I just did a facilitated discussion with a wonderful group of couples. We separated the men and women and asked questions for them to discuss. For example, what are some things you wish women knew about men and men knew about women? What do you wish you knew about the other gender? I also asked them to write down blocks to communication. For example, when women say ____________________,( “Do the dishes?”) what do you think they mean? They had to fill in the blank and then ask the women. We did the same for women to men.
For the most part, we do not understand one another, one another’s motivations and we think we do. When we think we understand and fail to clarify, we fail to communicate effectively. When we make assumptions rather than ask (we agreed that was the lazy approach) we fail to communicate.
We spent a fair amount of time of how to give a man feedback without him saying back “Oh, that’s right, I am always wrong. Well you do the same thing.” or “You think you’re perfect, don’t you.” Even when he is in a good mood, she asks nicely if he would like feedback, it is still hard to hear criticism. Even if you do everything right, what he is hearing is that he stinks, he is wrong, you are better than him and you are the person who holds the truth about him. Overall, it is a negative experience.
Someone pointed out that when we get criticized our ability to synthesize information is compromised. We attribute statements poorly and do not hear it in the manner in which it was intended. What the criticism really was, was an invitation to grow closer. Here is what she was trying to communicate, “I love you. There are some things that are happening that push me away from you. I would rather be close to you. Let’s work on these so that we can grow more deeply in love.” I can assure you that the men do not hear it that way without a heck of a lot of practice!
What if we just allowed our partners to be who they are? What if we stopped trying to change one another and believed that they are acceptable as they are? What if we trusted the process of life that people will grow at their own pace and we can be supportive, we can set up an environment for growth, but we cannot change people? How successful have we been at changing our partners? Even when I, myself, want to change, it is really tough. How much tougher is it when we try to change someone who does not want to be changed? By the way, we have found that when we fully accept someone as they are right now, they tend to change. Ironic isn’t it?
We could have stayed another few hours but two hours was all we were allotted.
Thank you to the group who came and shared.
If we can get along as couples, perhaps as communities we can get along better. If we use those skills, there is great hope for this world in which we live.
All the best,