Posts Tagged ‘ empathy ’

Effectively Communicating in Marriage: The Jack Tripper Version

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Nine months.

For certain, I am overly aware of all the things I’m not good at; a few of which include math and anything involving numbers, all home repairs, anything to do with cars, anything requiring athletic talent, navigating without getting completely lost, knowing when to say “my wife and I” versus “my wife and me,” and pretending to care about the newest “shocking” thing that Lady Gaga did, said, or wore.

But I do think one of my strengths is communicating and empathizing with other people; or at least it’s something I’ve gotten a lot better at in recent years. I keep in mind that when it comes to relating to others, it’s not a matter of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Instead, the rule is “do unto others as they would want you to do to them.” Because I can’t assume the other person is inspired by the same things I am. Instead, I have to put myself in their shoes.

It’s a matter of knowing what motivates and discourages other people.  It’s a matter of reminding myself that listening is typically more effective than speaking. People often need to be and feel understood before they will want to receive advice or instruction.

Despite me being hard-wired to always want to “fix the problem,” I have definitely improved my ability to sincerely listen to my wife when she airs out what is going through her head, without trying to save the day by providing a reasonable and logical solution; or even asking “what can I do to help?”  But I still have to remind myself that 99.987% of the time, listening itself is the best way to fix the problem.

But there are certain times where there actually is a legitimate issue that needs to be handled and my wife actually does need my help to fix it. She is keen and conspicuously clued in enough to know how to present the problem to me in a way that doesn’t come across as “nagging.” Instead, she knows that the best way to effectively communicate with me, in that instance, is to literally ask for my help. Because I always want to help her.  It makes me feel good as her husband.

We are not manipulating each other but instead are simply acutely aware of the way we need to be communicated with. And this concept doesn’t just apply to my marriage; it works for all relationships in my life: friends, family, coworkers, and even people I don’t even know that well.

Do I need to issue an obligatory disclaimer admitting that my wife and I have only been married for three years and therefore I have not earned the right to give out marriage advice? Am I only triggering some readers to respond with, “Well you just wait until you’ve been married longer…”?

I admit; I have far to go and much to learn. If I am an expert of any kind, it’s in not being an expert.

So I am just a normal guy having to figure out these things as I go, especially when it comes to marriage and fatherhood. Constantly I am realizing that if I only knew yesterday what I just learned today, things would be a lot less complicated and frustrating.

As a husband and father, I have a tendency to be as clumsy and misunderstood as Jack Tripper from Three’s Company. Similarly, I also unintentionally make a habit of stumbling my way out of the current crisis within 30 minutes, right before “Come and knock on my door…” starts playing again for the closing credits. Maybe my life is just one big sitcom!

(Cue the laugh tracks.)

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