Consider a relationship or marriage, in which communications usually proceed along these lines:
Him: I don’t like living here.
Her: Well I do.
Him: We’ve lived in better places.
Her: Nothing as nice as this.
Months later, the “conversation” could have moved on to.
Him: I’ve seen a great property, at a great price.
Her: I don’t want to move.
Him: It’s all about you, isn’t it?
Her: What do you mean? You’re the one who wants to move, not me.
You can imagine this sort of exchange going on for months or even years. Eventually, it might reach the stage where the discussion is like this:
Him: Either we move, or I’m leaving you and going to live some place else.
Her: What, are you crazy?
Him: No I’m not crazy. You just don’t listen, so I’m making a stand.
Her: What’s got into you?
The important issue is not whether the house is nice or not; it’s about the fact that she (in this case) isn’t listening to her partner. She’s deaf! He keeps trying to tell her something important but she doesn’t want to hear.
Eventually he leaves home and she tells her friends:
Her: I kept telling him I didn’t want to move. He just wouldn’t listen.
Friend: I know what you mean. Men are just horrible at paying attention to what we have to say.
Her: He bottled things up. It ruined our relationship.
Friend: Never mind. You’re better off without him.
But she wasn’t happy without him. Her relationship was gone and she never found another one that had much meaning for her. Her friend got divorced and whines about men. She sure got the reality she was asking for…
This deplorable example is just meant to illustrate what often passes for communication or “discussion”. It’s not a gender thing. It’s a skills problem. People don’t know how to deal with others who don’t share their views in full.
So what should have happened?
She might have asked why he wasn’t happy in the present home. Let him get it off his chest, so she can understand his concerns. Of course, it’s only his opinion about the house. She thinks differently. But he’s just as entitled to his opinion as she is. That’s fundamental.
Also, there is no room for what we call “rightness”, meaning I’m right and therefore (by inference) you are WRONG!
What we have in this example is a conflict or problem. The anatomy of a problem is a need, plan or purpose, with a counter thrust that’s making it difficult or impossible to resolve in one direction or another.
I just picked a disagreement over where to live because it illustrates the point. You must listen when your partner has something to say, even if it makes you uncomfortable. The actual issue might be one partner trying to say: “You never listen to me” or “I don’t like sex anymore” or “I need a holiday…” whatever.
It’s just a kind of denial, if you are not willing to listen to what your partner is struggling to tell you. He or she isn’t going to think differently because you ignore their overtures. People are only going to work through problems, change their minds, or see things differently, if you talk openly and apply a little of the magic we call accord (see The Constellation of Accord)!
Useful hacks might be: “What would have to happen for you to consider moving house?”Asked over and over, with fresh answers each time, it’s capable of a great deal of shift in viewpoint.
Or: “What would your dream house or home be like?” The woman in this situation might realize she was being plain stubborn and there were many attractive options for where to live. Or he might hear something that would make him want to stay put!
Just two-way talk with respectful listening is the simplest and best tool for resolving conflicts and misunderstandings. Try it!
Copyright © 2019 Keith Scott-Mumby ALL RIGHTS RESERVED