Sunday, August 29, 2010

On talking like a girl.

Over the past couple of weeks, Mrs. O. and I have been involved in some pre-marital counseling with another couple set to get married in a few weeks.  We just finished up and we had a lot of fun.  They also seemed to enjoy it, as much as we did, I hope!  Anyway, it got me thinking about our pre-marital counseling.  It was great.  Very helpful.  It helped to dramatically improve one thing in particular: conversation.
Conversation was the toughest part of being with not-yet-Mrs. O.  She’s big on conversation.  Me...not so much.  At work, occasionally I would travel for a couple of hours with my boss or co-worker and we would go long stretches without either of us saying a word.  Neither of us appeared to have any problem with that.  Didn’t work the same way for not-yet-Mrs. O.  
We would meet up early in the morning.  I would take her dog, Reuben, for a jog.  We’d have breakfast.  Then I’d take her to work.  She didn’t have a car for a few weeks right before we got married. . . that’s another story.  One day she commented that I would never say two words to her until we got to a particular intersection on the way to work.  Then, I would apparently wake up and start talking.  This was no good.  She felt like she was missing out on all this time we were spending together because we weren’t talking!
So, I decided to start talking.  She would ask me how I felt. . . to get the conversation going.  “Hmmm. . . how do I feel?  Uhh.  Well, I could turn the A/C down a little more.  It’s still a bit warm in here.”
*sigh*  “That’s not what I meant.”
“You asked how I feel.”
“Yes, but I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Well, that’s how I feel!”  
Not-yet-Mrs. O. and I had been dating for close to a year.  We were going through our pre-marital counseling and we got to the part about the need for conversation. . . specifically her need for conversation.  Our sages, K. Woo and his lovely bride, were talking about the very obvious disparity between our conversational needs.  K. Woo told me that I may never really be able to meet the need for conversation for Mrs. O.  Now, maybe I’m just ornery, but that sounded like a challenge.  On the way home I talked with not-yet-Mrs. O. about how we were going to find a solution.  It took a lot of talking.  Perfect, don’t you think?
At first, we tried simply talking about what made good conversation and what didn’t.  That was tough because how precisely do you remember every conversation?  Not to mention the fact that it was tough to declare one entire conversation to be ‘bad conversation’ or ‘good conversation’ if you could remember the whole thing in the first place.  We did come to the conclusion that it was not the she wanted me to ‘tell her what she wanted to hear’ as far as the specifics go.  She was looking for a specific type of information.  Now we’re getting somewhere!
Plan B: I asked not-yet-Mrs. O. if I ever got it right and told her the kinds of things she was looking to learn about me.  She said yes!  Well I was having a tough time categorizing exactly what it is that she wanted me to tell her.  Remember, I'm an analytical type.  So, I said, "When you hear me accidentally offering exactly the kind of conversation you want, just tell me.  Then, I’ll work on figuring out in my own head how to keep doing that.”  It was a great plan.
Several days later, I had a really bad day at work.  Nothing big, but that doesn’t matter in the moment.  I was telling not-yet-Mrs. O. about it, “I had a bad day. . . blah, blah, blah. . . and I just felt like a dork!”
“That’s it!!!  That’s the kind of thing I’m looking for!”  She was elated.  I was perplexed.  
“You’re kidding.”  But no, she wasn’t.  And there began an interesting journey into figuring out that all verbal communication is not conversation.  When she asks how I feel she's not looking for the news: I'm cold; I'm hungry; I'm tired.  She really wants to learn about what makes me tick: the things that make me feel good about myself, the things that make me feel like a dork, the things that try my patience.  She still tells me when I've succeeded in the art of conversing.  I’m still learning, but it just keeps getting easier.

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