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Find The Rhythm In Your Communication

Find The Rhythm

(Lyrics by Larry S. Warfield)

When a man loves the work he does, it’s a wonderful joy it brings.
Not just mastering tools, or remembering rules, or just doing the same old thing
It goes much deeper within him. It’s so very much like romance.
He finds the rhythm in it and learns to dance.
Let me find the rhythm every step that I take in life.
As a general rule, I’m a stumbling fool, with my children, my home, and my wife.
Let me feel the rhythm. Give me one more chance.
Help me find the rhythm and learn to dance.

“When the two sexes communicate, women often communicate for the sake of communication and for the sake of talking. Men like to talk in a solution-oriented fashion instead. For a man, there must be a point and a conclusion in the conversation.”


An Average American Couple

Jack and Millie, a normal Southern California couple, married for ten years with two kids, a boy eight and a girl five. They both work full-time jobs as programmer-analysts. Millie’s mother takes care of the kids after school before they get home from work.

Jack works as an engineering programmer for a large oil company whose main office is in La Palma, CA, with offices and oil derricks all over the world. He often works overtime with frequent trips to different offices. His current assignment entails designing graphics that illustrate the different strata around an oil derrick.

Millie, also a programmer analyst, works for LA County Probation Office located in Whittier, CA. She has a 35-minute commute each way, which often turns into an hour each way because of traffic.

Their home is within five miles of Jack’s office, around the corner from the kid’s school, and grandma’s house across the street from the school. The arrangement works well for everyone in the family, except Millie, when she gets caught in traffic.


The Commute Home

This was one of those nights when two cars tried to occupy the same space on Carmenita Rd. Traffic was backed up for about two miles. Millie tried taking side streets, but everybody else had the same idea. It took her almost two hours to get home.

She tried calling Jack, but, as normal, his phone went straight to voice mail. He was on the phone so much at work so when he got home he often left his phone in the bedroom so he didn’t have to answer it.

She called her mom to see if Jack had picked up the kids and he had. At these times she wished one of the kids had a phone, but they had agreed Jack Jr. was still a little young for a phone.

She had to decide to stop and get take-out or cook when she got home. It was rare that Jack ever started dinner or did anything when he got home other than watch the news. She opted for Chinese. Their favorite restaurant was on her way home.

She was hoping for a quiet evening, but lately that hadn’t been the case. The kids seemed to be extra noisy and Jack didn’t seem to be present.

“I really don’t understand how he can have such selective hearing that he doesn’t hear anything but the TV. It’s been a rough few days at work and I’m not up for taking care of everything by myself tonight,” she said out loud. “I honestly don’t know what’s up with Jack. He’s always someplace else even though he’s in his usual spot on the couch.”

She could tell this had the makings of an unpleasant evening.


A Women’s Needs

Women need closeness and intimacy.  Talking is the currency of relationship building. It brings about intimacy for women – best friends sit and talk. Talking about problems or concerns or situations is the way they connect. Women value feelings and the quality of relationships.

Women need to receive care, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance. A woman can be unconsciously afraid of being unworthy of love. They feel empowered when they feel cherished and cared for. She is often afraid of getting too close. Afraid she won’t be supported, she unknowingly pushes away the support she needs. If she pushes he feels rejected and turns away.

Women need to be listened to without being offered a solution or “fix” in order for her to feel understood and cared for. She needs her thoughts and feelings acknowledged. Women are not looking for immediate solutions. They want to be heard and understood, not “fixed.”


A Men’s Needs

Men, on the other hand, communicate to negotiate their status. They talk to preserve their independence and avoid being pushed around by others. Men value power, competence, and achievement. They need to achieve results. Men are empowered when they feel needed and trusted. Men need to receive trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement.

A man’s deepest fear is of being incompetent and not good enough. He is often afraid of giving and risking failure. It’s important that women not offer unsolicited advice to men because it would be perceived as critical, demeaning, and unaccepting.


An Argument

When a man feels challenged, he defensively focuses on being right and forgets to be loving or to listen to understand. He then upsets her by invalidating her feelings by trying to “fix” or solve her problem. Unless something changes the exchange can go around and around without end with emotions getting hotter, deteriorating into a fight.


The Communication Dance

Communication between men and women can be like a dance – A Communication Dance. We are all familiar with social dancing as a significant means of communication, where one of the partners expresses themselves through meaningful gestures and the other partner responds with appropriate or complementary movements and gestures. It does not have to be connected to music.

The communication dance is not driven by the body, but by the soul. The soul is tied to the expression communicated through each partner’s movements, expressions, attitudes, voice tone, and words, hence The Dance.

Our family of origin set our communication style and expectations. Each family has its own set of communication rules. For example, in one family a discussion, debate, sharing a different perspective, generating new ideas may look totally different from the communication style in a different family.

