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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  The Danger Of Unspoken
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Tuesday, June 5,2012

The Danger Of Unspoken


By Cary Bayer  
Two of the most malignant cancers in communication are unexpressed assumptions and expectations. As the witty, well-known expression goes, “Assume makes an ass out of u and me.” When you assume or expect that I will say or do something, and you never tell me what it is that you’re assuming, and I don’t say or do that, frequently, you’ll be unhappy.



The wise yogis of India have a beautiful saying that goes, “Avoid the danger that has not yet arisen.” By giving voice to whatever you assume or expect to do, you give me the opportunity to rise to the level of your expectations, making you happy and me more inspired. You also avoid the danger of disappointment.


Avoiding assumptions and expectations simply requires direct communication. As a life coach who has worked with countless people on their significant-other relationships, I can’t tell you how many couples I’ve coached in which one of the spouses expects the other to read her or his (more often it’s her) mind. When spouses do this, they are setting the relationship up for problems, disappointments and, sometimes, far worse results.


Couples often become more intuitive with each other the longer they remain in relationship. Sometimes they finish each other’s sentences, even reading one another’s minds. Expecting your mate to read your mind to know what you want all the time, and when and how you want it, is not only romantic, it’s downright ludicrous. And yet, millions of spouses do it in their marriages and partnership relationships. The pressure it puts on the mate is so unfair and so unreasonable and the pressure it puts on the relationship is, in a word, cruel.


This expectation shows up a lot around birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas time. It happens both with wives and husbands. Let’s say the wife expects that her husband will give her the present she secretly longs for. The problem here, of course, is that her longing is secret. She has never told him, and he, therefore, probably doesn’t know. If he’s smart, and wants to avoid a celebration letdown because he bought her the “wrong” gift, he’ll ask her what it is she’d truly like to have before he buys her anything. But in far too many marriages there’s no room to have this kind of open and direct communication, because the wife wants him to what she wants—she doesn’t want to have to tell him. Sometimes this desire of hers is irrational is borne out of years of frustration over his inability to listen to her problems, her longings, and her hopes. Frustrated by his inability to hear her, she expects the impossible. And a vicious cycle results: he doesn’t know what she wants, she won’t tell him, hoping that he’ll get it psychically, eventually not receiving what she truly wants— worse, maybe even getting something she doesn’t even and then punishing him for it. This, in turn, ruins the celebration, brings them both down, perhaps makes them both angry, and further drives a wedge between them.

This usually further shuts him down from even to hear what she wants to talk about. He’s driven to hang out more with his buddies, or worse, with another woman. And she might be driven to hang out with another man at a motel. It all could have been avoided by simply asking proactively for what you want, or by answering the question posed when he wanted to know what that might be.


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