When having a difficult conversation with your partner (or relative, friend, vendor), perhaps the most important word you can say is: because.
I love hanging out with my eleven year old godson, Finn. He’s smart, bright and funny. One of the things he most enjoys when we’re together is coming up with ways to drive me crazy! For instance, he loves to ask me, “why?” When I say something, he’ll immediately ask, “why?” and no matter my answer, he’ll just respond, “why?” At first, I’ll try to come up with a real answer to his “why” question. Eventually, though, my brain fries and I’ll move on to wacky answers, until, I just yell, “because, that’s why!” And then he laughs.
This silly game actually replicates a very common pattern in our conversations. Often times we say something without exactly explaining what we mean. Then the other person will ask, “Why do you say that?” Then we usually give them a “because” reason. In Lyn’s case (see previous post), she would simply say, “because” without giving Danny any reason. “Because why” is what Danny was looking for.
Lyn, though, stubbornly believed that she shouldn’t have to give an explanation. The truth, though, is that we all want to know the “because why” the other person thinks, believes and acts the way they do. Giving people the “because” part of why you think something helps to give them a fuller sense of what you mean.
When having a difficult conversation with your partner it’s helpful if you let your partner know “why” you think and feel the way you do “because” you’ll give them a clearer sense of what you need from them.
Eventually, begrudgingly, Lyn admitted that she saw how she wasn’t being fair to Danny “because” she didn’t help him understand why she felt the way she did.
Remember: you have a responsibility to help make it easier for your partner to understand what you need. Do that and you’ll increase your chances of getting heard and understood which will go a long way to helping you, and your partner, stay sane!