resolving miscommunication part 2: “you didn’t tell me that”

craig use to play bass.  he’d sit and practice for hours.  sometimes i’d have to interrupt him to tell him something and he’d nod or say “ok” or even answer a question.  then later on i’d bring it up again and he’d stare at me like he had no idea what i was talking about.

because he didn’t.  hadn’t comprehended a single word.  if i gave him a lie detector test and asked him if i had already talked to him about it, he say no and pass with flying colors.

for years he thought i was just having a conversation in my head and thinking it had actually happened.

which is not entirely improbable either.

we can’t be the only ones.  if fact, i know we’re not.  you know we’re not.  this has totally happened to everyone at some point.  and more often than not, it’s a girl saying it to a guy.  or a guy saying it to a guy.  oh yeah, i’m getting stereotypical up in here.  a friend of mine was talking about this very problem with his girlfriend.  he was convinced she really wasn’t telling him anything, she just thought she was.  i gave him what i thought was a very generous 60/40 split.  60% – he was told, 40% – she never said anything.  frankly, i think 80/20 is more accurate.

to be fair, i am routinely oblivious to thing people say to me.  what?  i’m a terrible person.

here’s now to avoid the awkward “i told you that” moment.

advice to the tell-er:

1.  timing is everything – talking to craig while he played bass…bad idea.  talking to someone when they’re doing anything that requires concentration (i.e. working on a car, doing the taxes, playing Words With Friends) is not going to end well.  you will both be frustrated. avoid times of distraction and decompression (i.e. during the game, right after work, while showering).  brains are otherwise occupied or shut off entirely at times like this.  during dinner or other times when you’re fully engaged is best.

2.  eye contact – make sure you have the tell-ee’s attention.  their FULL attention.  yes, i used capital letters on a whole word.  it’s that important.  don’t be condescending about it, but do let him/her know that you need to know you’re being heard.  say what you need to say, John Mayer.

3.  get a response – grunts, nods, glassy eyed stares do not qualify as responses.  actual words are required.  a repeat of what you said, even better.

okay boys and girls, what have we learned?  girls say stuff, guys ignore them.  i’m kidding.  sort of.  not really.

though it’s really not intentional.  unless it is.  but that’s a whole other blog.

tell-ers – cut the tell-ee some slack and be honest with yourself about whether or not the conversation actually took place (it probably did).  just be kind and think about how you could’ve communicated better.

tell-ees – own your obliviousness, don’t get defensive and respond positively. 

okay, let’s hear your “you didn’t tell me that” stories.  you know you’ve got one.  comment or die.


15 comments on “resolving miscommunication part 2: “you didn’t tell me that”

  1. Emily says:

    One of the BEST things I have learned about men lately is that the best way to get the attention you need is to ask. It’s as simple as saying “Hey, I have something important to tell you. Is now a good time?” The not so simple part is not being offended if you get a “no.” But once you get over yourself, cheer up, and ask again, “Hey, I have something important to tell you. Is now a good time?” and hear a “yes,” you’ll revel knowing you’re being heard. Men aren’t ignoring you, women. They’re focused. Ask, then sit down and wait patiently until they can focus on you. A good man will be honest about his ability to focus and be delighted to focus on you when the time is right.

    • well said. all of it.

    • Excellent. This goes with my “let me find a stopping point” note. Although, I will add, if I’m programming and 30 minutes passes by since you asked without my stopping, nicely ask me again. I’ve probably gotten my brain buried in a code problem and forgotten you’re there. I’ve done that to a coworker once or twice. :>

      And it isn’t because you’re not important to me. It’s because the closer I get to the bottom of a problem the more intensely focused I am on that problem, and the little sector of my brain allocated to remembering “he/she needs to talk to you” just got overwritten by a function call for sorting 3-dimensional arrays.

  2. Riggs says:

    does memory have anything to with it? my girlfriend will make plans a few weeks in advance and i generally forget… then i’m in trouble.

  3. I’m going to have to make note of this post to show to my future wife when the time comes. I have been told I’m a great listener. And I am, when you have my attention. That last phrase is key. In most situations, I can only focus on one thing at a time. If I am in the middle of something important, it’s best to alert me that you need to talk and *let me find a stopping point*. Otherwise, at least 60% of my brain power will be devoted to attempting to maintain all data about what I was in the middle of, and the remaining portion of my brain will be attempting to skim your detailed explanation of events for keywords enabling me to respond appropriately till I can return to my interrupted process.

  4. JBen says:

    How about asking the other person to repeat back what you said? I guess that can come off as kind of condescending but if it means you both end up on the same page then it is probably worth a shot.

    • if they do it willingly, count yourself lucky, but i wouldn’t recommend asking for it unless you had a hand in causing them to be born. a significant other is going to punch you in the neck if you do that. kwim?

  5. nateaton says:

    Shucks wiz, Sharideth.
    It’s like you communicated telepathically with my wife about this post.
    Most of the time I have a tremendous memory about things, but it’s only been since being married that I’ve learned that I remember the things I focus on. My wife keeps telling me about things that she already said (90/10 as far as how often she did versus how often she didn’t), and I get frustrated because I think that I would remember them.
    Oh the joy of learning to communicate.

  6. I don’t know if women do the same, but a man whose brain works like mine is capable of holding a ten minute intelligent conversation with you while working on something, providing the accurate solution to your issue, and never knowing you existed. You were never there.

    If all you needed was an answer to a question, you’re golden. If you needed him to remember something or take some action based on the conversation, the seeds of a future “you didn’t tell me that” are sown.

  7. Bekah Hope says:

    Can I just say that women can be as guilty of this as men? I share an apartment with my sister and we have the “You didn’t tell me that.” conversation all the time, usually over scheduling issues. This is complicated because we’re sharing ONE car right now. If I’m sitting at the computer doing something/reading something and she starts talking to me, even if I turn and look at her and start responding, my brain is still totally on whatever I was doing. I have to shake myself and admit, “Whoa, I totally didn’t comprehend anything you just said. Start over.” Not every girl is capable of multi-tasking effectively. This one isn’t.

  8. I tend to have conversations while I’m asleep when they call me, and then I wake up forgetting what it was about. If I’m concentrating on sleep, I’m not concentrating on anything else. Anything.

  9. Jennifer C. says:

    All of this applies to dads and daughters. I’m sure I’d be a lot less frustrated if I made sure I had his attention before I start yammering away.

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