Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everyone around you seems to be speaking a different language? I have. On a trip to Chile a few years ago, I found myself in the airport and at a complete loss. Most of the staff did not speak English and I spoke no Spanish. This made for an interesting “conversation” with the Customs person who mistook the lacrosse ball I carry for an orange. He was sure I was trying to bring in produce illegally. Luckily, it all worked out.
So, what does this have to do with your relationship? You probably think you and your partner speak the same language. Yes, you might be speaking English, but I have found that English is often inadequate when it comes to communicating effectively.
If you aren’t from the South, you might think it’s sweet if you overhear someone say, “Lesli, why bless her heart, she means well.” Those in the know understand that is not a compliment.
If you’re like most of us, you and your partner have been going along having a regular day and then suddenly, you find yourself in a disagreement. You have no idea how you got there. And, even more problematic, you have no idea how to get out.
Then, you innocently add insult to injury. You each engage in a futile effort to tell each other what the other one said. At this point, your “disagreement” begins to escalate into an argument or, worse, a full-into attack, defense, and counterattack. Round and round it goes, damaging your relationship, until one of you gives up, exhausted and frustrated.
The truth is that you weren’t speaking the same language. Yes, you were using the same words, but they didn’t mean the same thing. While words might have a generally accepted meaning, each one of you brings your own interpretation to them. Sort of like having a regional accent.
Words come loaded with expectations. It is these expectations that send your relationship into the ditch. This is because your expectations create the filter that determines what you pay attention to and how you choose to interpret it. Your expectations color your interpretation of not just the words used but tone, facial expression, and body language. All things that create the meaning you react to.
So now that you understand how you got into the ditch, it’s time to get out. Recognize that the interpretation you put on your partner’s meaning is just one of many. Be willing to acknowledge that what you heard isn’t what they said or meant. You each pay attention to different aspects of the conversation. You’re using the same words, but you may actually be talking about different things.
Once you can acknowledge this, you are on your way to restoring peace and harmony. While this is just the first step, it’s an important one. Good communication is necessary for a good relationship. It’s a skill you can learn. If you would like to get better at it, then stay tuned.
Originally Published on The Hero Husband Project