That Th!nk You Do Chapter 2 – Avoiding Deadly Silences

For those who didn’t know, I’ve signed with a new publisher and my first book out with them, That Think You Do, should be available late Nov-Dec ’22.


As always, let me know what you think.

Avoiding Deadly Silences

You know those movies about families’ hidden stories? Everybody’s happy and smiling and chuckles on the outside and anger and distrust and betrayal are like lava flows on the inside waiting to erupt leaving death and destruction in their wake?

Usually the climax is around a meal, a dinner table. Some little comment is said by this person and that person erupts. Or the child says something that only a child could say and the family suddenly has to deal with great uncle Poopah’s crimes against humanity.

There are reasons these types of things usually happen during meals. I’ve mentioned in presentations and trainings that there are two times when humans are biologically most vulnerable: when we’re putting stuff into our bodies and when we’re pushing stuff out of our bodies. Most people have had the experience of gathering around a table with an extended family and friends. Few people have then had the experience of gathering en masse in the loo.

The science of group, tribal and family behavior aside, there’s often much that goes unsaid in human relationships. You don’t like that they put dishes in the sink rather than the dishwasher. They don’t like the way you put toilet paper on the roll (men, did you know this one?).

Seem a little…umm…ridiculous? Small? Meaningless? Irrelevant?

Of course they do and of course they are. Their very triviality is what gives them their power.

Your significant other should know better, right? I mean, who doesn’t know there’s a preferred direction that toilet paper should come off the roll? Why would anybody leave dishes in the sink when it’s just as easy to put them in the dishwasher?

Here’s what you may not know about these little irritations that cause such major eruptions — people, feeling their life going out of control, will exert increasing control over trivial annoyances before they make any attempt to deal with major annoyances. The mistaken(!!!) belief is that by controlling the small they’ll gain control over the large.

Who Holds Back More, Women or Men?
What’s your guess? And let me up the ante while I’m asking. Do the genders go silent for the same or different reasons? Studies done at Fairhaven College and the University of Houston indicate that men resort to silence more often than women do but the reasons are different. Men use silence to maintain power (to keep their partner “on their toes”) or because they simply don’t know how to express themselves (and women everywhere are nodding in agreement. “You needed a scientific study to know this?”, they’re asking).

Women use silence because culturally and historically they have been second class citizens (women are really nodding now). Second class citizens’ role is to listen, not to speak, hence their emotions, feelings, wants, needs, and desires go unannounced by them and unnoticed by their partners.

What is true for both sexes? That self-silencing is dangerous. It causes depression and the more one self-silences the more one becomes depressed. Depression untreated is a death of the soul, folks, so let me share some methods for bringing both your and your partner’s souls back to life.

Avoiding the Silences
While there is no guarantee, talking and sharing our wants, needs, and desires often cures depression… or at least lets us know the individual we’re talking and sharing with isn’t as involved in the relationship as we’d like them to be. Talking and sharing — using certain guidelines — allows us to take back control or at least know what we can control in our lives.

And you need to know that talking and sharing — avoiding the silences — is hard work if you’ve never done it before. I wish I could say it’s easy, it’s fun, it’s as lively and exhilarating as a game of Stratego and I’d rather have you err on the side of caution than not. Here are some rules to help start the conversation and avoid the silences:

  1. Be open and honest. You want the other person to respond openly and honestly to you? Then be open and honest with them.
  2. Listen as much as you talk. Telling the other person to be quiet and pay attention turns them into a victim and you into the victimizer. Avoiding the Silences is as much about sharing as it is about getting things out, so listen and talk, not just one or the other.
  3. Talk about yourself, not them. An important part to building and healing relationships is sharing your thoughts and feelings, not telling someone what their thoughts and feelings should be.
  4. Falling from the above, It’s about expression, not approval. Imagine yourself sharing openly and honestly and hearing “That’s not true” or “How can you say that?” or even “I thought so”. The latter are statements of approval and disapproval. You don’t want to hear them, neither does your partner. The goal here is to get things out, not notch scores in each other’s psyches.
  5. Recognize they’re not going to be comfortable with this. After all, are you? The secret is to allow, honor, and accept each other’s discomfort. Think of this as the big aHA! and it’ll allow you to see each other as people rather than problems.
  6. Accept pushback. Chances are that until you and your partner are comfortable avoiding the silences there’ll be pushback, a desire to not accept responsibility or even some finger-pointing. First thing, pushbacks are defensive, they’re not offensive. Want to know the easiest way to respond to a defense? Get inside it. Make allies and not enemies. Ask “How can we solve this?” or “How can we avoid this in the future?” First, “we” are going to work on this together and b) the word “problem” or something similar isn’t used.
  7. There’s responsibility, not blame. Notice I didn’t write “blame” in the above? Blaming people for something may make you feel better and the feeling won’t last because blame keeps everybody rooted in the past. Responsibility recognizes the past and plans for the future. Very different. For most people, simply thinking of “blame” then thinking of “responsibility” accesses different neural resources. “Blame” puts someone under a spotlight, “responsibility” puts them on a path.
  8. From the last two we get Language is important. How can I say this? “Sticks and Stones may break your bones but words can mutilate you for life”? “It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it”? Everybody knows language can hurt. Most people also know things may slip out when we don’t want them to. The good news is you can ask for a “do over”. But you do have to ask for the “do over” and you do have to be prepared to hear a “No” in return. In all cases, think before you speak.
  9. Touch and only when you both know it’s safe. Human beings need to be touched by others for several reasons and especially when we’re in vulnerable situations like this. Touching someone, reaching out to them when we’re being vulnerable and when we’ve accidentally hurt them, is our way of finding out if it’s safe. Things may be shared that are painful. How do we heal the hurt? Go back to childhood; kiss the boo-boo to make it go away. But only when our partner is willing, ready, and able. They may be unavailable because they need to do their own healing first.
  10. And that brings us to our last suggestion, Healing takes time. Avoiding the Silences work is going to open some wounds, some minor and some not. Wounds take time to heal and they may not heal as fast as we like. Remember that it will take as much time to get out of the woods as it took to get in, so give both you and your partner time to heal when doing this work. Even better, offer to help each other to heal. Nobody likes being in these kinds of woods alone, especially at night.

Read That Think You Do Chapter 3 – Romancing Real Women … and I don’t have to write more because I’ve already got everybody’s attention.