• Ben

The daily temperature reading (DTR) - a powerful couples communication tool

Loving someone was defined by Stanley Kellerman (an American writer and therapist) as ‘having the courage to show them whom we really are’. The Daily Temperature Reading (DTR), which was created by Virginia Satir (an American family therapist and author) provides a wonderful structure to do just that. I'll summarise this five part communication tool here and go into more detail in separate blogs.



Begin by arranging a time that works for you both. Allow between 20 minutes and an hour for the DTR. You can aim to do this regularly or just from time to time. Sit close to each other, making some physical contact if you want to. Like anything new, it may feel clumsy and awkward to start with and rather false and unnatural. The more often you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes.


The DTR is divided into 5 sections:

  1. Appreciations

  2. New information

  3. Puzzles

  4. Complaint with recommendation

  5. Wishes, hopes and dreams

Each of you has the chance to share in each section of the DTR and the other listens without interrupting, responding or commenting before moving to the next part. Take turns to speak and then allow the other to have space for them to speak.


The only section in which the listener can respond is in the puzzles section. When doing the temperature reading, talk about yourself and use I statements rather than you or we.


Although the DTR has the five sections, it's also fine to take a single section if that's one that you would to focus on. Part 1, appreciations and part 5, wishes, hopes and dreams are particularly good for doing in isolation.


A few helpful suggestions Make sure that you don’t slip complaints into the puzzles or hopes, wishes and dreams sections. “Why didn’t you take the bins out last night” is only a genuine puzzle if you don’t feel at all irritated and you genuinely just want information. “I really want to go to Italy this summer” is only a wish if you are not holding any resentment towards the listener because, for example, he/she wants to go to France and you have a disagreement about it which you have not yet dealt with or raised in a complaint.

Take it in turns to go though each section, both doing appreciations, the moving to new information and so on.

Practice really listening to your partner. Remind yourself that whatever he/she is saying is about him/her. The speaker is not necessarily right or wrong and neither are you. This is about what she wants, feels, thinks, etc and is all information for you. This process can be challenging for some so listening with respect, patience and understanding can help in the time being well spent.

Remember that this is NOT a conversation and there is no resolution or solution to be agreed or arrived at. This is not a conflict resolution tool. The aim is for both of you to listen to and understand more about each other and the outcome can be a closer and more intimate connection between you and your partner. A few words about listening


You may think that listening is really easy, however, giving someone your full attention without becoming distracted can be a fine art, so here are a couple of points to consider.


Pay attention

This may sound obvious but think about how often you can be distracted when you're giving your attention to someone. Maybe your own thoughts become a distraction or something happening around you. Notice whenever you attention becomes distracted and see if you're able to bring yourself back to what the other person is saying. Having some eye contact can help you keep your focus on what's being said.


Be aware of your judgements or desire to advise

We all have judgements and these can get in the way of how we listen. If you notice yourself beginning to judge the person you're listening to, see if you can keep the judgement to yourself. This is a listening exercise, after all! Often, we may have a desire to advise the other if they are saying something you think you can help or solve for them. However, this is not a time for advice, just a time to listen. If they want advice, they can use the 'Puzzles' section of the process to ask the question, if they want to.

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