PQ 6.4 — Do I communicate passively or directly?
I am as direct as I can reasonably be.
Direct communication seems like a simple matter — and it’s definitely something to strive for. After all, there’s little more frustrating than talking with someone who expects you to mind read. So why would I do that to someone else?
But while direct communication is a worthy goal, you can run into problems when being too direct.
Sometimes you make a valid point, and the person you’re talking to clams up. Completely closes up shop.
If they’re direct back, they might say, “I’m feeling judged.”
But a lot of times? They say nothing at all. Or, “Drop it. I don’t want to talk about it.”
And sometimes this happens because you’re way off base. But other times? They’re reluctant to discuss things because you’re right on course, and they don’t like thinking about or dealing with what you have brought up.
Regardless, when someone else wants to delay talking about something, I have to honor that request. And bide my time until we can revisit.
When this happens, it’s tempting to default to communicating passively. To sulk in silence. Internalize the disappointment and feel resentment. And never revisit the issue. It’s easy to do since it’s a familiar pattern, what I used to do.
But these days, I resist the urge and instead check in after a suitable amount of time has passed.
And when it comes to the check-in, I avoid dramatic movie of the week lines. None of this: “We need to talk.” Man, is that ever an anxiety-provoking, losing kind of phrase.
Instead, I try something like “So you remember when we were talking about X? I didn’t like where we left it. Can we discuss that some more?”
The length of the wait depends on the heat of their initial request to drop it and the importance and time sensitivity of the issue to be addressed.I find that there’s a balance that works with everybody. Some people are good with a quick cool down period. Some need longer.
And I find that some people are often ready to have a quick chat directly following the check-in, where others may say, “Sure, we can talk. Let’s set aside a time,” and want to schedule that.
Part of the work that comes with figuring out communication in a new relationship is getting a sense of their particular balance. And their getting a sense of yours, too.
It might seem clunky at first, like people learning choreography you absolutely don’t understand, but as you both learn to achieve this balance, you can weave and dance together in a way that you never would have imagined.
Especially in the beginning when you’re new to one another and it feels like you’ll never learn.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.