BANG! That was the door. She closed it so hard that our neighbours asked me the next time I saw them, if everything was alright. My wife and I didn’t talked for two days after that, except for the necessary stuff regarding our daily matters. She had closed herself up and I had no clue what I did to make her so angry. Eventually we started talking again, but we ignored talking about the real issue. These outbursts were becoming a common occurrence, but they were still outbursts that I didn’t understand. It was around this time I started reading a book about how to listen and ask questions, so I decided to finally get to the core of the problem with the help of this book. If I had had the knowledge back then that I have today, my wife’s silent treatments would be less common. But we all learn through our mistakes.
It all started while sitting together at a table in a Greek restaurant and we were having a wonderful evening. I had a few beers and the food was so good we could have ordered more. She was wonderful to look at with the candlelight reflecting in her beautiful eyes. Her smile revealed that she was enjoying the evening too. She talked about all her hopes and future plans, but I continued to talk about work and the stressful week I had again. I didn’t notice her mood changing, whenever I brought the conversation back to work.
When we arrived home I opened a beer and she a glass of wine. The walk home refreshed us and I asked her if she enjoyed the evening. “Yes it was a great evening, my dear, but …… Did you notice how you ….” Blah, blah, blah, was all I heard after that, not because she mumbled, because my mind was already on work again, but because I already wasn’t interested in the answer to the question. What was worse is that I said: “I have a new costumer on Monday. I hope I didn’t forget anything in the presentation”. That was when she stood up and left the room with a ‘Bang’, leading to the two days of silent treatment. I had a big question mark over my head.
I know that my behavioural skills are good, but I didn’t realize how bad my listening skills were. My book came in handy with a chapter on how not to be insulting while listening. He summed it up perfectly with the following story:
Imagine yourself at a dining table and you can’t reach the pepper. You ask someone: “Can you please pass the pepper?” As he hands you the pepper you slap it out of his hand and it falls to the ground. The person who was handing you the pepper will either be taken by surprise or angry. Why should someone ask for something and not take it? He will definitely think twice about giving you something the next time you ask him. The author explained that it is just as rude to ask someone how their weekend was and respond to their answer by changing the topic. Why would you ask if you are not interested in the answer? It is not only weak Small Talk, but insulting to your conversation partner.
On this particular evening with my wife, I insulted her more than once. When I finally got around to asking about her behaviour, she confirmed my thoughts. Our next conversations were totally different, not only because I listened to her and responded to her words, but because I responded to her feelings and thoughts. Since then our relationship has become more intense. We follow each other, realize we have the same targets, and she closes the door normally again.
Remember that everything is based on listening. We learn how to speak and write at an early age in school, but listening is often overlooked. We gain the most knowledge while listening. So try to work on your listening skills, and, as always, be good.