Be a Good Echo
Never assume you have been heard. Everyone is different. While you might need to be told only once to make sure to close the refrigerator door, most people need to be told something several times before it “clicks” in. Be patient and try not to have anger in your voice if your spouse needs reminding. Also, just because you said something once to your spouse doesn't mean that he or she understands what you meant or what you need. Having your spouse repeat what you said is a way of showing you that he or she heard what you said. If your spouse doesn't repeat it accurately, then you have a chance to say it differently.
Melissa and Sam usually understood each other's concerns. But sometimes even they would miscommunicate. They would make an incorrect assumption about what the other person was saying. For instance, Sam didn't like it when Melissa was on the telephone for long periods of time when he was home, especially during mealtime. He wanted her to limit her conversations to about 10 minutes, and if the phone rang during dinner, he wanted her to tell the person she would call them back after dinner. So Sam said, “I don't like it when you're on the phone all night. I like to spend time with you in the evenings.” Sam worded his request by following the “I” rule.
There is nothing worse than having someone misunderstand what we mean. We all love it when we feel thoroughly understood. That kind of communication takes time and determination, but the rewards make for a thoroughly satisfying relationship.
Melissa immediately assumed that Sam did not want her to answer the phone in the evenings. The phone rang several times each night, and Melissa usually answered it. She worked out of their home and used the telephone to conduct much of her business. Melissa assumed that Sam's request was unreasonable. So she said, “You mean that you want me never to answer the phone during dinner? What if an important client is calling and doesn't leave a message? And you mean that I shouldn't conduct any business in the evenings? That would be impossible for me!”
“No, no, no. That isn't what I meant.” Sam told Melissa that what he meant was that she always answer the phone, but tell the caller she would call him or her back after dinner. And, he asked that she limit her calls to 10 minutes, unless it was something urgent. This seemed reasonable to Melissa. By repeating what she thought Sam meant, Sam was able to clarify what he really wanted from her. If she had just said, “I can't do that,” this issue would still be unresolved.
More on: Marriage and Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.