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4 Reasons You're Misunderstanding Each Other

“Why would you say that?” “That’s not what I meant. I never said that!” “Well, that’s what it sounded like to me!” Have you ever found yourself in a similar argument with your spouse? You were trying to communicate with each other – great! But somewhere along the way, wires got crossed. Now someone is mad, frustrated, or got their feelings hurt – not great. Where did things go wrong? Let’s explore a few reasons why you’re misunderstanding each other – and how to cut through the noise. You’re thinking about your reply. We’re all guilty of this. Your spouse is telling you something, but instead of truly hearing their words and the feelings behind them, you’re mentally crafting your response instead of listening to understand. This can result in a conversation that goes completely off the rails. Think about it: because you’re not truly listening, your response might seem way off base, causing your partner to have a less-than-favorable reaction, and so on. This is where active listening, a critical component in good communication, can turn things around. Before giving your own reply, repeat back what you heard your partner say to be sure that you are accurate in your understanding. This gives them a chance to confirm or correct your interpretation and enables you to respond appropriately. You’re making assumptions. Before your spouse has even finished speaking, you know exactly what they’re going to say and the intention behind it. Or at least you think you do. You call them out on it – that thing they haven’t even said yet – and now they’re feeling attacked and misunderstood. Avoid this pitfall by resisting the urge to put words into each other’s mouth. Yes, sometimes you might very well know what your partner is going to (or trying to) say, but be patient. Give each other space to explain clarify your intentions. You both deserve that respect from each other. You’re taking things personally. “I wasn’t a big fan of that movie last night.” A seemingly innocent comment from your spouse, but wait a minute – you picked the movie! And now you’re feeling defensive about it. “Next time you pick the movie then.” Instead of a fun conversation reviewing the movie you watched, things have taken a snippy turn. Maybe it’s just your mood or your partner’s tone. Whatever the reason, we infer some sort of personal dig where there isn’t one. If you’re feeling reactive, fight the urge to give a knee-jerk response. Take a deep breath, and respond to their words at face value instead of stoking unnecessary conflict. You’re being cryptic. Sometimes it’s tempting to let ambiguity seep into what we’re trying to say. After all, clearly articulating our thoughts and feelings isn’t always easy. It takes effort. If you’ve been with your spouse for awhile, you might think they should just “get it”. But this puts your partner in a situation where they’re forced to try to read your mind, multiplying the chances of misinterpretation. Instead, practice being straightforward and assertive – the perfect companion to active listening. If you’re having trouble finding the right words to express yourself, don’t be afraid to let each other know. It takes the pressure off both of you. Misunderstandings are part of being human. We don’t always say exactly what we mean. Sometimes we misinterpret each other’s words and intentions. Being aware of the small ways that we exacerbate the problem can help you break those habits, avoid unnecessary conflict, and ultimately understand each other better. ~Prepare Enrich Facilitators~

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