In couple’s therapy, one of the most common problems is with communication. When we work on this skill, rather than simply repeating the same old, ineffective patterns we were taught while growing up, we can have better relationships.
RDS, or Revolving Discussion Sequence, is one technique used to improve communication. While each step itself sounds simple, they each carry an attitude, intention and procedure which takes practice. Let’s take a look at what a disagreement is, what is listening, and then each step of RDS briefly.
The difference between a disagreement and difference of opinion
It’s also good to know the difference between a disagreement and a difference of opinion. For example, if you like dogs and I like cats, we have a difference of opinion. A difference of opinion allows both people to be accepted “as is”.
But, if you insist I like dogs instead of cats, we have a disagreement. A disagreement is one person wanting to be right, and that’s when steps should be taken to understand each other’s point of view and move the dialogue to a win-win situation.
What is listening?
Many of us want to “win” a disagreement, and therefore are thinking about a counter argument. We tend to not listen in a way that helps us understand their position.
Listening includes listening to their words, watching their facial expressions, and noticing the emotions behind the words that are being said. It is the first step in communication. RDS is a tool to use to help aid communication from this launching point. As mentioned, each step has an attitude, intention and procedure, and we will cite each in the steps.
RDS Step 1: Understanding
Attitude: Willingness to understand the other person first
Intention: To understand the other person’s issue the way they mean it
- Without agreement or disagreement, state your understanding of their feeling, content & meaning.
- Check your understanding by asking, “Is that what you meant?”
- The other person, not you, is the authority of how well you understood. If needed, try again until the sender confirms that you understand.
RDS Step 2: Agreement
Attitude: Desire to honestly share your agreement with the sender
Intention: To expand your common ground
- Confirm some aspect of their position as valid
- Share honest agreements only, no disagreements yet
- Maximize your agreements
- Reverse roles and follow the sequence again
RDS Step 3: Statement
Attitude: Desire to move the dialogue towards a win-win
Intention: To assist the listener to understanding your feelings, content, and meaning
- Present only one issue, clearly and briefly. Include your feelings
- If you disagree, state your difference with the other’s position
With this process, you can repeat it a few times if you desire to make sure the disagreement is resolved.
With over 17 years of marriage and 25 years in counseling and therapy work with a relationship focus, Dr. Rhoda Lipscomb, PhD is passionate about helping couples succeed. Contact her today if she can be of support.