Patient Listening

Communication, Relationships 0 Comments

I can’t believe that after 15 years of marriage I’m still discovering fundamental ways to successfully communicate with the Boss. Came across a big one recently.

A couple months ago we got into a few disagreements where I felt she was cutting me off and not letting me speak. Here’s an example:

Her: “I think x, y, z, blah, blah, blah”
Me: “I think x, y, ……
Her: “Another thing I think x, y, z, blah, blah blah”
Me “Yeah but x, y ….
Her “Another thing I think, x, y ,z blah, blah blah”
Etc.

I started getting so frustrated! She got her turn to talk, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I was *really* listening to what she had to say. I wasn’t telling her she was wrong. I wasn’t making faces. I wasn’t judging her feelings or applying my own standard of right and wrong. Why wasn’t she giving me the same respect??

And so I asked her “Can you please stop cutting me off?!”. And do you know what she said?

“You’re cutting ME off!”

WHAT! WHAAAAAT! She stopped speaking! She’d say something and stop. Her intonation and timing clearly indicated she was done.

Ah…. but was she? No my friend, she wasn’t. You know why? Because she is not me. She doesn’t communicate like me. By my standards it seemed like she was done speaking. By her standards, not even close.

We started to figure it out when she said “I’m not as fast as you”.

Almost immediately I got it. You’re reading this, not hearing me speak, but it’s true. I move fast. I think fast. I speak fast. I don’t “work things out”. I can and regularly do speak in front of large groups with no preparation. I figure stuff out on the fly – successfully. I decide what I want to eat after a quick glance of a menu. A successful shopping experience to me is getting in and out of a store in 5 minutes. None of this makes me better or smarter. There are good and bad aspects to it. But that’s how I roll.

That’s not how she rolls. I wish I had figured it out a long time ago.

We cracked the code right there. When she’s expressing her thoughts and feelings, it’s not like this:

  • Express Thought. Stop
  • Express Thought. Stop
  • Express Thought. Stop

In reality, she works like this:

  • Express Thought.
  • Think / Process.
  • Express Thought.
  • Think / Process.
  • Express Thought
  • Stop

Despite the pause, despite the intonation, when I thought she was done, she wasn’t done. Her style of sharing a thought is broken up into chunks. It’s only after she’s gotten them all out and expressed herself fully, on her terms, that she’s ready to hear what I have to say.

So I WAS cutting her off. I’ve ALWAYS been cutting her off. For 15 years. Because I didn’t realize that the way she communicates – which is completely valid – is much different than my own. When I thought she was done, she was thinking and processing the next piece of a connected statement.

You know what I do now? I count to 10 after her last word before I respond. If during that count she starts speaking again, I reset the clock, and start it again when she finishes speaking. The silence that leaves is borderline awkward. But I quickly discovered that sometimes I reset the clock 5 times before I end up responding. That’s 5 times where previously I would have rushed the convo, and “cut her off”.

Needless to say, this has helped A LOT. Maybe it’s just us. Maybe this isn’t needed in your relationships. But if so, cheers! Slow it down and ye shall be rewarded.

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