If you want to have better communication with your partner, learn how they learn.
I struggle with written directions. Reading financial statements stresses me out and makes my head spin. Following a written recipe is a challenge. I look like an early reader with my finger resting on each word.
Tell me the driving directions or share a recipe verbally and I’ve got it. I can visualize what I hear and I’m off and running, or driving, or cooking.
Back in my college days studying communication, I learned about the different ways people process information. My husband and I are complete opposites. Sometimes our conversations go in circles as we each try to get our point across in different ways.
I know I am an audio-digital learner because I process sounds and I’m sensitive to voices. I can’t hear two conversations at once; I simply shut down. If you talk to me while I’m watching TV, I only hear garble from both sources. The good news is you only have to tell me something once and I will almost always remember. But tell me something multiple times and I tend to get irritated.
“You told me already! I got it!”
My husband is a visual learner. He writes everything down and is a list maker to the ‘nth’ degree. There are envelopes and pieces of paper all over the house on which he writes the same notes over and over.
If I need him to pick up something at the store, he can’t keep that item in his head. He has to write it down. If he can take an empty container with him to see exactly what he needs, all the better. Unlike me, he prefers written directions and is challenged listening to a GPS.
I used to get really upset when he asked me for information, then had to wait for him to to write it down. I would find I would have to repeat the information several times until he finally had it all on paper. It was incredibly frustrating because I felt he wasn’t listening to me. I didn’t understand why I had to keep repeating myself. I didn’t get why he didn’t hear me.
“I told you already! Why don’t you hear me?”
It took me a long time to understand my husband wasn’t ignoring me. A recent conversation with a friend on communication styles brought my college lessons to the present. Once I remembered we communicate and process differently, it was as if lightning struck in a good way. (No, this one isn’t about my chimney.)
We also handle situations differently too. He wants to solve them immediately and move on to the next thing. If I don’t see a project as urgent, I set it aside until I believe it needs to be worked on.
For him, the perfectionist who wants everything done immediately, hearing it will be done is not the same as seeing it done. He has a hard time with my viewpoint that the project will get done when I’m ready to tackle it, and my timeline doesn’t have to be his. I wish he would take the time to rest and not make everything on his list a high priority.
We still have challenges, but understanding our different styles helped us to find our rhythm and to ease the frustration we both felt.
In order to effectively communicate with my husband, I need to respect and accommodate his learning style of writing things down.
We came up with a thumbs up symbol to let him know that I am taking care of whatever task he thinks I need to be handling; it lets him know I am aware and it is on my list.
What used to irritate us has led us to build a bridge between our different learning styles.
We are both learning patience.
Photo/Flickr: Susanne Nilsson