My husband and I had been dating for several months and I knew there was something very special and different about him and us. Okay, who am I kidding? I was really falling for him. Throughout our dating and courting, there were a handful of times that I just “knew” he was the one God had in mind for me.
The first of these times came when he and I were at a coffee shop before church. We were engaged in a conversation that began to move into a place of me being vulnerable with my thoughts and feelings. I had been hurt before and was somewhat scared to share my inner world with someone yet again. But I knew that in order for our relationship to grow and move forward in a God-honoring way, these things needed to be discussed. So there my words were. I felt as though I was teetering on the edge of a cliff with my words hanging in the air as I waited to see if he would catch my words and pull me safely from the ledge or just let me fall. And then he said those beautiful, magical words, “So, what I heard you say…”. Instantly I was pulled back from the brink and into a place that was safe, secure, and loving.
Those six words have been key to some of our most difficult conversations. When I hear those words, I feel heard. I feel safe. I feel loved.
What is it about hearing someone reflect back to you what they heard you say that makes us feel so safe? Validation can be described as the recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile. Reflecting back to others what we heard them say, communicates that we heard them and we desire to understand them. The message is, “I value you enough to listen fully, without judging, without developing my own rebuttal. What you think and feel is important.”
Obviously, speaking in “What I heard you say” language is not practical for every one of our conversations. We might never get out the door in the morning! Can you imagine? “Good morning.” “So what I heard you say is, good morning.” “Thank you for the coffee!” “So what I heard you say is you are grateful for the coffee.” However, for deeper conversations and when the potential for conflict is high (or conflict has already begun), switching to “What I heard you say” language can go a long way in expressing love, caring, interest, and in keeping your relationship a safe haven to fully be yourselves.
So while the ever-so popular romantic movie line is “You had me at ‘Hello’,” I find “So what I heard you say…” to be so much more romantic!