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What I Didn’t Hear You Say


Last week I was listening to Ralph and Robin again. Robin was going over a list of grievances.

She reported:


You get angry.

I don't feel connected.

I sense you are intolerant.

You say negative things about my family.

You treat neighbors and strangers better than me.


Each of these grievances was listed separately, and each was met with resistance, "I wouldn't do these things if you didn't blank blank blank." Wow, what a disconnect. Robin wanted to connect with Ralph by sharing information that she believed would bring them closer together. Maybe it's the way she delivered it, or the way it was received. It doesn't matter. The truth is that the conversation ended with more distance between them.


Years ago, hearing negative feedback about myself felt like an attack. It felt like I was unworthy, blemished, or damaged somehow. I felt the need to rationalize my behavior so that I wouldn't look bad. I needed to point out my good habits and behaviors and not look at what was causing the other to pull away. I could not comprehend this at the time. Now it is so blatant when I witness it.


You have heard me say, "Perceived complaints can be compliments in disguise." It’s what I didn’t hear you say.

I saw this list of grievances as a method to remove barriers in the relationship. This is where communication fails too frequently, and if it does, it is the message sender's responsibility to convey it. If it fails, other means are necessary, and by other means I do not mean repeating the same thing louder. I could say that again.


Knowing the desired results can be a starter. Stating to the other the purpose and desired outcome of the conversation can be a fresh and meaningful beginning. It also allows the sender to be more strategic in their delivery. Writing a letter may be another means of getting the message across. Getting some coaching or counseling can help. It is sad to witness the blind spots we all have in our relationships.


Using gentle and curious questions rather than automatic defensiveness is the real key.


How come you're telling me this?

Could you help me understand?

What else do you need from me?


These questions can open a robust dialogue in building healthy communications. It is so easy when feeling attacked or condemned to want to defend or attack back. It is our natural response.


When confronted with perceived negative feedback, the emotionally mature response is to exercise self-control and seek understanding.


Monday, I will talk about the need for defensiveness.


Are you presently presenting as defensive in these types of conversations?


Watch for the blind spots.




Please comment, like, and share, I appreciate your input.



You can get a copy of my book below.

Blind Spots in Relationships

What I don't know I don't know about Myself



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