“Eat more crow. Its the most nutritious of all brain foods.”
This New Year’s advice from Jason Zweig (WSJ, Dec.30, 2017), although it appeared 3/4 of the way though a longish series of resolutions, arrested me, shouted out to me, and pierced me.
When I was a self-righteous teen-ager (weren’t we all?), frustrated Mom stomped down on a argument she couldn’t win with this salvo: ‘You’d rather be right than president!”
I suspect most of you can recall similar maddening and saddening arguments to the ones I’ve had with my husband. Here’s the format; plug in own your last fight for details.
“You said Sunday. ”
“No, I didn’t. I said Monday.”
“No. I”m sure you said Sunday; you weren’t paying attention because you were looking at your computer.”
“No, you’re wrong, you never hear me; maybe you need hearing aids. Just like yesterday, when I asked you to pick up 2 packs of veggie burgers, but you bought 5.”
“Whatever I do isn’t good enough! Get your own groceries from now on.”
This volley ends with both of us going to our corners in silent raging. It’s worse when there are no corners to go to, when stuck together in the front seat of the car.
Still worse when there’s a third party in the car, witness to the rage but unable to escape, usually one of our children. Sometimes we ask this victim to settle the dispute. Theres a job for you.
In couples coaching, that’s my job. I’m a frequent witness, judge, and jury to the following invented but life-like scene.
“I asked you to help me with my coat at the theater, but you just walked out on me, like you usually do. You knew I had a sore shoulders and my coat was heavy.”
“Oh, yeah, I always walk out on you. You didn’t say “coat”; you said you were “cold.” And what about last Saturday when you left me at the party last week-end, and I had no idea where you were for over an hour.”
“I told you I had to make a phone call, but you never pay attention to me. Just like not hearing me about the coat .”
“You never told me. I only went to that miserable party because it was your sister’s birthday. I’m sick of doing for you when it’s never good enough. You think you ask or tell me something, but really you always expect me to read your mind. ”
“That would be expecting a lot, since you’re not interested in my mind, or anything else about me.”
In my post “Ah, yes, I remember it…WRONG!, I peered into the unsteady abyss of memory. That fact that I’m sure that I did or said something a moment ago, 2 weeks or 10 years ago is simply no proof at all.
Any time we misspeak, we have a least two things going on internally: what we actually say and what we are thinking or doing. Most times those two don’t conflict, but when they do, we seem to have little to no access to our spoken words. The other party, the hearer, does have access to the spoken word but not access to the internal thoughts of the speaker.
The solution would seem simple: you can acknowledge that you thought you were saying “mountain,” but if the listener heard “move over,” that listener just might be right.
And this is where eating crow comes in. Especially when you’ve made “mountain” a hill to die on.