Perhaps, your family discussions were filled with interpreting, interrupting, criticizing, name-calling, playing the Blame-Game. Other families had very little, if any, communication or group discussions.

Honoring others: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom. 12:10). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3–4).

The Dance Begins

Millie walked in the house. The kids were chasing each other down the hallway, yelling and screaming. She didn’t pay attention to who was chasing who or who had the upper hand. When they saw her they turned and ran straight to the kitchen.

“You brought Chinese, we’re so hungry. Why are you so late?” Jack Jr. said.

“I’m starved,” Little Beth said as she crawled up into a chair at the kitchen table.

“Where’s your dad?”

“Usual,” Jack Jr. answered. “Can we eat now? I’m so hungry.”

“Didn’t you get a snack?”

“Dad said no,” he answered as Millie dished up their plates.

1st Move – Interpretation

She dished up her plate and sat at the table. She paused, thinking. “Does he think that feeding the kids and taking care of the home is woman’s work? Does he think he has no responsibilities in this house or to our family? Maybe I won’t even tell him dinner is served.” She sat for some time pondering her interpretation of the situation.

Jack walked into the kitchen, dished up his plate and began eating without saying a word or making eye contact.

Millie’s interpretation kept her from saying anything to Jack. She just knew her interpretation was right and she wouldn’t be nice and didn’t want to fight in front of the kids.

After dinner, she put the kids to bed then went back to the kitchen to clean up. She stood in front of the sink for a long time trying to decide what to do next.

2nd Move – Question or Accusations

Millie has a choice to make that will dictate the course and movements of this dance. She could go with her initial interpretation, “Jack just doesn’t care,” and go charging in with accusations, criticizing, name-calling and interrupting anything he would have to say – the blame game.

Millie’s second choice would be to calmly ask a question to understand.

Because of recent confrontations, Millie had begun studying listening and communications. She knew that if she criticized him it could easily lead to name-calling which would escalate to a blowup.

Millie decided to ask a question instead of assuming her interpretation was correct. She, again, had two options. She could ask, “How come you’re watching TV while I’m doing dishes and cleaning up the house?” or “Could I get some help with the dishes and housework?”

She walked into the living room and found him staring off into space, not even watching the TV. “Could I get some help with the dishes?” she asked.

She consciously tried to have a more neutral or pleasant expression on her face – she had been doing her homework. His body tensed when she walked into the room and stood by the couch. As he turned and looked at her face his body relaxed.

“Sure. No problem.”

He got up and turned toward the kitchen door then pulled her into a gentle embrace and planted a kiss on her forehead.

“What’s that for?” she asked with a sheepish grin on her face.

“For not being mad? I was sure you were mad that’s why I didn’t say anything at the table.”

“You’ve been acting very strange lately. Could you please tell me what’s going on?” she asked.

3rd Move – Sharing or Silence

He motioned for her to sit at the table. “I guess it’s time,” he said.

Now, she tensed. “Oh no, what’s up? Is he going to ask for a divorce, tell me about a mistress or that he lost his job?” she again interpreted the pending situation as she sat perfectly still trying not to cry.

“I have been very quiet lately. I know you’ve been carrying a heavy load with the kids, the house, and your job. That commute can sometimes be a bear, like tonight. I saw the accident on Carmenita Rd. It was terrible. Both drivers were killed,” he paused. “I haven’t said anything to you because I know what you’d say and I didn’t want your opinion to sway my decision.”

He saw her tense up again. He reached out and took her hand, “It’s not bad. Trust me.”

“Please just tell me. The stress is killing me,” she said as a tear ran down her cheek.

He wiped off the tear, “I have been offered a promotion at work.”

“That’s it. Well, of course, take it,” she said.

“That’s what I figured you’d say, but it’s not that simple. I would be traveling a lot, approximately six months out of the year.  Yes, the money is fantastic, but the kids, the house everything would fall on your shoulders. I’m not good with that. I haven’t said anything because I have another possibility that I am really considering. I’ve been asked to work for another company doing basically the same thing, but I’d be working from home. The pay wouldn’t be as much, but we could make it. I could get the kids and have dinner ready when you got home. I could shoulder more of the responsibility, but less money.”

4th Move – Find The Rhythm

Millie looked up with eyes wide, eyebrows raised, mouth dropped wide open and her head tilted slightly to the side, “You said what? You want to work from home so you can help with the kids and housework? Is that what you said?”

Jack laughed, “That’s right.”

“Why the change?”

“With our recent arguments, I went to the company counselor and talked things over. He helped me see things from a different perspective. I don’t like the way things are going so I want to make some changes.”

He pulled her into his arms, holding her tight.

“Thank you,” she said in almost a whisper.

Listening attentively: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). “Those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Prov. 13:3).

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