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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

The Power of Permission: A Game-Changing Technique for Couples


Many years ago, I stumbled upon a remarkable technique that revolutionized how my husband and I communicate with each other. It's a simple question that sets the tone for a conversation and ensures that both parties are on the same page. "Do you want to vent or are you looking for advice?" This seemingly innocuous query has saved us countless hours of frustration and prevented numerous arguments. In this blog post, I'll share with you the transformative power of this technique and how it can enhance your relationships.

The Need to Be Heard:

When we face challenging situations, we often carry the solutions within us. Sometimes, all we need is a sounding board—a compassionate listener who allows us to express ourselves without judgment. However, when someone interjects with unsolicited advice, it can be disheartening. It makes us feel unheard and undermines our ability to think for ourselves. We may crave validation, empathy, or a space for emotional release, and being bombarded with solutions can shut down the opportunity for co-regulation.

Understanding Attachment Styles:

As an attachment specialist and coach, I frequently witness how people inadvertently create insecure attachment patterns in their relationships. One common scenario occurs when someone with an avoidant attachment style seeks to protect themselves, and others, from experiencing uncomfortable emotions such as helplessness, anger, shame, or sadness. They do this by immediately entering problem-solving or "fixer" mode—offering solutions and advice without being asked. Unfortunately, this unintentional behaviou

r fosters helplessness in the other person and reinforces anxious or coercive attachment responses.

The Power of Asking Permission:

Thankfully, there is a simple and effective way to counteract this dynamic: asking for permission. The question mentioned earlier serves precisely this purpose. By requesting permission and expressing genuine curiosity about what the other person needs, we empower them to identify their own desires and find solutions to their problems. This approach nurtures a securely attached relationship by maintaining a healthy balance of power and providing a non-judgmental space for growth and learning.

Embracing a Securely Attached Relationship:

The next time someone close to you opens up and shares their struggles, take a moment to reflect. Have you been granted permission to offer advice? If not, don't hesitate to ask directly, or even better, inquire right at the beginning if they are seeking a listening ear or advice. By practicing this technique, you'll be amazed at the positive impact it has on your relationships.

Communication lies at the heart of every successful relationship, and the simple act of seeking permission can transform the way we connect with our loved ones. By honouring their needs and granting them the space to find their own solutions, we foster secure attachment and create an environment that encourages personal growth. So, the next time you find yourself in a conversation where emotions are running high, remember to ask that powerful question: "Do you want to vent or are you looking for advice?" Share your experiences in the comments below and let's empower each other to build stronger, more fulfilling relationships.


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