One day I was walking out the front door and I saw a bag of trash blocking the door. I thought it was a strange place for Roxann to put a bag of trash. I had to move it just to get out. But she must have had a good reason, right? Maybe she was trying to remind herself about something. Later, she told me she’d put the trash in front of the door because she wanted me to take it out. I asked her: “Why didn’t you ask me to empty the trash?” She said: “I thought it was obvious. I didn’t need to say anything because you should know what I was asking you.” Well, I hate to admit how stupid I am, but I didn’t conclude that she was requesting me to throw the trash out by blocking the door with it.
Don’t Be Ambiguous
This may be an example of ambiguous communication. But to me, it seems a better example of a failure to communicate at all. I wouldn’t have been irritated if she asked me to take the trash out. Maybe I should have stopped and thought about what Roxann was trying to say to me. But honestly, at the time it didn’t even dawn on me that it had anything to do with me.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Have you ever assumed your spouse would know what to do on a subject you had not talked about? You might be right; but you might be wrong. Maybe you make assumptions about what time they will be home. How about what time you are going to eat? Who should pay an important bill? Who should pick up the kids? Maybe you fail to communicate a change in plans or circumstances? It wouldn’t hurt to communicate your assumptions or changes to make sure you are on the same page.
If the subject is important, consider that saying nothing is also a communication problem. Even if a misunderstanding is only “irritating,” (as opposed to “important,”) it might be worth taking the time to make sure there is no ambiguity. Everyone is in a hurry, and we are constantly creating ways to take shortcuts to save time. But if something is important to you, take the time to communicate the message. If there is an ambiguity, a quick question and answer can clear it up.
Would you like to eliminate arguments before they occur? This can eliminate arguments, spoiled evenings, anger, and hurt feelings before they arise. Take advantage of the opportunity to make a connection and avoid the hard feelings before they start.
You can find more helpful tips for effective communication in your marriage in our book, The Marriage Dance: Moving Together As One.
This article was first published on The Marriage Dance blog on February 21, 2019.