How often do you say something that you intend as curious, supportive, or at the least, innocuous only to find that the receiver of your message has taken offense? Maybe you’ve been on both sides of this communication mishap. And how often do you ask (or are asked by someone else) a cryptic question? Those questions that we use to communicate because we’re too afraid to say what we mean or ask what we really want to know.
They can make us crazy- “How do I look?” “This soup I made today is tasteless.” “Are you going to do the dishes or do you want me to?” All of these questions and statements can hold a lot of different meanings. They can also be easily interpreted in a lot of different ways. Getting lost in the meaning is a bit of a pitfall.
Take a look at this example couple to see if you can spot any similarities in your relationship:
(Background- Kim wants to spend some alone time with Kelly because they have been busy with work and various engagements.)
Kim: “Do you have any plans this weekend?”
Kelly: “Not yet although, I thought it might be fun to go to the beach for a barbeque.”
Kim: “Oh, mm-hm. Would you want to invite anyone or would it be just us?”
Kelly: “ I don’t know. Maybe. I guess we could invite Sharon and Dieter. We haven’t seen them in a long time.”
Kim: “Mm, that’s true. Ok, well, whatever you want.”
Kelly: “Did you want to do something different?”
Kim: “…I don’t care.”
Pretty classic. Kim isn’t saying what she wants; she’s fishing. Kelly either a) doesn’t understand Kim’s code, b) would rather she communicate clearly and is modeling that for her, or c) is also speaking in code! Whatever the case, when we left this couple in the middle of their conversation, it didn’t look like they were headed in a positive direction. Who knows where it could end up- a fight or argument, a mismanaged conflict.
If Kim had said something like, “I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve spent time just the two of us. I miss you. Want to hang out alone together this weekend?” she would have been clear and honest about what she is looking for. It directly communicates her feelings and intention.
Sometimes we’re looking for validation, support, approval, and connection. Maybe we’re feeling ignored, insecure, resentful, or hurt. Other times, we are genuinely seeking information from someone. Our tone, facial gestures, and body posture help to communicate where we are coming from; this provides useful information for one another. Still, sometimes we can find ourselves in this trap. Saying what we mean and asking forthcoming questions is a simple and powerful technique that we can use to improve our communication. When we do this often enough, we provide more stability and connection in relationship.
Of course, there are still plenty of times when sending cryptic messages is a lighthearted way to play. One of the most important types of awareness we can have is awareness of our intention. If we know we’re not feeling playful and resourced, it’s probably best to be as direct and honest as possible.
Love and Be Loved,