Michelle: You don’t love me anymore.
John: What?! (His brow rose, half-questioning and half-surprised, you know the ‘Huh?’ look) I took you out to dinner last week, and that dress you’re wearing is a GIFT from me.
Michelle: I will never get through to you. It’s hopeless, forget it!
(John continued flipping through the TV channels, Michelle walked away furious)
Jane: You never help around the house.
Mark: Really? Am I supposed to resume to the kitchen after work? And by the way, I just bought you that dishwasher…
Jane: Thank you for your HELP! The dishwasher is such a great relief. I wonder why I bother talking to you at times.
(Mark grabbed his car keys and mumbled something about going someplace, Jane sat fuming)
The frustrating communication deadlock moments….
And you know our ‘safe’ conclusions:
“He’s so stubborn….”
“He believes he’s always right….”
“He’s so proud….”
“There’s definitely something wrong with men’s hearing ‘decoder’….”
Have you ever wondered if you’re doing something wrong?
You can’t comprehend why he gives you that ‘are you out of your mind?’ look, when you’re sure even a baby will understand what you are saying. Then when he clamps up after you’ve ‘satisfactorily’ given him a piece of your mind, you’re convinced there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what you’ve said or how you’ve said it. If he’s moody or angry or ‘fakes’ not understanding, it’s because he can’t handle the truth… The truth, really?
Yes, the truth sometimes hurts. But you need to question the truth you’ve communicated- is it the truth as it is or the truth you feel? This is because ‘truth’ is often subjective to our perception of reality, and for us as women, the truth is usually coloured by our emotions. Thus, the question is- are you communicating the truth as it is or as you ‘feel’ it? And whatever truth you’ve communicated, you need to find out the truth he’s heard.
Most communication issues in relationships stem from a lack of understanding of the basic difference in men and women communication style. And we’ll be examining this in the simplest terms possible:
- Women are emotional communicators
- Men are evaluative communicators
While communicating, women are basically concerned about relating how they feel. They want their partner to understand the emotions they feel. A woman wants her partner to understand the emotional implication of his actions- how what he’s doing is making her feel. However, in the process they are likely going to do either of two things- make their partner feel responsible or terrible.
Men being the logical thinker they are, read facts from what women communicate, as against the emotions women intend communicating. They evaluate the facts, measuring it against their ability/capacity or who they are. In simpler terms, they take it ‘personal’ or evaluate it ‘personally’. More so, men’s interpretation of what they hear is influenced by their ego and need for respect/achievement.
Let’s examine some common scenarios based on the above explanation:
- A woman says, “You don’t love me”.
She means- I am feeling unloved.
A man hears- My love is insufficient. I am not a good lover. There’s someone out there she sees that loves better than I do. All that I do to love my wife is insufficient. I’m an incompetent lover.
A man hears this and recollects all that he’s done lately to show his wife love. He wonders if the things he does don’t count or if she is simply ungrateful. The statement is perceived as an evaluation of his ability.
- A woman says, “You don’t help me around the house”.
She means- I am feeling tired. I’m feeling overburdened with all that I have to do. I would feel better if you help me now. Make me feel appreciated.
A man is likely to hear- I’m irresponsible. My efforts to help are not being recognised. What of everything I have been doing to sustain the family? Do they not qualify has being helpful? My efforts are not being recognised or appreciated.
- A woman says, “You don’t tell me stuff”.
She means- I’m not feeling connected. I’m feeling left out.
A man hears- I’m hiding something. I’m not a good communicator. I have not been a good communicator.
The communication process gets even more complex because when he attempts to present his view, you interpret it has being insensitive. He gets angry, you get upset, and then there’s a communication deadlock.
Find below certain questions that could help us communicate better, and reduce communication hassles.
Am I communicating facts or emotions? For instance, “you don’t love me anymore” can be replaced with- “You have not hugged me lately, and it’s making me feel a bit disconnected.” “You never help me around the house” can be replaced with- “I’m a bit tired lately, can you please help with this and this?”
Will this sound judgmental or accusatory? Our aim is often not to judge, we only want to express our grievances, so we shouldn’t sound like we have our guns cocked and ready to fire. “You never help around the house” is as accusatory as accusations can go, permit the expression.
You know why accusations or sounding accusatory won’t help? It’s because the other person naturally gets defensive when they feel they are being accused. And obviously, we don’t want them getting defensive; we want them sympathetic and compassionate. We probably want the whole episode to end with cuddles and kisses. But if we start out sounding accusatory, the closest we are going to get to a c-word is conflict.
Am I being considerate? We are most times overwhelmed by emotions that we do not give careful thought to the other person’s point of view or circumstances, in terms of restrictions, personality, schedule, etc. If he’s not hugged you lately it could be because he’s undergoing stress (or maybe because you’ve ‘untruthfully’ complained before that his hugs were too much). So take time to examine the situation from his point of view.
Communication is basically about being empathetic, walking a mile in the recipient’s shoes. A good teacher understands that thinking like his students is the best way he can effectively get through to them, or else all he’s saying will only bounce off the walls of their eardrums, not really ‘heard’ or understood. You’ve got to act like a ‘good teacher’ with your partner, think like he’s thinking, then you’ll be able to say what he will truly hear.