It’s not always easy to say what you mean, especially when you’re not aware the other person doesn’t understand. For instance, take a look at the following scenarios.
1) Question asked on Quora: A guy asked me out today and I told him “no,” but I wanted him to try harder. Why didn’t he try again?
2) Your birthday is coming up and you have your eye on something special you would really love to have. You drop hint after hint to your husband and you’re sure he’s been hearing you and planning a nice surprise. On the big day he doesn’t even mention your birthday let alone get you what you’ve been hinting at.
3) You’ve been struggling to get a project done by the deadline. You could really use some help but no one offers. Your inner voice gets more and more upset as the deadline gets closer. Finally, someone asks if you need help and you say, “No, I’m fine, thanks.”
Do you recognize yourself in any of the above scenarios? Chances are you don’t always say what you mean. Why is it so hard for us to communicate clearly? It seems men have no problem telling us what they want. Why can’t we do the same?
One theory is it’s because we women have been so conditioned to be nice that we put other people’s feelings in front of our own. We don’t directly say what we mean because we don’t want to offend. Or we don’t want to take the chance of having a conflict arise. We’d rather keep the peace and be “nice”.
Another possibility is we seem to think that other people should understand what we want without us having to ask for it. After all, if I know what I want, why don’t you? And then there’s John Gray who, in his book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, spells out how you don’t always say what you mean because women have a different communication style than men.
Whatever the reason, it can be confusing, not only for men but also for us women. Looking at the three scenarios above, each tends to require another person to read our mind or to meet our expectations. The question is, are we being fair to other people? Let’s take a look at each situation and see what might have worked better.
A guy asked me out today and I told him “no,” but I wanted him to try harder. Why didn’t he try again?
In this case, the girl wanted the guy to “try harder”. She didn’t realize the guy most likely had to screw up his courage in the first place to ask at all. From his perspective he tried hard. If the girl had said something on the order of, “That might be nice” Or “Yes, I’d like to go out with you sometime” she would have gotten what she wanted.
In all likelihood she had been conditioned to believe a woman is supposed to play “hard to get”. She needs to understand that when a man hears no, he takes that at face value. She blocked herself from the possibility of getting to know him better. Unfortunately, she will now have to “try harder” if she wants to go out with him.
Your birthday is coming up and you have your eye on something special you would really love to have. You drop hint after hint to your husband and you’re sure he’s been hearing you and planning a nice surprise. On the big day he doesn’t even mention your birthday let alone get you what you’ve been hinting at.
Dropping hints is something a lot of women do because they don’t feel comfortable asking for what they want. Often the discomfort comes from a feeling that she’s not worth it or that she doesn’t deserve to have nice things for some reason. It can be an indicator that she lacks self-confidence.
Dropping hints could also be a test that she feels is needed. If he reads her mind he must love her. If he gets it wrong, he doesn’t love her enough. Of course, looking at this scenario from the spouse’s perspective, he’s not a mind reader. With life being as hectic as it can be at times, hints don’t always get noticed. And as for forgetting her birthday altogether, if he’s preoccupied he may just let it slip away.
In order to keep from being disappointed, the best course of action in this case would be to remind him the birthday is on the horizon and clearly state what she wants to do for the celebration. And while that seems to take the romance out of it, it will keep her from being upset on her special day. The lack of romance is another conversation that needs to happen at another time if this is a regular occurrence.
You’ve been struggling to get a project done by the deadline. You could really use some help but no one offers. Your inner voice gets more and more upset as the deadline gets closer. Finally, someone asks if you need help and you say, “No, I’m fine, thanks.”
Use of the word “fine” in this way should be banned. There I said it. It’s a great word but when it’s used to keep you from getting what you really want or asking for what you really need, that’s a problem. This is a case of letting pride get in the way. It’s also a very good example of other people not meeting your undeclared expectations. As with the non-mind-reading husband, how can anyone know what’s expected or needed if you don’t speak up? Rather than pushing away help, take a minute to stop and appreciate the offer.
Again, when you don’t ask directly for what you need, you’re putting up a wall that’s only hurting you. You not only have to deal with the inner voice getting you riled up but you also bring on a lot of unneeded stress. Regardless of the project and the deadline, ask for what you need. You’d be amazed at how willing people are to help if they know you need it.
I see myself in some of the above scenarios. Especially numbers 2 and 3. When I was married, I used them both regularly. After the divorce, I realized half of the problem in our marriage was that I didn’t clearly communicate my needs. I couldn’t fault him for not reading my mind.
We all have a set way of communicating. It takes awareness and it takes diligent attention to the words that we use but it is possible to be clear in speaking up for ourselves.
Think about how you communicate your needs. How clear are you? How often do you expect someone to read your mind? How often does someone not meet your expectations? Start keeping a journal of how often you say what you mean. In the beginning just notice, don’t judge or try to change anything. After a week you’ll have a pretty good idea of your patterns. If you find you’re regularly disappointed with how someone responds, your journal will be a good indicator of where the challenge is. And that will be a good starting point to know how to move forward.