When I was watching the ‘A word’ on TV the other night I was struck by one particular interchange. As it happened it had nothing to do with autism but it did have a great deal to do with communication (or rather, non-communication). The mother of the young boy appeared to be asking for her brother-in-law’s opinion on whether they should get a second opinion about her son’s condition. But she wasn’t actually asking, as he was quick to point out – rather she was telling him what she had already decided but wanted his affirmation of her decision.
All of which set me thinking. How often do all of us seem to be asking something when in fact we are just using the form of a question to tell a person what we have decided in any case. Most of the time that doesn’t cause much of a problem between couples but at other times it can result in irritation – or worse.
Here at Coupleworks we know very well how important good communication is for any partnership. And really good communication requires each person to be open about what they are saying and to give the space to their partner to agree or disagree with them.
‘Where shall we go this Christmas? Your family or mine?’ Can be a genuinely open ended question, or it may be said in such a way that only one answer is, in effect, being allowed. If that sort of non-question continues time and again then the net result will be to make a person feel that they are being treated as though their opinion does not matter, and that they are being continuously belittled.
So what is the answer?
1. Learn to ask genuine questions.
2. If you have a preference then be open and honest about it. Check with yourself whether you are really asking for an opinion or whether you are hoping that your partner will agree with you.
3. Listen to your partner and encourage them to be honest too.
4. Don’t be afraid of disagreement or difference – such things lie at the centre of any healthy relationship.
5. When you catch yourself asking a non-question (or when it’s pointed out that that’s what you are doing) don’t be afraid to acknowledge it- and to laugh at yourself.
Clear, honest and accurate communication is essential to healthy relationships.