Have you ever had this happen?
You know exactly what you want your spouse, child, boss, employee or friend to do? You know what you want them to say, how you want them to respond…and they don’t?
In fact, they do the exact opposite.
They solve instead of listen. They disobey instead of obey. They shut down instead of engaging. They drop the ball instead of following through and finishing a project.
In his book The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it, Dr. Henry Cloud gives an example that every married couple can relate to (I’ll paraphrase):
A woman shared with Dr. Cloud her frustration with her boyfriend.
She feels disconnected from him. So, she tells her boyfriend, “I want you to connect with me more.”
Now, men know this line. Women know this line.
The problem is that men and women have different ideas about what this means, what this looks like and how to accomplish it.
The results for this woman are the results that thousands of others have experienced.
Absolutely nothing changed.
The problem comes in that we are not clear. There isn’t anything measurable in our relationship requests.
In our minds, we know what things like “feeling loved”, or “being more connected” mean, doing a project the way we want, or what it means for a teenager to be responsible.
We just expect them to have the same definition as we do.
Think for a minute if you fall into any of these categories.
If you’ve told your spouse I want to feel more connected or loved by you and then nothing happened. Here’s why…
You never told your spouse what feeling more connected or loved means. How can they do that? For each person that is different. Is that talking about your day? What specifically do you want to talk about? Details? Feelings? A running commentary of what happened?
Now, many couples tell me that deciding this is silly. Your spouse should just know. Your spouse is a mind reader.
But they aren’t.
Here’s an example every couple has experienced.
The wife begins talking about an issue in her life. A frustration at work, with a friend or a child. Before she finishes, the husband jumps in with 3 steps to a solution, claps his hands and says, “there you go.” He solved it.
Now she’s mad.
Because she wanted one thing and he gave her another. What she wanted and needed was to be understood and have a listening ear, not someone to solve it. She sought connection and he sought helping.
Most frustrations and arguments in any relationship (family or work) stem from a failure to communicate expectations and needs.
Take whatever your need and desire is: to feel loved, connected, for your teenager to take responsibility and define it with them. What that would look like and mean.
Those words are too fuzzy and personal to leave to chance.