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What Does it Mean to Level and Edit?

The goal of effective communication is to speak the truth in love. Leveling means to communicate truthfully, yet sensitively about experiences or speaking “on the level.” The idea is to speak your truth. However, leveling is not meant to be a method of blurting out everything you think without consideration for your partner’s feelings.

Editing is the process of filtering yourself to make communication better. Honesty is a good thing but it isn’t necessary to say everything you think. Unfiltered communication can become quite hurtful. Some thoughts should be kept to ourselves while others should be rephrased to avoid hurtful statements. The main purpose of these tools is to use tact when discussing problems.

It is also important to remember there is a delicate balance between these two ideas. If one levels too much, they risk hurting their partner deeply. If one edits too much, they can leave their partner in the dark about their thoughts and feelings.

Take some time to discuss a past communication break-down. Try to recall moments where leveling and/or editing may have been helpful in the discussion. 

woman wearing gray jacket

Preliminary Rules: Do’s and Don’ts of Communication

Before practicing, remember some simple guidelines to communicating:

1. Avoid absolutes: Don’t say your partner “always” or “never” does something- we are rarely one way all the time.

2. Don’t “mindread”- You can’t speak for your partner’s thoughts or feelings, only your own. Don’t attempt to read their mind.

3. Avoid criticism and contempt- Remember being honest is not the same as being rude or demeaning.

4. Don’t make a statement for the purpose of hurting your partner.

5. Do take a break or time out if emotions become overwhelming. When emotion takes over, communication is rarely effective.

6. Do account for your partner’s specific vulnerabilities! Exercise caution when discussing a topic that is sensitive to them (this may be a time to edit more).

When and Where to Level and Edit

Level when you feel isolated from your spouse and/or have difficulty telling them what you feel. Couples don’t benefit from one-sided communication. Edit when communication has become harmful and causes conflict. If you and your partner throw hurtful statements at one another, practice editing these tendencies out of conversation.

Don’t level when you’re angry or if what you say will devalue or insult your partner. Don’t edit if it means your feelings will remain unheard.

Give It a Try!

Practice a conversation using leveling and editing with your partner. It is best to choose a problem that has already been resolved or a subject that won’t cause strong emotion. Remember this is just practice; avoid trying to solve a current problem during this exercise.


What was this experience like for you? Tell you partner what you liked about the exchange and what you felt needed improvement. Also discuss things you felt you did well and what you felt needed improvement from yourself.