Happy October, everyone.
September was devoted to Getting Our Personal Shit Together. We covered fundamentals like taking responsibility for our life, learning to live by our values, and getting rid of self-entitlement. These create an important foundation for our relationships, whether casual, professional, or romantic.
October will be about communication. What we say and how we say it can make the difference between getting dates and scaring dates away, and it can make the difference between a successful marriage and one that goes down the stink hole.
The topic I wanted to address today is one that I’ve given a lot of thought to for a long time, and something I’ve learned from experience. And that topic is learning to ask questions. This is useful in any kind of communication, but can be crucial in relationships. Take this example:
John: Donald Trump is the worst president ever.
Jim: No, he’s not. You’re just pissed off because your side lost.
John: Bullshit. He’s an asshole who’s ruining our country.
Jim: You’re a libtard idiot.
Okay, who hasn’t heard (or read) some version of THIS conversation a dozen times since last November? Yet, these two chaps are doing nothing but arguing and making assumptions about each other. Jim assumes John is a mindless liberal complaining because he didn’t get the pres he wanted; John probably assumes equally damning stuff about Jim. They’re learning nothing, they’re accomplishing nothing, and they’re creating more problems in the world. If I were Jim, I would have asked John why he feels that way about Trump. John would have listed off his grievances about Trump, and even though Jim would probably disagree or not give a crap about said grievances, he would have at least understood John (and perhaps other liberals) a little bit better.
Why is this important? Learning to ask questions is a good thing in interacting with Facebook friends or people at a party, but it’s absolutely crucial in dating and especially relationships. Jim and John may never be friends or see eye to eye, but you have to learn to understand your date or partner’s perspective… or pay the price. When you just react or make assumptions, you do two things: 1) you don’t learn where your partner is coming from and 2) you operate on false beliefs.
Take this couple, who’s been dating for a few months:
Joe: Want to go to a baseball game Saturday night?
Jane: God, no. Let’s do something else.
Joe: You never say yes when I want to take you to a game. The weather’s perfect tonight and we do what you want to do all the time.
Jane: Can’t we just do something else? Anything, just not that.
Joe: Fine. Whatever.
When Jane vetoed John’s idea (and harshly), he got mad and argued. He made assumptions too; perhaps he assumes she’s selfish and always wants her way, or perhaps he assumes she looks down on baseball or sports lovers. So what does he do? He gets annoyed, he pushes, then he gives in. The problem is that John never really understands his girlfriend or why she’s so adamant against baseball. The truth could be that Jane finds baseball dull, she hates all sports, she likes baseball but it’s too hot out, the game will keep her out too late, she likes baseball games but they’re too long for her, she really is just selfish, or her abusive father drank and watched baseball all the time…
The thing is, the real answer could be one that John totally understands, or one that’s a deal-breaker for him. He might get the abusive father thing, but balk at her hatred of baseball if it’s his favorite sport. Or he may be okay with her disliking baseball, but not with her being selfish and demanding her way all the time. Either way, he’ll never know if he doesn’t ask.
When your date or partner says something you don’t understand, like, or agree with, ask questions.
Why does it bother you when I go out with my friends?
What’s going on at work that’s stressing you out?
Why didn’t you call when you said you would?
Why do you seem so angry/cranky/distant?
Why is it so important that I make the bed every morning?
Why did you seem so into it and then ghost me?
Oftentimes, if you ask the right way, the answers will surprise you. You won’t always like them, but you’ll at least understand that person and his/her point of view a little better. And those answers will tell you more about that person than your (often unflattering) assumptions. Remember, knowledge is power.
Next time, I’ll go deeper into this topic and discuss HOW to ask questions in the right way.