Imago Dialogue

A simple path to restoring connection

The Imago Dialogue is a deceptively simple approach to communication that, approached with patience and care, can create entirely new, healed and deeper relationships, whether between romantic partners, friends or family. Conceived by Dr. Harville Hendrix and his wife, Dr. Helen Hunt, it's been used by thousands of couples for over 25 years. The Dialogue tool is designed to help any two people move out of reactivity and back to a place of mutual acceptance.

The Dialogue is built on the premise that while we humans are designed to believe there's just one “reality” out there (the one we perceive), the truth is, each person has their own unique reality, their own legitimate experience of the world and any given situation in it. In Imago, the belief is that each individual’s “reality” is just as valid as any other person’s.

Most of us accept the concept that we each have our own equally valid reality. But in a committed relationship, once things slip into a cycle of anger and withdrawal, both partners typically become so focused on self-preservation that they lose their ability to see the validity of each other’s perspective, much less feel empathy for it. And this can happen unconsciously, making it even harder to understand why things are falling apart.

Creator Harville Hendrix Explains

The Basic Ground Rule

In the Imago Dialogue, both parties agree to a basic ground rule: to talk one person at-a-time. This gives you a person who is speaking, called “sending” and another who is listening or “receiving.”  It's when you're in the role of the Receiver that you'll be doing the three main steps of the Dialogue.

The 3 Main Steps

• Mirroring
• Validation
• Empathy


In Mirroring, when your partner pauses or perhaps when you've asked them to pause, you'll repeat back everything you heard them say. You can paraphrase but you'll mirror without analyzing, critiquing, modifying or responding.  

How to Mirror: “If I got it, I think you said…”  or “So you’re saying…”  
Ask if there’s more: “Is there more?”  or “Tell me more.”


Once the Sender says there's “no more,” the Receiver will attempt to validate what the Sender has said by letting the Sender know if what they've been saying is making logical sense to the Receiver. If it doesn't, the Receiver will simply share what does make sense, then ask the Sender to say more about the parts that don't yet make sense.

How to Validate: “You make sense to me because…”  or
“That makes sense, I can see where…”

Ask for clarification: “This part (X) makes sense but help me understand; can you say more about…?”


In the final step, Empathy, the Receiver takes a guess as to what they imagine the Sender might be feeling with regard to what they've been saying. If the Sender has already said how they feel, then the Receiver can simply reflect this back once more. If, however, the Receiver can think of an additional way their partner might be feeling, this is where they can add that.

When sending empathy, it's fine to say something like: “I can imagine you feel like… (you’re the only one working on our relationship).”  However, it’s important to know that once the word “like” comes into play, what’s being expressed is a thought, not a feeling. The best way to distinguish the difference between a thought and a feeling,is that a feeling can generally be described in one or two words: e.g., happy, excited, safe, cared for, hurt, frustrated, scared.

Try to include “feeling” words in this step. Doing so, especially when you're lucky enough to hit the nail on the head, will often bring a look of recognition and joy to your partner’s face faster than anything else you could say. 

How to Empathize: “I can imagine you might be feeling…”
Check it Out: “Is that how you feel?”


Now that the Sender has said all they have to say and the Receiver has mirrored, validated and empathized, the whole process reverses. The Receiver now gets their turn to respond with whatever came up for them while the first partner was sending and the Sender shifts into being the new Receiver who does the mirroring, etc.  

Note;  When partners trade places, the new Sender does not start a new topic, rather she/he responds to what the first Sender said.

Time to Embody Art

Your life is the art you create. Let's make it beautiful, fulfilling, loving and abundant. If you can dream it, it can happen for you. Our connection is a beautiful piece of the puzzle.