Bestselling author Harriet Lerner focuses on the challenge and the importance of being able to express one's "authentic voice" in intimate relationships.
The key problem in relationships, particularly over time, is that people begin to lose their voice. Despite decades of assertiveness training and lots of good advice about communicating with clarity, timing, and tact, women and men find that their greatest complaints in marriage and other intimate relationships are that they are not being heard, that they cannot affect the other person, that fights go nowhere, that conflict brings only pain. Although an intimate, long-term relationship offers the greatest possibilities for knowing the other person and being known, these relationships are also fertile ground for silence and frustration when it comes to articulating a true self. And yet giving voice to this self is at the center of having both a relationship and a self. Much as she did in THE MOTHER DANCE, Lerner will approach this rich subject with tales from her personal life and clinical work, inspiring and teaching readers to speak their own truths to the most important people in their lives.
Psychotherapist and bestselling author Lerner has been teaching readers how to "dance" with difficult relationship issues throughout the past decade, and remains one of the most helpful writers on the topic. With her familiar mix of conversational language and profound empathy for people (primarily women) who are struggling with the most important relationships in their lives, she now tackles the verbal challenges of life's most painful conversations. Far from trite "communication skills" or "assertiveness training," her book offers lucid and concrete guidance on how to speak out in a wide variety of problem situations (e.g., when a wife suspects her husband is having an affair with a co-worker, or when friends jeopardize their relationship by becoming roommates). Lerner moves smoothly through the common obstacles to understanding how we feel, how we want to express ourselves and what we want to accomplish by talking about our feelings. Recognizing that "your brain will turn to mush" when trying to explain yourself in an emotional state, she offers practical advice on sharing vulnerability; voicing concerns, complaints or requests; apologizing; listening and setting limits on how much one is willing to listen to others' complaints and negativity. Accepting that we can never guarantee that others will hear us or respond as we'd like, Lerner focuses on the authentic expression of self, "maximiz the chance of being heard" and keeping the connection open, despite complex emotions, misunderstandings and silences.