Friday, December 12, 2003

How do you feel about ...

It took quite a few years after we were married for my wife and I to really understand each other. One of the barriers to communication for us was the word "feel". As in, "How do you feel about putting new miniblinds up in the girl's room?" My wife would ask such a question, innocently enough, and I would freeze.

'Cause I'm thinking,

How do I feel about putting new miniblinds up in the girl's room? How do I feel about putting new miniblinds up in the girl's room? I don't feel anything about putting new miniblinds up. Am I supposed to be feeling a particular way about miniblinds? I've never felt anything about miniblinds. Not happy, not sad, not angry ... nothing. What does she want me to say? What if I say the wrong thing? She obviously has a particular feeling about miniblinds in the girl's room and I need to be sensitive to her feelings. But what are her feelings? How do I answer her?

So I would stutter and stammer and shrug and put off answering her question because I didn't really know if it was a question about miniblinds or if the miniblinds were just a metaphor for something else. And if the question really wasn't about miniblinds, I had no clue what it WAS about.

One day we had a breakthrough when I told her (yeah, I can communicate occasionally) that when she asked me how I felt about something it always confused me. She didn't understand why such a simple question would cause confusion and after talking it out, I discovered that what she REALLY was asking me was, "What do you THINK about putting new miniblinds up in the girls room?"

Ah! NOW I get it. She wasn't asking about my FEELINGS (hey, I'm a guy ... am I allowed to have those?), but was asking my opinion.

"I think miniblinds are a great idea."

I know that all sounds stupid, and it should have been obvious all along what she wanted, but life isn't always rational. "Feel" is an emotional word, and when I heard it, it always brought an emotional response, which is why I was always looking beyond the question to a deeper meaning and getting confused when there WAS no deeper meaning.

My wife knows this and since that day, she makes it a point to ask me "what I think" questions instead of "how I feel" questions.

Sometimes, it's the little things.

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