A few years ago I was on a week long cruise in the Kimberley with a number of other couples, and there were some minor misunderstandings between couples.
We joked about how it would be so helpful if their other half could just read their mind.
At the time apps were emerging as a relatively new idea so we joked about creating an app that could interpret or “mind read” what the other person was saying so that they could understand. You know, things like when she’s says no to a drink, she’s not very thirsty, but she may have in mind that she could have a sip of yours if she doesn’t feel like a whole drink. Or when he gets ready and leaves to go to breakfast, he thought you’d know he’d be saving a place for you (it’s assumed right ?).
I hear it now when I’m talking to clients, whether they are dating or in a long term relationship, that they are often confused about how they could have possibly misunderstood the other person, or be misunderstood. Frustration and confusion often result from mis-communication.
I remember one client I saw a few decades ago, who wanted to understand how he could reignite sexual intimacy with his wife, however, a pattern had developed where if she showed any physical intimacy he progressed to assuming she wanted sex. He didn’t ask her, he assumed. A hug meant sex, holding hands meant sex, sitting close on the lounge meant sex. However, he found that over time she was avoidant of physical intimacy (and therefore sexual intimacy).
When I pointed out the emerging dynamic, he humorously said to me, “but everything leads to sex for a man”. And I pointed out not for his wife though – and she was the participating other – not a man.
I suggested that instead he work on his emotional intimacy (reflective listening, open questions, attentiveness, active listening and sharing of information – unrelated to tasks and domestic matters) and allow his wife to initiate. He joked that “it would never happen then” but he was wrong. He came back to sessions saying that she’d said that he “was finally listening to her” – even though he told me he had been all along, but now she felt like he was listening to her.
Their emotional intimacy improved and so did their physical and sexual intimacy. It makes me smile how vague people can be and expect that the other person knows what they mean.
A friend who has recently returned to dating, shared with me that she was out having fun and met someone she liked, and he repeated a number of times that it was great weather for sailing. She agreed it was, but he didn’t invite her sailing directly. She laughed when we let her know that he was suggesting she go sailing with him.
Tips to develop clearer communication:
1. Use words – sentences and paragraphs to describe what you are thinking. Think of it like a story you are telling. Have in mind the conclusion, the message of the story, but begin with the introduction the middle and then get to the conclusion.
2. Be curious. Use reflective listening and open questions to understand the other person. Spend less time talking about you and more time asking questions about the other person.
3. Check out that your understanding is correct. Repeat back what the other person said in your own words. It’s very connecting, and helps the other person know you really understand what they are saying.
4. Initiate – be brave – approach the other person, offer to start the conversation and make sure the other person is understanding what you are saying. Slow down and go back, maybe saying things in a different way to see if that helps.
5. Be flirtatious and/ or playful as a form of connecting, even if you’ve been together for 30 years !
6. If you have ongoing contact with the other person, make a point of remembering important things and following up with the other person. “How did you go with that … how did you feel …. were you happy with the outcome …. “
Please feel free to contact us at Revive Health and Happiness if you would like to learn more about effectively communicating with your partner.