on January 19, 2002
I'm a therapist, and like therapists around the country I recommend Lerner's books to my clients, especially THE DANCE OF ANGER. To be honest, I thought she had said it all. But to my surprise, she really outdid herself in this book. No one can afford to miss this one. Her writing is witty, engaging and her advice is solid and clear as a bell. She teaches us how to talk to the most difficult people in the most difficult situations, like when we are betrayed, rejected, insulted, or cut-off. This book offers help when we can't figure out whether to stay or leave a relationship, when we can't make ourselves heard, or when a partner or family member can't or won't apologize. It's a book to read slowly and savor, because it will change your life. Or you might just zip through it because you can't put it down.
on January 17, 2002
"I've read all of Harriet Lerner's books starting with The Dance of Anger which has been my relationship bible. But The Dance of Connection is her best book yet. Lerner is wise and helpful, funny and real. The chapters that meant the most to me was one on clarifying a bottom line and another about "voicing the ultimate" in marriage. I finally got the difference between complaining and being able to take a clear position with my husband--and stay with it. Together with the chapter on warming things up, this book has already made a huge difference in my marriage. I was also fascinated by the author's revealing story about her dad's silence and how it effected the family. There's terrific advice on how to "find your voice"--and what to do and say--when you are rejected and cut off by a family member.
In a moment when we feel safe, loved, comfortable, and relaxed, most people can communicate quite well and strengthen relationships. Catch us off guard with a terrible blow from someone close, and our knees may jerk so hard that they hit us in the jaw. We may say and do things that damage or destroy relationships. What can we do instead of these harmful reactions? How can we repair things once the damage has been done?
While many authors have written fine books about building and maintaining good and deteriorating relationships, this book has taken on all of the tough issues as its focus. You think your spouse is cheating with someone else. Your child won't speak to you. Your husband has taken liberties with your daughter. Your best friend says she or he never wants to see you again. There's a terrible family crisis and the other person cuts you off.
Dr. Lerner draws on her personal experiences as well as case histories from her practice as a psychotherapist to give you answers. In doing so, she doesn't promise solutions will follow. But you can be sure that you will have done a great deal to try to help the situation.
The book starts with the contrast of adult behavior to how children behave. Two children become angry in a sandbox, but five minutes later are quietly playing together again. "They choose happiness over righteousness." Adults usually do the opposite.
The essence of the book is to encourage you to figure out what you need to have from a relationship, and to communicate those needs, while finding out the same from the other person. In that simple statement, the book's concept is very much like the better negotiating books (such as Getting to Yes). Naturally, this advice is a lot harder to follow when your most intimate and closest relationships are involved. So you need someone to talk it over with. You can also use this book as a source of coaching for most of the tough personal situations you may find yourself in. While reading this book, you will get more from it if you keep an open mind about the specifics of the advice being presented.
The overriding point Dr. Lerner is making is that the other person may be in the wrong, but if you make him or her feel unhappy all of the time about it, you may lose the relationship. If the relationship is important to you, you may win the battle and lose the war.
There is a lot of judgmental advice in here about when to be silent, when to speak, and how much to say and in what ways. In different families and with different cultures, these rules will be quite different and Dr. Lerner makes that point explicit. You have to decide how you want to respond. That's what's important.
Although this book will seem like a natural to many women, I think most men will benefit as well. The examples go from the perspectives of both sexes, and men will get many valuable ideas for constructive ways to deal with conflict and issues. In my case, I find myself spending a lot of time listening to other people unburden themselves. Sometimes, this gets to be more than I am comfortable with. The book provided me with some valuable ideas for drawing limits to how many times I have to listen to the same complaint while still expressing my desire to support and be there for the other person.
I thought that the best parts of the book were the concepts of asking questions to find out more about what and why the other person is feelings the way she or he is, and providing the kinds of support that will make others realize that we care about them. Both are enriching and rewarding things to do.
Knowing that some people have trouble apologizing, I thought that the book was realistic to point out that in some relationships you are not going to get apologies. You should face up to that and decide how you feel about it.
After you finish reading and thinking about this excellent book, I hope you will drop a note, call, talk to, or give a hug to each person you care about in the next 24 hours. If you find that rewarding, pick a regular day in your schedule to repeat the process. As many people report, sometimes the best way to get more love . . . is to give more first!
Find the silver lining, even during the storms of your relationships, by learning how to become closer and more in tune!
on September 23, 2001
Harriet Lerner has written a book that speaks to the best in all of us. She speaks of being able to feel, think, and speak at the same time, or at least in some reasonable time frame.
