“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
Earlier today I was presented with the following question, “How do I listen better to my wife? Why is it when she presents me with two choices I always seem to pick the wrong one?”
My response, “It sounds like you aren’t being given a choice, it sounds more like she’s looking for agreement with a decision she’s already made but hasn’t made that fact clear to you.”
Many years ago my then brother in law was passionately sharing two opposing viewpoints with me and asked my opinion. When I gave it to him he looked at me blankly for a moment then said, “Let me explain it again.”
After another energy packed explanation I gave him the same answer. Now he looked frustrated and said, “I’m not explaining this right.” Finally I said, “Look George, just tell me which answer I’m supposed to give you because the honest one clearly isn’t what you’re looking for.” He became a bit embarrassed and changed the subject.
How often does this little confusion creating bridge burner occur in your relationships?
My ex wife spoke in this kind of code all the time and my oldest son picked it up. My wife Cathy and I DO NOT play such games with each other because, wait for it . . . we agreed to be direct and honest with each other about our needs.
I’ve read articles by relationship gurus claiming that our communication styles are so hardwired into our DNA that men will always be fixers, women will always be listeners, women like to speak in code and dumb males will never understand.
I must call B.S. on that one. If life has taught me anything it’s that we tolerate lousy communication instead of negotiating the no nonsense, tell me what you really want approach.
One of the main culprits in the code speak described here is fear. Fear of asking for what you want. Fear of not having your needs met by someone you care about.
One solution is this, be honest. Expecting someone to read your mind so you can protect yourself from vulnerability leaves you feeling even less supported because s/he still isn’t getting it.
Thanks for being you.
About Brian R. King
Brian R. King LCSW is a 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.