Friday, July 3, 2015

why? because...

I was speaking with a woman today who told me her husband was driving her crazy.  He had neglected to fix a leaky roof and had let months go by before telling her.  Then one day it rained and the roof leaked, and she was furious.  

The woman told me that her husband, rather than apologizing and validating her anger, got all defensive and started justifying, saying things like he didn’t tell her because the roof wasn’t leaking anymore, because the problem seemed to have gone away, because he didn’t want to ruin her mood by bringing up the subject.

The woman threw up her hands exasperated and said to me, “Whenever I am unhappy about something, he gets defensive and starts explaining and justifying.  He never shows empathy or says he’s sorry.  It’s always just excuses, dodges and justifications: I didn’t do it because.  Because, because, because…”  

When I asked her what she had said to him, she shared, “I asked him why, if he knew I wanted the roof fixed, why he didn’t just tell me.”

I simply mirrored back what she said, “You asked him why and he answered because, and now you are angry because he is defending himself rather than empathizing with your feelings.”

Ask a silly question…

If you want validation but seem to be getting a defensive reaction, try dropping the indirect accusatory interrogation style, and transform your questions into first person singular statements about yourself: “I am feeling X because you did X, and I would like you to do Z.”

Save the "why"s for investigative causal inquiry, forced confessions or other situations where you really don't care if the other person cares.

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