Ever have a conversation that goes something like this?

Hubby: So are we all good then, honey?

Wifey: Yup.

Hubby: You’re sure.

Wifey: Yes, I’m fine.

Hubby: OK then. I’ll take your word for it…

What Exactly Is Womanspeak?

Womanspeak is saying something where the meaning is different from the intent of the words spoken. And yes, I know it’s not just a woman thing. Not all women do it, and men are just as capable of speaking this way, we just stereotypically assign this to women (hence the name!). Just for the record, I prefer to call it husband-hearing!

I’ll give you a few examples of what I’m talking about– my word or phrase will be on the left and Caleb’s “interpretation” will be in brackets:

Fine (means: totally not fine at all)

You choose (means: you figure out the exact thing I secretly want to do)

Whatever (means: I only care about this enough to hold your anxiety hostage for another three days)

That’s ok (means: like you’re getting any sex for the next two weeks)

Communication is a tricky thing because it can derail in a variety of ways. When we communicate, we send a signal that may or may not be clear. The person receiving the signal may not receive it with the intent with which it was sent. Sometimes we may not even know exactly what we intend to send. Or perhaps our verbal communication can be in conflict with our non-verbal. We may even use words with one meaning but our tone of voice carries another meaning.

Here are a few more examples to illustrate the point:

“Is it cold in here?” could actually mean, “Can you please go turn up the heat?” Or, “Hey baby, do you want to snuggle? wink wink”.

Or think of the question, “Oh, are we having tuna casserole tonight?” That could mean: “I’m delighted because it’s my favorite!” Or, “Seriously, we’ve had that five nights in a row.” Or, “I don’t really care, I’m just curious.” Really, depending on the type of day I’ve had at home, I will hear that question totally differently.

Why Do We Do It?

To answer this question, we delved into the deeper reasons why we might not speak clearly.

Perhaps we don’t want to be the stereotypical nagging wife constantly asking for stuff so only hint at things instead.

Maybe (and this is something I know I struggle with) we have a fear of rejection. If I ask Caleb if he wants to peel the potatoes and he says no, that’s just his preference. But if I say, “Could you please peel the potatoes?” and he says no, that could feel like a personal rejection.

What about having a fear of intimacy or vulnerability? It’s a lot easier to test the waters with a vague question than ask for something outright and risk rejection. It’s a lot easier too, to say “Do I look fat in this?” than to be vulnerable and say, “I’m feeling insecure about my body right now”.

We’ve been over the HOW and WHY we use womanspeak, but after having witnessed it in our marriage and other marriages, I can say that it does not bring about the desired response. When you say one thing and mean another, it does not build intimacy.

Here’s what you need to do in order to have healthy communication between you:

How Can We Have Good Clear Communication?

1. Learn to state your wants or requests clearly.

For example, if you want him to do something, don’t start with “Do you want to….” Instead try, “Could you please…”

2. Don’t lie!

Saying “I’m fine” when you’re not, is a lie. Be truthful and say something like “I’m not sure how I feel right now but if you give me some time to calm down I’ll come back to you as soon as I’m clear myself”.

3. State your expectations before it matters.

This one is hard to explain without an example, so rather than an explanation, I’ll go straight into the story. If I’m planning something on the weekend, I need to state my expectations to my husband early in the week so that we’re both clear on what’s happening. That will prevent the feeling of abandonment and resentment that may come after the fact if the expectations weren’t stated clearly ahead of time.

4. Understand your own subtler emotions and speak out of that place.

This would turn the question, “Do I look fat in this?” into it’s the truer meaning of “I’m feeling kinda insecure about my weight right now.”

5. Use your manners.

Why do we train our kids to use their manners and then forget them ourselves when we’re talking to the most important person in our life!?! Always remember your pleases and thank-yous!

Our challenge to you wives is to say what you mean and mean what you say! Follow the five steps above for clear communication.

To husbands, when you realize your wife is speaking out of a place of fear, step up to the plate with gentlemanly chivalry and speak to the underlying fear with reassurance and loving care.

To both husbands and wives, call each other out whenever you hear “womanspeak”. Be respectful, obviously, and let it become a humorous moment for you both to enjoy. (Hint: throwing it up in their face or mocking them is NOT going to get you the results you want.)

Image courtesy of Jorge Ferrer under the Creative Commons license.