When it comes to communicating with our partner, our tools go far beyond words. Though it is sometimes easy to hide behind the excuse that we don’t know what our partner is thinking or feeling, the reality is that our brains come programmed with the capacity to read other people, to make a mental picture of another’s mind (I highly recommend reading Dr. David Schnarch’s book, Brain Talk, about this “mind mapping” process). This is a survival mechanism available in many species (all the way down to reptiles), meant to help us predict the behavior of another creature. You have elaborate and dedicated parts of your brain that read body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and more to allow you to understand the intent, feelings, and desires of another person.
You and your partner can read each other. You do it all day long, noticing changes in mood, understanding what each other wants, knowing how things are likely to affect each other. This isn’t a problem. But it is problematic when you pretend you can’t do it.
Returning to the example of exploring an Interpersonal Gap that I discussed in last week’s blog, you need to admit your ability to read each other. If you intended to be hurtful when communicating, your partner is going to know that. Don’t hide behind the spoken words and pretend you “didn’t mean it that way.” This is a moment to be honest and own up to the fact that you did indeed want to hurt them (at least a little). Admit that you’re mad or frustrated or hurt, and you want them to feel bad (or whatever is going on for you). You both know when you’re doing it anyway. If the two of you start to own the darker sides of your motivations, you’re going to have more respect for each other, as weird as that might sound. It takes a lot of integrity to be that honest.
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