Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Four Ways to Ask

Blanket I was recently thinking about how we interact with each-other, especially our spouses.  I got to thinking about how the simple way we phrase a question changes the outcome.

Let's take, for example, a question I wanted to ask Erin this morning.  

First, a little background.  We forgot to pick up Rachel's blanket from daycare last Friday to wash over the weekend.  So we planned to get it yesterday afternoon and wash it that night.  Erin was picking up Rachel, while I brought Colin over to the doctor's for his 4 month check-up.  This morning I was wondering if Erin remembered to get the blanket and wanted to ask her.

You didn't remember to get Rachel's blanket yesterday, did you?

Spoken by myself, this could sound endearing.  When I cock my head just-so, it may even be cute.  I quickly threw away this way of asking the question though, since it conveys the message that I already know she messed up and forgot to get the blanket.  Never mind that I forgot it in the first place on Friday.

Trust me, it's never good to point out your wife's failings.

So I considered this second track.

Did we remember to get Rachel's blanket last night?

This is a far better response.  It makes clear that both of us are in the wrong.  I share the responsibility by not being forward thinking and getting the blanket myself.  Unfortunately, it's obvious my wife was the only one there at the time, so the quickly sees through the "we" veil.

I did change the question so that I no longer assume she made a mistake.  That's what makes this response better.  But it still wasn't quite right.

I know it was pretty hectic yesterday with Colin's doctor's appointment and Rachel's swimming.  You didn't happen to remember to get her blanket yesterday, did you?

This one is a great response.  I almost used this one when it finally hit me.  It gives Erin two different reasons for forgetting the blanket and it doesn't convey the message that I think she's an idiot for suggesting it in the morning and forgetting to do it in the evening.

This response also opens up the conversation for me to respond to whatever her answer is with "it's ok".  Clearly a winning method in any case.

Of course, before I could speak this final version, a far better one came to me.  Here is the 4th, and in my opinion best, way to ask the question.

You let her read it in your blog.

See, here you're able to expound about the problem, create witty responses to your own reactions and make the point without having to hear any immediate response.  Heck, if I turn off comments and shut off IM, it's a simple one-way conversation.

Clearly, I am a man of relationship genius.

Peace (until Erin reads this),


Anonymous said...

Why didn't you just ask Rachel?

Cindy said...

I love the 4th way. Let us know how long you sleep on the couch. :)