Communication is something many of us struggle with. We are born with no real ability to communicate. Over time we learn the skills. Unfortunately, while we learn how to communicate we then rapidly learn to keep things inside, to keep things bottled up. We learn this for many reasons. None of us really want to embarrass someone by what we say, we may hold back to position ourselves to gain from information we have, or we may not want to lose someone close to us which may be the result if we say what we really want to. While having a filter on our conversation is good, it can lead to unintended challenges. Can you hear me now?
We really over complicate things for ourselves by not being more of a student of our own behaviour. I probably went at least the first 10 years in my marriage before I realized that my wife, when we had an issue that was elevated to a serious (read heated) discussion was not looking for what I was giving back verbally. To expand on this, I came to realize that listening to the issue, then outlining my solutions to make the situation better or prevent it from happening again in the future, was actually not what she was really looking for, at least not at that moment in time. Sure, this information will be useful at some later point in the conversation, but the typical “type A personality – leader – guy – husband – dad” five point outline of how to fix the situation was actually, and quite counterintuitively for a guy, not what she wanted or needed right at that moment. She wanted to be heard. She wanted to be listened to and understood. She wanted to know that I really ‘got it‘.
How did I do that? I stopped my habit of immediately giving solutions. I started listening intently. I asked questions to gain clarity and understanding on the issue. I tried rephrasing the main points to make sure I really got the issue.
You know what I discovered? After all those years together years we really were still learning how to communicate. I mean deep and intentional communication. We were still learning how to really talk with each other, how to really understand each other. We still are. And that’s ok.
John Gray, author of ‘Men are from Mars Women are from Venus‘, noted that men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed and women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished. The first reaction for many of us guys to solve problems speaks to our desire to feel needed, wanted, valued. However, it can come at the expense of our partner feeling cherished or deeply cared for.
My advice to guys. Listen. Be humble. Put ego and pride aside. Ask questions. Expand on the conversation to gain real understanding and honesty in communication. This will lead better understanding of the real issue (which is often not the one initially expressed) and a way forward that comes from a deeper knowledge.
Now, far be it for me to offer advice to ladies. I will simply quote from my favourite Eric Clapton song ‘Wonderful Tonight‘. In it is the key to all a guy really needs to have communicated to him. It is, quite simply, the love light in your eyes.
I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you.
I am so blessed to see that love light in my wife’s eyes after 17 years. And we work at it daily. Do you work at it?
As always I welcome your comments and observations and really appreciate your feedback and sharing of my posts with others.