WHAT? Avoid Misunderstanding to Improve Communication in Marriage

Avoid misunderstanding - Road sign pointing right with left arrowI recently followed a thread on a blog for school counselors. The thread began this way:

“Question: If an 8th grader tells you – as their counselor – that they are cutting, would you tell their parents? Please explain why or why not…I am interested to see the variety of reasoning on this matter…it keeps coming up and I find it such a difficult dilemma…Thank You”

One of the early replies from a counselor indicated that she would, in fact, maintain the student’s confidentiality. She would try to help the student work through the issue without informing the parents.

The response to this entry was fast and furious.

Counselors from all over the country posted replies expressing dismay, anger, and incredulity that a school counselor would even consider keeping this information about a student cutting from the parents. Many safety, ethical, and clinical arguments were made.

What is Going on Here?

After about thirty posts, several made by the contrarian counselor who herself appeared enraged by the fervor her post caused, there was this post by the counselor:

“I apologize to all. . . I am of another era and I feel rather ridiculous. ‘Cutting’ to me meant skipping a class!!! No wonder, what I’ve been saying is a little ‘out there!’”

The initial question was asking about self-injurious cutting that is sometimes seen with adolescents who are depressed or anxious; the counselor who caused all the excitement thought she was asking about cutting class, that is, skipping class!

Avoid Misunderstanding to Improve Communication in Marriage

There are so many times during conflict that the issue is one of misunderstanding and interpretation. Because neither person in the argument takes pause to make sure they avoid misunderstanding the other person’s perspective, an argument ensues and emotions escalate, all because they are talking about two entirely different things!

If a partner, co-worker, or child says something that generates a strong emotional reaction in you, it can be helpful to make sure you understand what they mean (which is different from what they are saying) before responding.

Ask clarifying questions, and re-state what you think the other person is saying; these two actions alone can help you prevent needless conflict.

And improve your marriage.

Sometimes a mediator can help families who are divorcing or experiencing unresolved conflict work through misunderstandings. Or, you can do it yourself — just think of the “cutting” story!



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About the Author ()

I help families resolve conflict through family mediation and divorce mediation in Massachusetts. My services include mediation for co-parenting disputes, marriage problems, separation and divorce, parents and teenagers, and family conflicts. The goal of my mediator's blog is to help teach or remind readers of helpful communication and conflict resolution techniques that can be used in their relationships. I live in Natick, MA with my wife, son and dog and mediate throughout the Metrowest Boston region. Please note that my name is spelled Ben Stich, not Ben Stitch.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Andrew Stich says:

    Great opening story about “cutting”!!!

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