Saturday, January 14, 2006

What I miss

Thursday morning, after dropping the kids at school, I drove up the peninsula to Susan's office where we talked about an important issue, which I'll describe briefly before I tell you about something I miss.
I hate to use generalizations like "the difference between men and women" but she described this as being a classic male/female communication, ah, issue. In the archetypal scenario (which I've shamelessly stolen from the Mayhalls' Marriage Takes More than Love -- NavPress, some time in the '70s or '80s I think), the couple is about to go somewhere.
The wife says something like, "I think I'll change into something else."

The husband was ready to go 15 minutes ago, so he just says, "OK," and goes back to reading the paper or whatever.

She stands there looking at him. He notices her and says, "I thought you were going to change?"

She says, "Don't you like what I'm wearing?"
OK, I probably have that wrong, but the basic idea illustrated here is that sometimes the words do not mean what they say. The husband was responding to what the words said, but what the wife wanted was a response to the feeling that produced the words.

So this is something I need to apply to my life. Not just with my wife, but in any relationship that's not strictly functional. First, mirror the feeling, maybe something like this: "I'm wondering if..." or "It sounds like that was frustrating for you," or whatever the feeling might be. The husband in the above example, if he was a genius, might have looked at her and said, "I think you look beautiful in what you're wearing right now." This isn't really mirroring the feeling, but he's responding to the feeling that produced the words. Or maybe he could have just said, "Oh?" in an inviting way. Then she might have said, "I'm not sure that what I'm wearing will be..." and the husband might say, "Sounds like you're worried that..." In just a few seconds, she will be thinking "I'm so glad my husband understands me!" I'll leave it to your imagination what might happen later that night at home, after they come back from wherever they were going.

Second, if my, umm, drat it, how do you say "相手" in English? "interlocutor"?? Anyway, if my interlocutor (the lovely Carol, or whoever else I'm talking to) describes an incident that frustrated him/her, I should say, "What do you think you might do next time?" I should say this even if -- especially if -- I'm thinking, "No wonder it blew up in your face; you should have...." Because until s/he is ready to hear the advice, there is no profit in offering it. None. This is not a case of "pearls before swine," but about offering "a word aptly spoken."

Third, only after my 相手 has shared her/his feelings, I can say, "Would you like to hear my perspective on that?" Or, "...a suggestion?" If they say yes, only then give the suggestion. Even if they start the conversation with, "X happened; what would you have done?" I should not answer the question! Not until I say, "It sounds like/I'm wondering if that was frustrating for you" and probably not until after I ask, "What do you think you might do next time?"

Anyway, I wrote those steps down in my notebook, and I hope I can remember them when needed
Now, about what I miss. Susan prayed for me, asking the Lord to show me what I needed to see or work on. At first I came out blank, and then an incident from the past came to mind. I must have been a teen-ager, because I was still living at home, and my dad and I were adjusting or overhauling the brakes on my mom's '71 VW. I can picture it now -- 4x4s or maybe bricks behind the front tires, the left rear wheel off. We had one of those things you attach to an electric drill to rough up the inside of the brake cylinder, and Dad was there with me, walking me through the process of inserting the device into the cylinder, then running the drill slowly while moving the device over the length of the cylinder. He told me what to be careful of, then I think I reassembled the cylinder, piston, etc. Then the brake drum went back on and he told me how to move the adjuster with a screwdriver -- tighten it, make sure the wheel spins freely, tighten it again, until the wheel just barely doesn't spin freely -- then back the adjuster off one notch. Somewhere in there we bled the brakes, which is always a 2-man job. When we were done, Dad told Mom that we fixed her brakes. I felt both proud of having done it, yet a little nervous because of the great responsibility. But Dad had supervised the whole process so I knew it was right.

It seems like a long time since someone has walked me through a process like that -- something I didn't know how to do, wasn't sure I could do, maybe wasn't even sure I wanted to do, and yet something significant, something important, something I felt proud of having learned and done afterwards. I wonder if that's why those adult ed classes are so popular.

At home and especially at work, it falls upon me to be the mentor and teacher.

Susan asked me if there as an area of life in which I felt tired. That's easy -- creating and executing the budget! She suggested I call Crown Ministries and talk to them about a budget coach. I think I will.

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