“I need you to communicate with me directly. I am not a mind reader.” Has this ever escaped your lips or crossed your mind? I’m not sure if I’ve ever said exactly these words, but I have definitely thought about saying it.
Most of us say or act as though direct communication is preferred. Especially when that direct communication won’t lead to someone’s feelings getting hurt, it is usually how we want others, particularly our partner, to talk with us.
I have to admit, there are certainly times when I want the slam dunk—the easy shot. That’s what I’m looking for when I ask my wife to tell me exactly what she wants and when she wants it. Then I do what will fulfill her, or at least what will fulfill the order she has placed with me. I don’t have to think about anything else. Check the box. I did it. I am done.
Sometimes our partner has the self-awareness to know what they want or need. Or perhaps they have the clarity to share what they are going through and to ask for the care they would like to be provided. Their wants. Their needs. We can do it, and it’s done. In these scenarios, it might be easy to earn our “happy face” sticker for the day.
However, we don’t always get that clarity from our partners. I am admittedly learning more and more about myself every day. I don’t have all the answers about myself and what I am going through. And it’s safe to surmise that this is the case for other adults also. If we are still working to understand ourselves, how can we expect our partner to understand themself and to communicate plainly with us?
Nonetheless, when my buttons are pressed, I can get irritable and subsequently display that irritability in a less-than-understanding manner. I may say to my wife, “Just tell me what you are going through. I am not a mind reader.” I don’t want to guess or act when I am unsure. I’m impatient to know what I should do. As I reflect on my plea for directness, it dawns on me that I am doing myself and my wife a disservice. I am establishing a condition that I require her to adhere to in order for me to be fully present in whatever she is going through. In my own way, I am checking out. This is a big deal.
One of the reasons an athlete (or anyone else) has a coach is that the coach is outside of the athlete. The coach can see what is going on from a perspective the athlete cannot. Coaches matter; ask any professional athlete. They are a big deal. Some athletes believe they can do it all alone. But when they end up competing against someone who is equally skilled but has a coach, they will probably loose.
What relevance does a coach and the coaching paradigm have to relationships and direct
communication? A coach who says to a player, “Tell me what you need,” and then ends their research on how to get their athlete to succeed is not a good coach in my humble estimation. A good coach may still ask that question. However, the coach is also observing the athlete, asking questions, and researching techniques all to guide the athlete toward success. They are not mind readers; they are invested.
Let’s be invested in our partner, their success, and our collective success. We can be invested by
doing the same things a good coach does. We can study our partner in a litany of ways. We can provide support to them based on what we learn. Let’s not wait for o
ur “athlete” to spoon-feed us the information on what they want. This is a cop-out. It’s looking for a way out of truly loving our partner where they are. Let’s find the way in. Can we:
- Listen to our partner as they speak about their daily challenges and provide a tool that may help them?
- Study their eating habits and their health reports. If they have elevated cholesterol, this may be a sign of too much meat consumption. We can remind them of their dietary issues and suggest adjustments?
- Touch them in ways that make them melt?
- Smile at them and let them know we are happy to have their presence in our lives?
All of these suggestions, and many more, can be executed without solicitation. They can also be game-changing. Instead of looking for a way out, let’s find a way in. Our partner’s success, our success, and our relationship may depend on it.
Watch Frank Love’s presentation, “The Act of Caring.”
Frank Love coaches individuals who are in (or wish to be in) a relationship on ways to create a loving culture in their relationship. He is also the author of “Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway)” and “25 Ways to Be Loving.” To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.
June 6, 2022 at 8:25 PM
“Ask for permission…”
I am struck by how seldom I hear the word “permission” any more. It lingered in the ears of my mind as I read it much like the words – thou, shalt, ye and believeth – words sealed up in a bygone era, words used for affect, or word choices that say more about the writer’s sophistication than the reader’s ability to grasp the subject. I loved seeing it, saying it, thinking it, “Ask for permission.” We say this to children when teaching them the concept of boundaries. And yet we scoff at the idea of asking for permission. It slows us down. It implies we care. I got lost in the prescription of do’s and don’ts, as I often do. I couldn’t believe that anyone would follow the recipe, mostly out of understanding that I can often be caught not following the directions, the rules. I’ve convinced myself that if I did, something terrible might happen, and then I’d blame myself for being a pawn in someone else’s game.
June 6, 2022 at 8:29 PM
We can remind them of their dietary issues and suggest adjustments?
I find that annoying and offensive. Instead might I suggest that “prepare food for them that is more cholesterol friendly and model healthy eating.
No one wants to be told what to do but everyone appreciates living with someone with positive health habits that does some of the hard work of preparing three healthy meals a day.