Every day we are involved in conversations where we think we know what is being said, and yet we hear it differently from the way the speaker meant it. We don’t generally know that this is happening. We usually just take away the meaning we heard and leave it at that. Often, we have a bad reaction to what we thought we heard. This is the beginning of the rathole in many relationships.
Here is a common example:
Mary: Can we talk a minute?
Bob: Um, what for? What’s going on?
Mary: I just want to discuss something with you. It’s important! And why are you giving me that look?
Bob: What look?
Mary: You know, that look that says, “Don’t bother me with this. I don’t have time for your silly conversations.”
Mary and Bob are headed nowhere fast. In this case, she imagines that his “look” means something, and she doesn’t like that meaning. It is possible that she is right, that Bob did give her a “look” that means just what she thought. BUT, it is also quite possible that she has no idea what Bob felt or whether he even gave her a “look.” And there’s no way that either of them is going to sort this out unless they stop the flow of this exchange, and begin to explore with each other what’s going on for the other. Once they sort this out, they can avoid misinterpretations.
Nura Laird, UOS Faculty
Listen to other major pitfalls that kill love in relationships.
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