Why is communicating with each other so difficult? Think about it: perhaps you’ve expressed a need that you want your husband to fulfill, and you think the message is clear. Yet he completely doesn’t get it or mistakes your tone for nagging. Meanwhile, your husband thinks his needs have fallen on deaf ears. You’ve essentially got two people who love each other but aren’t on the same page, and more often than not, this leads to plenty of conflicts. Miscommunication can be so overwhelming, and finding a solution seems impossible. But what I’ve found is that avoiding miscommunication in relationships starts with showing empathy and generosity.
That sounds too simple to be true, but it’s not. We’ve been talking a lot lately about how our desires as humans run very deep. But we often misunderstand each other’s underlying needs — mostly without realizing it. It’s these miscommunication missteps that keep us from enjoying better, more intimate relationships with God, ourselves, and others.
“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner
attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.” — Dalai Lama XIV
By showing more empathy and generosity, we meet each other’s desires much easier. And in doing so, we validate our existence and add depth and meaning to who we really are as a couple and as individuals.
Empathy and Generosity Meaning
First, let’s look at how we don’t fully communicate meaning to our partner and how our partner can misunderstand what we are truly trying to say. Imagine saying, “Why did you cook the steak like that?” They could remember a complaint you made in the past and think they’ve done something wrong when, in actuality, you love the steak and simply want to know more about the process. The first statement does not give value to how they cooked the steak. And so, it’s easy to take it negatively, positively, or neutrally. It is both partners’ CHOICE in how they ask the question and how they receive the question.
A way to fix this is to add a value statement — something like, “I love this. Why did you cook the steak like that?” From there, your partner can ask questions if they don’t specifically understand what was asked or what you meant.
Showing more generosity seems like a simple solution, right? But it actually takes practice to communicate more fully and listen with a generous attitude. Remember that generosity is when we make the most generous interpretation of what our partner is saying to us. It’s also about making the most generous assumptions about our partner, their intentions and motivations.
Much of our miscommunication, due to our lack of expressing meaning when we talk to one another, is our overall view of our partner. In other words, do we have a generous, open, and positive perspective of our partner and the relationship? Or, are we cultivating negativity and more conflict by the way we’re doing life together and communicating with one another?
Often, the conflict that comes from your conversations is due to a misunderstanding of how your partner really feels and how important something is to them. We end up making a lot of assumptions about what our partner means, feels, and is thinking rather than looking a little deeper and asking better questions to really know what they think, how they feel, and why something is so important to them.
I encourage you to watch the cartoon short: “Brené Brown on empathy.” She says empathy fuels connection. It’s feeling WITH people. Empathy is a vulnerable choice that we make to connect with another person. Empathy also means we have to connect with something in ourselves that knows the feeling our partner is having. There are four important basics to empathy:
- We take on the perspective of the person that’s speaking
- No judgment
- Recognizing the emotion in your partner, and
- Communicating it
All we’re saying here is that if we’re really going to communicate well with each other and minimize miscommunication that can lead to conflict and fighting, we must communicate meaning, have a generous attitude toward our partners, and empathize or feel with our partner. We need to focus on the thing that is really important — the person. And when we do that, we will understand our spouses more fully and how we can influence and impact their lives for the better plus benefit our relationships.
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Did we leave anything out? How are you trying to listen to your spouse’s underlying desires? Have you improved your communication as a result? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going at Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.