Nothing is Apparent

Synopsis: Nothing is Apparent to anyone else, and most stuff isn’t even apparent to you!

book about itI wish I had an instruction manual…

One of the biggest mistakes people make when relating is assuming… well… pretty much everything.

Nothing, though, is obvious, and often, what’s “obvious” to you really isn’t, so how on earth could someone else figure out what is unclear to you?

But I was going to write that many people assume that their partner can understand them without assistance. And this is especially so when we get to non-verbal “communication.”

Many are the times when I’ve seen people do stuff like: roll their eyes, or sigh dramatically, or walk away. My straw person from the past few articles [here, here] says she likes to slam doors.

Great, just great.

So, what, really, is the message in the eye-roll, or the sigh, and what is meant by abandoning ship and heading off to the bedroom, there to sulk and sigh some more?

Who knows?

Maybe not even you, even when you’re doing it.

I think that the Zen position for life and relating is “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. Now, I might be dumb enough to think I have answers about you, but even if my guess was right about “you,” it was nothing more than a lucky guess.

My straw person slams doors when she’s trying to communicate that she is mad, or is thinking she’s being ignored / neglected, or when she has an agenda and others aren’t cooperating with it–with its timetable, for example. Those are just three times or situations when door slamming seems, to her, to be appropriate.

Let’s just stick with the obvious for a minute.

How would the person witnessing her “snit” have a clue which of her issues she had set herself off over? “It should be obvious from the context” is not an answer. All the observer knows is that straw person is slamming a door.

It gets even weirder

If her partner does make the mistake of guessing, she then can blame her partner for not guessing correctly! “We’ve been together for [fill in the blank] and if he loved me [properly, according to my definition] he would know!” And, he’s the bad guy because he didn’t read her mind!

Weird, right?

But sadly common. This whole, “It should be obvious” thing comes in many flavours, and I see it and hear about it often, and remember tons of examples from my clients.

The one that I really didn’t get was walking away when in the middle of something.

running awayThere she goes again!

Of course, people would defend themselves by saying, “I was angry [or going to cry, or whatever] so I walked away.” And I’d say, “And after you calmed yourself back down, and came back, did you resolve the issue?”

Blank look. Then, “Well, I was in my room for an hour, and then it was supper time, so I made [ate] dinner, but we [surprise, surprise] never talked about it again.”

Oh, goodie.

What a great plan! Sulk, slink off, make dinner, don’t talk, and then do it all over again the next time. And in the mean time, the relationship stays stuck, and actually sinks a bit into the quicksand of non-direct communication.

I was talking about this with Darbella, and we were grinning over our own dumb strategies. We agreed that the reason for our 33 years of successful communication is our willingness to overlook each others’ games. To wit: I tend to act like a spoiled 8‑year-old, while Dar defaults to pulling in and curling up in a ball.

Left to our own dumbness, I’d be ranting while she was hiding under something.

Not helpful.

Our “rule” is, it takes one adult. By this we mean that, when one or the other of us pulls something that might take us off topic, it only takes one of us to stop the drift. The few times we’ve had “fights” is when neither of us would stop being an idiot long enough for an “adult” to show up.

  • My straw person needs to stop sulking, slamming, and yelling. She needs to say, “I’m angering myself right now, so excuse me for 5 minutes while I pound a mattress, and I’ll come back and we can pick up where we left off.” [IMPORTANT! In this and the next one, notice the 5 minute time limit!!!]
  • Run-aways say, “I’m upset, and I want to go to my room for 5 minutes, to calm myself. Then, I’ll be back, and we can talk.”
  • The “eyes and sighs” crowd: “I notice I just sighed and rolled my eyes, as opposed to expressing what is really up for me. Let me have a breath [not a sigh!] and then tell you what’s up for me.”

Because, see, non-verbal communication is always useless.

  • It’s not up to your partner to figure out why you are passing metaphorical gas, as opposed to using your big person words.
  • It’s not up to your partner to figure out that your comment about being ignored is really about your concerns for the longevity of the relationship.
  • It’s not up to your partner to behave in a certain way, so that you won’t annoy yourself.

It’s up to you to sit down, drop the drama, and talk about what’s going on for you, while [here’s the only thing your partner is responsible for] your partner DOES THE SAME THING!

Not criticize, not blame, not ream, not finger point. Talk about what is up for you, and then shut up so your partner has the time and space to do the same.

If all of this seems impossible, it’s not. Go to a workshop, see a therapist, buy my book! Here’s a link: The. Best. Relationship. Ever.

And decide, once and for all, to be direct, clear, honest, forthright, and above all, curious.


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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