communication question

close_1972February 6, 2008

I'm working on becoming an assertive communicator: using "I" statements rather than "you" statements, and thinking before speaking rather than reacting. I think I'm doing a good job and I think my communication skills have improved.

However, DH still often reacts to the things I say as though I have said something offensive or hurtful to him. He says it's the TONE of my voice or HOW I say things. What am I supposed to do? I feel like he's not hearing my words. Furthermore, I think my tone is usually bland b/c I'm trying hard NOT to send the wrong message.

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Hard to tell without being there, but.....

Whatever you're "working on" still represents a change in how he's known you. I suspect he's feeling manipulated -- which is how much "assertiveness training" comes across to those who listen to it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 9:47PM
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I don't know what assertiveness training is or how it is supposed to help you deal with your husband.

But, actions (and yes, tone) do speak louder than words. Even if you think your tone is bland, it's probably not if your DH is complaining. I suggest you get a little tape recorder and tape one of these conversations with him. Play it back; I bet you would be amazed at how much attitude is in your voice.

If you have to "TRY" hard not to send a certain message; it may not be the best time for you to have that conversation. Either that, or you and your DH may just have to accept that maybe that your message/tone does need to be expressed in conversations. Is your "tone" irrational/bordering on abusive or is it just something your DH 'prefers' not to hear?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 12:22AM
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Assertive communication as defined by Wikipedia:

"Assertive style of behavior is to interact with people while standing up for your rights. Being assertive is to one's benefit most of the time but it does not mean that one always gets what he/she wants. The result of being assertive is that 1) you feel good about yourself 2) other people know how to deal with you and there is nothing vague about dealing with you."

In the past, DH has berated me or things I've said and done to the degree that I began to doubt my own perception of what was happening and I began to question myself. Then it reached a point where I felt like I was often wrong and I would apologize for whatever it was he said I did.

As asolo wrote, it's hard to tell without being here. A recent example was something that happened regarding our three-year old DS. DH was watching DS while I was at an appointment. After I was home and DS was ready to go to bed it came up (DS mentioned it) that DS had a "bonk" on his head. DH then told me that DS fell onto the tile floor and hit his head. I asked DH "Did you put ice on it?" and he said "no" and I asked him why he didn't ice it earlier. Then I felt the bump and asked DH to ice it a little before DS went to bed. DH became upset w/me, claiming it was my TONE that set him off and that I was being rude. I suspect it was my question of "Why didn't he ice it" b/c when I say things like that he has told me that he feels like I'm being critical but to me I'm just asking a question. Later he told me that he didn't ice it b/c DS wasn't crying that much and the bump wasn't as large as it was when I felt it. But he only told this to me after I specified that I wasn't being judgmental, I just wanted to know why.

I'm not sure what the problem is w/the tone of my voice. Lately he's been telling me that he's not upset by what I'm saying or my word choice but the tone of my voice. I kind of feel like this is just his manipulative way of trying to get me to think I'm in the wrong. Maybe I will try the tape recorder thing. Either it will validate his conjecture or reassure me that my perceptions are correct.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 12:45AM
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"I asked him why he didn't ice it earlier" I can understand why this would make one feel criticized. If you think about it...why did you want to know that ? Its irrelevant, really, isn't it ?

Close...I really admire you for working on changing the way you deal with situations. I have done the exact same thing myself and it has made me feel better about myself.

Another thing I do...and you might like to think about, is when there is a dispute in the family, I say to myself "what do I need to do to deal with the problem?". I don't say anything about who did what, I try not to "blame", I just calmly deal with the problem.

So, for instance, in your DS and his bump on the head. You could have said to yourself, "what can I do to deal with this problem?". Then your answer would have been to just put some ice on his head yourself, give him a kiss and a hug. So, saying anything to your DH would have been unnecessary.

I suppose when you did say something to your DH, maybe he felt you where blaming him in some way, he may have felt annoyed that you did not feel he was capable of looking after the boy in your absence.

I use the "I" deal,myself, to create success. So good on you for making the change.

I hope my little pearls of wisdom have left you with something more to ponder.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 2:02AM
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Popi--I can see how asking DH why he didn't ice the bump was irrelevant and it served to bring up that I thought he made a poor choice.