She deals with issues of hurt, anger, resentment, individuation, autonomy so well, while at the same time respecting relationships, and learning to foster more intimate ones. There is nothing "gamey" about her advice, nothing manipulative, no oneupmanship, no proving, just honesty and caring in a respectful way.
There are so many self-help books around on relationships that get people in more trouble than they were before. Dr. Lerner has succeeded in providing wisdom, humility, humor and understanding so that people can grow and develop throughout the life cycle.
on September 22, 2006
There is an underlying theme in this book that I think is important for every couple to consider: perhaps our expectations of our partners are too high. I've been a therapist for 25 years, and the most common problem I've encountered involves unexpressed-and often unconscious-expectations that one person has about the other. Women, I believe (and I think Dr. Lerner supports this as well), have higher expections than men. Sometimes they are so high, and so many, that there is no way not to be disappointed. What would happen if we lowered our expectations? We might, as Lerner suggests, become better listeners, and take more responsibility for fulfilling our own needs, rather than demanding that our happiness be met solely at home. Of all of Lerner's books, this is one I recommend most often to my clients. We don't need a soul-mate to be happily married, and if we lower the bar just a little, a "good enough" spouse can adequately provide the decades of richness we need.
on September 18, 2001
When we are in a highly emotional state, i.e., anger, fear, frustration, hurt, etc., all kinds of physical changes start to take place within our body from increased heart beat to increased adrenaline. We can also over-react by saying things we do not mean and uttering words which should never be said. Once spoken, we can apologize but often the hurt remains, in some cases for years.
"The Dance of Connection" is an excellent starting point in learning how to communicate with your partner, children and others in a positive, effective manner. I have counselled many individuals who said they simply could not communicate with their partner. "He/she does not understand" and "He or she does not listen" are the most common complaints. Perhaps, part of the problem lies in not relaying the message in a respectful, honest, courteous manner or failing to choose the appropriate words. Yelling, ranting and raving accomplishes nothing and irritates everyone.
Through the pages of this book, readers will have a better understanding of how to expand their communication skills so that conflicts can be resolved and people will open up to you. Part of being a good conversationalist is being a good listener, a skill which some people have not yet learned. It is safe to say that effective communication is not a "one shoe fits all approach" and readers will benefit most from the book if they they are flexible and adapt what the author has written to their own personal situation. Overall, the book is an excellent starting point in improving communication skills and well worth reading.
on January 12, 2009
I was disappointed in this book. I expected to get specific cognitive behavioral techniques to change the way I react/talk when I am upset. Instead I got a bunch of stories about patients, and a bunch of stories about the author and her husband (which especially got old and are not helpful for those of us who are lonely and don't have that kind of love in our lives). Overall I didn't get too much from this book, I'm sad to say. I think I need more direct instruction rather than stories to try to illustrate things. It just wasn't for me.
on October 5, 2001
As a therapist, I am sensitive to the issue of my clients finding their voices and speaking their truths. Dr. Lerner has given an elegant little textbook that nicely illustrates my points. I have prescribed this book many times to clients, and also suggested it to friends and family.
on November 3, 2005
Looks like there are mixed reviews for this book. Well, it's all a matter of what you happen to be looking for. If you are expecting an instruction manual...if you want to learn techniques, this really isn't your book. This is more like a pleasurable essay, a well-written, good read, with some gems in terms of psychological insights that you may take with you beyond the reading of the book. Finding and/or getting clear about your voice is a theme in this book. It has the feeling of a conversation with a friend, and I find it admirable -- and I think it will be helpful to many readers -- that the author was willing and able to share her own life experiences as she did.
on July 5, 2006
This book was recommended for me to read by my husband's personal therapist. He's in anger counseling, after coming back from Iraq, and I'm the one reading about six books right now.
While it was worth the read, I need MORE: More instruction, more direction. More getting to the point! Lerner goes on and on and I found myself bored with the stories. I'm reading for answers. There are so many stories and you really have to hunt for clues as to WHAT TO DO IN YOUR OWN LIFE. If you're reading a self-help book, then obviously you just may need some help now. And fishing for "what to do" isn't productive.
I just didn't like the flowy, story telling way of writing. To me, she spent a lot of time writing the history of a problematic relationship and then what the patient WANTED to achieve and then not so much as to what was needed to fix the problem for a positive outcome. Too many times I read the phrase, "we'll get to that later."