Monday, October 3, 2011

31 Days of Change :: Day 3--Communicating Via Show And Tell

Remember Show-And-Tell day as a kid? You got to bring your favorite item in and share it with your classmates all the while explaining its relevance.
Communicating with a spouse or loved one is much like that. What is important to you and what is its relevance? However, in relationships, the show is much more important than the tell. Let me give you an example:

Bobby and I are on extremely different schedules most of the time. He works a traditional 8-5 job; however, he is also responsible for morning carpool which has him leaving the house before 7:00 AM. He doesn't get home until almost 6:00 PM. We usually fall asleep before 10:00 PM. That gives us a total of 5 "awake" hours together per weekday.

So we call each other during the day. He will call me and he may catch me in the car, working at my mom's, fetching a snack or juice, changing a diaper. I will call him and I may catch him away from his desk, goofing off with his coworkers, or actually (gasp!) working. It's rare that we can easily have each other's full attention.
We can tell each other plenty of things throughout the day, but the majority of them will have to be retold. And these are just details. We would never try to have a "deep conversation" during the day. What would be the point, right?

When it comes to really talking about emotions, fears, goals and dreams, you have to either make the time, or find non-verbal ways to communicate. But no matter what, to be in a successful relationship, you simply must be able to share everything. Not just details, but thoughts, too.

I am not great at this. I frequently find myself getting frustrated because I don't know how to make Bobby "get it", "it" being whatever is on my mind. We both end up annoyed and the point is never made. But from time to time, I really try to think about what is important to him. Telling will not work here. Show that person what you need them to know. Show him/her that you have fears and you need some comfort by allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest.

Here's an example for today: Bobby loves baseball. Always has and always will. This summer he made himself extremely busy by taking on an All-Star team. Bobby also loves a beautiful lawn, but he didn't have time to cut the grass for a while, because when he got home he was just exhausted. One afternoon, I decided enough was enough, and I cut the grass myself. Not because I thought Bobby was lazy or negligent. Just the opposite. I wanted to take a chore off Bobby's list. By taking the initiative for a change, he knew that I "got it": he was doing something he truly loved -- coaching baseball -- and I showed him (not told him) that I supported him by handling one of his to-dos. I didn't do a very good job on the lawn, but that day it didn't matter.
If only I'd taken a 'before' picture. But I texted the 'after' to Bobby and he didn't dread coming home as much!
This month, take the time to think like the other person. What is he/she needing you to know? Or, what will it take to get your spouse/partner to understand what's really going on in your mind? If telling isn't working, then I challenge you to show...

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