The following post is from my Meditation of the Week program that I provide as a f*r*e*e* service on an occasional basis. If you’re interested, CLICK HERE to subscribe.
“Are you not going to eat your other hot dog?” My dad asked his wife, as we sat around the dinner table, near the end of our meal.
I watched her pause, saw confusion cross her eyes and felt her wondering about how to answer that question. I could see the momentary sensory experience of “feeling trapped.” A sort of “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” sort of sensation.
Decidedly, she answered, “Yes.”
He nodded resolutely and turned to me, “See. I told you so.”
In that moment, I had a flash and understood that what she had meant and what he had heard were two vastly different things.
I also realized with a giggle that, quite possibly, this practice of asking imprecise questions runs in the family. I remembered all the times my former husband had said, “What in the world do you mean???” Frequently he, and other people, have told me throughout my life that the way I ask questions is very confusing because I’m actually asking the opposite of what I want to know and phrasing it ambiguously, which causes countless misunderstandings.
For instance, take my father’s question: Are you not going to eat your other hot dog?
What he wanted to know was if she was going to eat it, but he asked the opposite question. Whether she answered a simple “yes” or “no,” her response would be unclear because the question was unclear. A question that, at it its core, could have been simply answered, had suddenly become a trap and, for her to be clear, it would have required a drawn out explanation.
Because she answered the way she did, he heard, “I’m not eating my other hot dog.” And the answer he heard was the answer that would prove him “right” in the Great Hot Dog Debate of Summer 2012 that had already been going for a few weeks by that night.
A discussion of our experience ensued. My curiosity was piqued and because we were touching upon incongruences in my own language practices, I knew it was something I needed to learn. During this discussion, she revealed that her “yes” had actually meant that she was going to eat the hot dog, which boggled Dad’s mind.
Since that evening, I have been aware of every single time I’ve used that confusing technique for asking any question – especially when it is something I want. By asking for what I want in unclear ways it confuses the other person and, inevitably, I don’t get what I want so it goes to prove my archaic beliefs that I’m unworthy, not enough, unlovable or that others are more important than me. Sneaky me!
The first technique in good communication is to strive first to be understood. By speaking clearly and asking questions that are about what you want to know, instead of the opposite, you stand more of a chance of being understood. Practicing clear communication leads to healthier relationships and stronger connections. That’s exactly what I’m looking for so I’m truly grateful for the Great Hot Dog Debate of Summer 2012!
© Angie K. Millgate 7/20/12