When I was pregnant with my first child, I was on the receiving end of LOTS of comments and questions that were totally inappropriate! After doing some research, I discovered I was not alone. I conducted formal research and compiled my results into a book. For the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from my book to share about communication with pregnant women. Does this necessitate a special type of communication? I argue that it does. For some reason, when people see a pregnant woman, they typically forget social protocol and say the most amazingly shocking things!
Before we get started, though, I should outline my communication approach. If you've been reading for any length of time, you know that understanding someone's perspective helps you to understand what they are really trying to say. Without further ado...
For some communication researchers, talking with other people is often more successful for both parties if the person talking considers the listener when making the message. Sounds a bit complicated, right? Not really! All this means is that I need to think about the other person and how they will interpret what I am saying when I talk to them.
For instance, if I want my husband to help get our son to bed so I can clean up the kitchen and relax with him earlier tonight, it would not be in our best interests to approach him with “you never do anything. Take care of your son so I can finally relax.” Nope. He’d get to the second word and hear “you’re a terrible husband. Nothing you can do will ever please me. It’s all about me, me, me.” That’s the best case scenario. He might just hear “blah, blah, blah.” Both interpretations are bad because not only is he unlikely to help me, but either interpretation hurts our marriage. That’s no way for me to get help! Instead, I should be honest and think of what he will hear in my message. So, for my husband, this would work better: “Honey, I’d really like to relax with you. Would you mind putting RJ to bed so that I can clean the kitchen and we can both sit down together?” Now I have considered how he will interpret my comments and phrased my message in a way that is honest (tells my intentions and motivations) and also appeals to his needs. Success!
How does this influence communicating with pregnant women? Taking a receiver approach to communication means that we try to communicate in a way that will be best received while still getting our point across. So, if we feel compelled to comment on a woman’s pregnancy, we should probably do it in a way that does not offend her – especially if we want her to talk to us again! In each post, I’ll cover questions and statements that pregnant women find objectionable, and offer some suggestions for a more receiver-oriented way to phrase things. Put your own spin on it, though. Make them yours. Just remember – it’s not all about what you want to say; you also need to consider her feelings and where she is in her life.