During a recent conversation with my wife, Mara, I began to notice that it getting tense. As we continued talking I had a sense that for some reason she was angry with me. We’ve been married for twenty-five years so I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing when something is not right.
The tension confused me because I had done a whole slew of things that morning to be helpful; made us breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, watered the plants, fed the dogs, and offered to drive the four hour trip to Denver we were taking later that day. I felt like I had been quit helpful and I didn’t know what was up.
I asked her, “is something the matter?”
“I didn’t feel well this morning” she said.
“I’m sorry” she said.
I could have ended the conversation right there, accept the apology and move on.
But I didn’t.
See, I wasn’t looking for an apology.
I was looking to understand what truly was occurring in our relationship. I experienced tension between us and I wanted to understand how that tension occurred. I didn’t know what was going on for her in relationship to me but I knew something wasn’t right. I wanted to discover what it was.
If I had just left it at the apology, I wouldn’t be able to learn something about how we communication.
So I decided to probe deeper.
But I didn’t blame her or make her wrong in my probing. Doing that would have made her defensive and would have left her feeling like I was attacking her.
By asking question such as:
Why are you acting mean to me? (I’m a Victim)
What’s your problem? (Blaming)
After all I did this morning to help out and you treat me like this? (Superiority)
Instead I took a position of curiosity.
A curious position is not a position where you have a preconceived answer that you’re trying to confirm or attempting to get someone to admit something that you believe is true. Curiosity is a place void of judgment, opinion, and blame. It’s a place of inquisitiveness.
I said, Honey, I appreciated your apology and thank you for that, yet I still want to understand what was going on with us. I felt something wasn’t right. Do you have a sense of that?”
That opened the door to further communication and a very pleasant trip to Denver.