Monday, April 18, 2011

Responding to What We Think is Said

If you read the last post on "what we say and what the other person hears," you know that this can sometimes be a tricky situation in relationships. Today I'd like to address what we should do if we don't like what we think we hear.

Let's go back to the example from the last post. You and your husband are going out on a date. He asks, "Is that what you are wearing?" You hear "you're fat." In reality, though, he may simply think it's too dressy, or not dressy enough, for where you are going. BIG difference!

So, what's a woman to do?

We need to check our interpretations with our husband. And we need to set our insecurities aside long enough that we don't come across as accusatory, otherwise we start a vicious cycle of negativity ("So I'm FAT?!"..."No, I didn't say that"..."You MEANT it!"..."Wait, why are you yelling at ME?"...both parties are then escalating and preparing to ruin a perfectly good evening out).

Let's go back to his initial question. . . "is that what you are wearing?"
Your best answer is something like "yes, why?" If he says "no reason," don't let him off the hook! He did ask for a reason. But you also need to be prepared for his answer. It's best to be honest here ("Look honey, I know I've gained weight lately. Are you trying to tell me that what I'm wearing isn't flattering on me?").

When he answers, thank him for his honesty and make a decision about whether or not you are going to change. By setting aside your insecurity, taking his thoughts into consideration, and keeping your calm, you demonstrate respect and trust for your spouse while preserving your night out. That's a great combination!

Have any examples of He Said-She Heard? Share them here!

Happy Communicating~

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What we say vs. what they hear

Today I want to talk about what we say to someone and what they hear from us. Life experience tells us that sometimes these are two very different things!

In communication terms this refers to CONTENT and RELATIONAL level messages.

The content level is the words we say. The relational level is what we mean by what we say. And this level is often the most important because it reflects how we feel about the relationship. As I'm sure you can imagine, what you mean (relational level) by the message (content level) and what the other person thinks you mean might be two very different things.

Let's look at an example. Let's say your husband says "Is that what you are wearing to go out?" Those words, all by themselves, are the content level. On the surface this is a simple question with a yes/no answer.

Women, however, don't hear the message as a simple yes/no question. They interpret this as "I don't like what you are wearing" or "you look awful" or "you look fat" or .... you get the idea. Even further, though, some women may hear that their spouse thinks they can't make clothing decisions, or that their spouse is not satisfied with them (relational level message).

Our interpretation of the message is based in part on our husband's nonverbal cues. If he gives us a look with raised eyebrows and a scowl, we know that he does not like our outfit. If he peers around (or worse, asks us to turn around so he can see everything), we believe he thinks we look fat. So, how someone sends a message says a lot about how the receiver will interpret the message...and the sub-text of our relationship.

Can you see how hurtful...and helpful... this might be in a marriage?

Skill4U: As you interact with your spouse for the next two days, spend time focusing on YOUR content and relational level messages. Don't worry too much about how you are interpreting his messages right now. Focus on the words you are saying and what you mean to say (in the moment, and about your relationship). Try to get the two to line up (remember the post on 'mean what you say'?) This weekend I'll give some tips for interpreting.

Happy Communicating~

Sunday, April 3, 2011

True Confessions of a 21st Century Wife/Mother

Here it is...

I am a feminist AND a June Cleaver wannabe. "How can that BE?!" you ask yourself.

Here's the deal. While I choose to stay home with my children, despite having a post-graduate degree, I acknowledge that some mothers want to work. I support women's decisions and believe in the overall equality of women. Though I believe God made men and women very different, I don't believe that means women are 'less than' men.

On the other hand, I have a nearly overwhelming desire to be June Cleaver. Yes, I know she's a fictitious character from an idealized age. Got that. Yet I still long to vacuum in a dress and heels, ready to greet my DH with a kiss, and have hot cookies for the children after school.

All in all, I suppose I struggle with where God has me. I love studying and teaching about successful communication. I also love being an at-home wife and mom. I am one of those rare people who enjoys cleaning, cooking, and baking. No, my home does not always reflect the first, though! LOL

What does this have to do with family communication? Just about everything! First, it drives home the idea that all families are different. God may call me back to work sometime. And if that's the case, I'll go happily...and sadly. And no matter what, all those feelings will be reflected in how I communicate with my family. The challenge will be in identifying my myriad emotions so I can communicate with love despite my mixed feelings.

Thanks for reading through my thoughts. I hope that my experience can help someone else who feels like a walking contradiction, too!

Happy Communicating!