I'm not sure how to realize something like that prior to saying it. Should I just not ask DH "why" he does anything? I'm not trying to be extreme here, I'm serious. How do I know when it's appropriate to ask why or question a choice? DH asks DS why he does stuff most of the time. He asks me why I do things. I felt like I needed to know why so I could understand the decision DH made.

Changing it up a little, when would it be appropriate for ME to feel offended when DH questions something I do or asks me why? Typically I do not feel this way, I am not highly sensitive, but I'd like to know so perhaps I can better understand where DH is coming from by putting myself in his position.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 8:55AM
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I know what assertiveness is... I just don't buy into that "working on becoming an assertive communicator by using I instead of You" stuff. I know a lot of people think there's some magic to it, but I think it works as a well as a fad diet (it's not going to last), and that's probably why you're still having problems.

I'm not really sure you should try to change who you by trying to use different words. If your tone is the same, it usually doesn't matter what words you say. If you yell "I love you" in a mean rude voice, it's probably gonna be taken negatively.

Personally, I think we all tend to get a little more snotty with people we are close to because we can. I don't think there was anything wrong with your question about the ice. In fact, sometimes in dealing with a medical problem, it may be important to know if ice was put on or not, etc... People shouldn't be afraid to ask questions, or, yes, even tell their husband that ice should have been put on it (if that is the case - how is he suppose to know next time if you don't mention it?). But, what I would suggest you try doing is talking to your DH as if he were a friend or as if there was another person in the room hearing it all. Your tone will probably sound completely different.

At the same time, you need to pick your battles. If my husband puts the dishes away in the wrong places, I'm just thankful that he puts them away and I usually laugh when I find my coffee cup in with the pyrex dishes; If I even mention it, I may make a joke of it so that he knows where it goes, so he is not put on the defensive after helping to do the dishes. Kid's safety/health are something I don't compromise or back down on though. I will repeat myself 5 times, and be sure my husband knows kids can't take baby aspirin when they have a cold... even if it means an argument. So, you need to set your priorities and figure what is worth mentioning. Most stuff probably really isn't when you think about it. I just learn to adapt and deal with solving the problem like popi mentioned.

So, try talking to your husband in a more respectful way even if it means you have to imagine someone else is there overhearing your discussion. And/or just try to solve the problem at hand instead of complaining about it.

Personally, unless you're cursing, I would forget about trying to figure out how to say something or phrase it using different words. Just talk nicely, in the manner that you would like someone to talk to you.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 11:27AM
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There are two sides to this --

OK, perhaps Close, you're not being as diplomatic as you could be. The ice thing - Yes, he clearly felt you were criticizing him, because the implication in the question (regardless of tone) is the "You should have put ice on it" point of view.

But does he respond that way every time you have a question, concern, or issue? Making it your fault, berating you, and blaming your tone instead of addressing your concerns? Because that's not right either. That's a form of bullying and it's not nice.

Have you tried saying "I'm not quite sure how to say this, so please cut me some slack if it comes out sounding wrong, but..." and then give your 'I statement'? While I dislike having to 'verbally tiptoe', it could be important to know whether it's the 'delivery' or the message itself that's triggering your husband's ugly responses.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 11:40AM
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"How do I know when it's appropriate to ask why or question a choice? "

I guess the answer to this that it depends on the situation. If the situation is tense, then I would sense that NOW is not the time to ask a question. Its like tip-toeing around the issue. Questions could come later when things cool down.

I don't think I am changing who I am, by being more thoughtful about how I communicate, because at the end of the day...I am doing it to get what "I" want. I am doing that by using language, voice and body language.

I think we should be able to think about how we conduct ourselves and how our words affect other people.

Sure its okay for your DH to ask questions of your son, observe the context the question is being posed.

I think its okay to question a choice, of your DH, tone of voice must be considered. I ask my DH questions about his choices all the time.

Of course we have had conflict over things, when I have asked a question, and been berated for it, leaving me very upset and annoyed. When things have cooled down, I have gone back over it and said my bit...said things like "when you spoke to me like that "I" felt upset."

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 5:33PM
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