I first heard this technique proposed by Dr. Ken Hardy, Professor of Family Therapy at Syracuse University. I had arranged for him to do a presentation for a group of agency treatment staff. Then later as I walked with him along San Francisco’s Market Street, we talked about this simple yet effective method for working through a conflict. His idea was to use a specific yet flexible format to help frame conversations where there is a conflict that threatens to overwhelm the good intentions of either or both of the participants. The technique is effective in many interpersonal situations both at home and at work. V-C-R goes like this:
V – stands for VALIDATE This means that the first thing we will say is something to validate the other person’s feelings and experience. This does not mean that you agree with what he or she is saying, but only that you understand what they are saying and you can see that they feel very strongly about it.
C – stands for CLARIFY This means that you will clarify for the other person the differences between what they are thinking and/or feeling, and what you are thinking and feeling. You will not “put down” their perspective, but simply show how theirs and yours differ.
R – stands for REQUEST This is when you will offer a (hopefully) compromising resolution as a possible option to the polarized positions to which you each had been clinging. The door is then opened for the mutual reconsideration and moderation of each person’s expectations and demands.
V-C-R sounds like this:
“I can see that you are upset about how I’ve been spending money because you want to make sure that our finances are safe and secure for the things we really need. I’d like you to know that I’m also concerned about our finances being secure because I worry about the emotional stress on both of us when our bank account begins to get low. Why don’t we do something that will help both of us feel confident about what’s going on, like doing a budget to get a clearer picture of our expenses and then making a plan to divide the extra into savings and recreation?
“I do understand that you feel I spend too much time on the computer, and that it takes time away from us being together. I want you to know that I also think it’s important for us to spend enjoyable time together. I also hope you understand that I need to use the computer to promote my business and support my work. Why don’t we try this as a solution: I will keep a log of my computer time and whether the time is spent on work or personal interests. That way I can get a more realistic picture of how I’m using my time.”
Learning and practicing V-C-R can help you to avoid or resolve misunderstandings before they turn into full conflicts.
For an in-depth view of additional tips and techniques for effective communication, read Authentic Conversations by Jamie Showkeir and Maren Showkeir, and visit their website at www.henning-showkeir.com