I’ve been with the same woman for 40 years. You’d think I’d know her pretty good by now - right? I mean just how dull would a man have to be to not have this individual figured out?
Well, pretty dull I guess.
My wife has three kinds of conversations - all very different in intent - all sounding quite similar. Let me give you an example:
First - “I don’t know what we (hear the we? Sounds like I’m included right? Not so fast Jack) - I don’t know what we should do for Chelsey’s birthday. She wants to go to a craft place that does birthday parties but she also wants to just have some friends over. I wonder what we should do?”
“I wonder what we should do?”
Sounds like an invitation to enter the conversation - yes? No, no, no. This is NOT an invitation to say what I think. It took me three decades to recognise that this first type of conversation is simply an invitation for me to listen - LISTEN! Not talk. Not give my opinion - but listen. Ok, I’ve got that much figured out. I said nothing more than “Hmmm,” and watched the road - which unfortunately led my wife to up the anti.
Second - She repeated the above statement in almost identical wording. She included some information on comparing costs and she talked about which would be easier for us, and then, “What do you think we should do?”
Ok, now, there it is, “What do you think we should do?” Sounds like an invitation - yes? Not necessarily. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Compare it to the third method of conversation (which IS an invitation to give my opinion) and you tell me the difference.
Third - “I don’t know what we should do for Chelsey’s birthday. She wants to go to a craft place that does birthday parties but she also wants to just have some friends over. I wonder what we should do. What do you think we should do?”
Can you hear the difference?
Can you see how in the second she just wants to talk while in the third she clearly wants to hear my thoughts on the matter? Can you hear the difference?
It’s subtle. You maybe need to read the two again. Or maybe a thousand times. Do it again. Can you tell the difference?
Neither can I. The tone is the same; voice inflection the same. One is a trap and one isn't, but how can I tell the difference?
After 40 years of being together I still cannot tell which of the second or third methods of conversation I’m supposed to enter into and which, at the risk of physical harm (I’m joking) I should just shut up. Because not saying anything can be just as disturbing to her (some days more so) as me saying what I think she wants to hear - meaning, my opinion.
So, we’re on our way into town yesterday when my wife gives me the First and Second, OR the First and Third, OR the First, Second and Third (I didn’t know which until it was too late) conversations. Like I said, I cleverly and astutely recognised the First for what it was and that insight on my part got us about a third of the way into town in perfect harmony. We weren’t in town yet so she decided, as is often the case, to say pretty much the same thing all over again. I then, mistakenly, thought I was listening to the third version until I noticed a sizeable up-tick in the level of tension in the vehicle.
“What’s happening?” I thought to myself. “Why is she sounding so annoyed? All I’ve done is give my opini . . . oh, right! I gave my opinion.”
It wasn’t the third version. It was the second. How stupid of me!
It sounded like an invitation to give my opinion but it wasn’t an invitation and when I give my opinion at the exact moment when my opinion is not wanted, well, apparently that’s a bother to the one who is giving the invitation - or at least to the one who is sounding like she’s giving the invitation.
Ugh! I live with one women but I’ve got two for the price of one. 99% of the time she’s pretty easy to get along with but once in awhile . . .