December 21, 2007
During a class on cross-cultural communication, we read the book That's Not What I Meant! How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships. That book was probably the most useful thing I ever read in college; it changed my life. (And people say that all the time, that books changed their life, but usually they're being hyperbolic. I am super serial here.) What this book teaches you is how your metamessage -- the tone of your voice, the way you're standing -- conveys a stronger message than your words, and how men and women typically employ different metamessage strategies. Once you're able as a couple to talk about your metamessages and not just the words you've said, it opens up a whole different level of communication.
This meta-knowledge -- for example, that men listen to complaining to find solutions, while women complain to create a social bond -- is a crucial part of getting along. My husband and I hardly ever argue anymore after reading this book because we are able to step back and actually say nerdy things like, "Right now I am acting like a stupid woman. I know what I am saying is unreasonable, and that you want to try to fix the problem for me, but I don't need you to fix it, I just need you to listen and nod along with me as if you understand what in the hell I'm upset about. It's OK if you just pretend you understand, that works too." Understanding that your emotional systems work differently is a blessing for a relationship.
I am so glad I had to read this book.
Anyway, I thought about this today when I read SarahJ's description of dropping the bookcase on her foot. Now there's a couple with meta-knowledge! If you can fight with this sort of self-awareness, you have a great relationship, in my opinion. You still have a busted toe because you were being a damned woman, but at least you don't have a busted toe and a divorce, right?
(Todays links, as usual, found via Conservative Grapevine, the coolest round-up on the internet.)
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