselves fully without trying to fix their problem for them.
Communication Strategies for Couples to Improve Their Relationship
Here are some prompts you can use when exploring these deeper conversations:
How are you feeling?
What do you need right now in order to relax?
Are there parts of yourself that are in conflict right now?
What’s on your mind these days?
What are you looking forward to?
Tell me the story about…
Talk to me, I’m listening.
Tell me more about that.
Tell me how you feel about…
Learn to express tolerance, empathy, and understanding:
I can see how you would feel that way.
That must be hard.
I admire your position on that.
Let me repeat what I heard you say just now, so I understand.
Remember what it was like to first get to know your partner. There are many things you have yet to discover if you know how to engage your curiosity. Your partner is always changing and growing. Stay current with who they are today.
Sharing a common language
From the mundane to the profound, couples need to navigate through a multitude of conversations.
By understanding the 4 levels of conversations we get clear on the purpose and intention behind our words.
By sharing this common language, couples can set expectations for a conversation, we can identify the source of our conversational frustrations, and we can express our need for deeper sharing.
Private coaching is your fastest route to forming long lasting habits that create loving relationships.
If your relationship is struggling with conflict, or suffering from a lack of connection, schedule a a free discovery Call with me.
You’ll learn how relationship coaching can lay a solid foundation for your future happiness.
This post was previously published on Love Sex and Desire and is republished on Medium.
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