We have heard it all before. The most important part of a healthy relationship, particularly a marital relationship, is communication. Yet, what is it about communication that is important? In fact, talking about how we talk is the key factor.
We all communicate differently. Our family of origin, our own temperaments, and our career choice influences us.
I once worked with a couple where one was a surgeon. This person married late in life and therefore was quite use to their pattern of communication. They were very direct and straightforward. This made sense in the operating room. In life and death circumstances, when a resident or nurse handed them the wrong instrument, they did not have time to genteelly correct this error. Rather they would tersely state, “This is (blank), I need (blank). What are you thinking?” However, this style of communication did not work within their marital relationship and was in fact creating a great deal of conflict. Their spouse felt criticized when they heard, “Why are you wearing jeans to a dinner with my boss? What are you thinking?”
Or let’s take a look at someone who did not receive a promotion. They sent a text to their spouse and their spouse replied, “It’s probably for the best.” This person did not feel heard or validated and became quite upset. While their spouse was confused and frustrated and did not feel that there was time to respond in any different manner. When the person expressed that they were just looking for validation, maybe a text of “that sucks,” which would take no more time and effort than the original text, a light bulb went off for their spouse. And it became an internal joke for the two of them…just respond, “That sucks.”
Or what about a lawyer? I have been in a situation where I have felt interrogated by an attorney, who I love and respect. I know that they did not intend to demean me or to make me feel like I was dismissing them yet that is what I felt. Often, an attorney is used to being in a courtroom, interrogating witnesses, and in this particular instance, I just happened to be on the other end of this communication style. We had drinks, cleared the air, and did not let this impact our relationship.
I think this comes down to a basic difference between men and women. Women just want to feel heard and to be supportive; they are discussion oriented. Men want to fix things; they are action oriented. Both are valid. Yet how is our spouse, or anyone else in our life for that matter, suppose to know what we are looking for, what will help, without guidance and direction. Most often, those that love us are really trying to help us; they just do not always know what type of help we need. In fact, we are speaking different languages.
Sometimes we just need to tell the other person that all we need to hear is “that sucks,” and all will be resolved.
The bottom line is that talking about how we talk is just as important, and maybe even more so, than what we talk about.