Brandon and Gayle were talking about their weekly struggles in couples counseling when Gayle said, “You think you’re better than me.” Brandon was surprised and said, “I don’t know why you think that?” Since this rhetorical question was unintentionally critical, I had Brandon rephrase his question into a statement, and he said, “Help me to understand what I’m doing to make you feel that way.” This statement moved from criticizing Gayle’s way of thinking to understanding what he was doing to impact her in that way. Gayle said, “You talk to me like a child.”
Brandon said directly, “I don’t think of you as less than. In fact, I really respect you.” Brandon corrected Gayle’s misperception, but now he needed to be sure his comments didn’t reflect what he didn’t believe. He had some work to do.