Better Communication with Your Spouse: Sender/Receiver Responsibilities

Imago relationship counselorDid you know that only 7% of communication is verbal? Even if your words are gentle and positive, your tone and body language may tell your partner a different story.

Think about your stance during a difficult talk with your partner. Who stands, and who sits? Do you point, fidget, or frequently break eye contact? How are your hands and legs placed during the conversation?

All these little things can have a big impact on what your partner takes away from the conversation. To have a more successful dialogue with your partner, be aware of your sender and receiver responsibilities.

Sender and Receiver Responsibilities

Start by sitting down across from your partner. Your eyes should be at the same level.

Your arms should be by your side with your legs uncrossed. Crossed arms or legs tell your partner you’re defensive, guarded, or unwilling to participate.

When you start to speak, identify who is the Sender and who is the Receiver. Each role has different responsibilities and behaviors that contribute to a successful conversation.

The Sender is the person talking. The Sender’s responsibilities include:

  • Asking the Receiver’s permission to begin the dialogue. If the Receiver is not ready to take on the responsibilities, then you should respect their honesty. Wait for the appropriate time to talk.
  • Focusing on one topic.
  • Keeping statements concise. You shouldn’t monopolize the conversation.
  • Speaking softly.
  • Refraining from “You” statements. Statements like “You always…” or “You never…” communicate blame. “I” statements focus on how the Sender feels about the Receiver’s actions, without making any judgments about why they are being performed.
  • Recognizing the positive aspects of the Receiver’s comprehension.
  • Breathing and regulating their own emotions.

The Receiver is the person listening. The Receiver’s responsibilities include:

  • Accepting the Sender’s invitation to talk in a timely manner. Identify when you are ready to engage in dialogue.
  • Staying calm. Be present throughout the dialogue.
  • Putting away your own world view temporarily. Enter the Sender’s world.
  • Responding and summarizing. Mirror the Sender’s words.
  • Confirming that their summary and response reflects the Sender’s message.
  • Validating the Sender’s feelings and reason for dialogue.
  • Empathizing with the Sender.

Ready to Start Using the Imago Dialogue?

This form of communication is called the Imago Dialogue. It assures the Sender is heard and the Receiver feels safe, comfortable, and open throughout the conversation. The more you practice, the more natural this type of communication will feel.

Want to learn more about the Imago Dialogue and positive communication? Talk to an Imago relationship counselor today.


Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803