Author Topic: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one  (Read 5911 times)

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StareDecisis

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When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« on: February 08, 2013, 05:29:43 PM »
I think this is a general etiquette question, not a relationship question, but I apologize in advance if this is not appropriate for this board. 

My husband has a habit of giving one answer to a question, even if there are other, more complete, reasons.  For a silly example (which actually happened), I packed his lunch (we basically divide household chores, and packing lunches for both of us is one I chose - I realize this may be odd to some!) and included sliced bell peppers (which he bought at the market earlier that week) with hummus.  He did not eat them, and brought them home.  I asked him if he didn't like them, and he said "Oh, I wasn't very hungry today."  Thinking nothing of it, I put them in the fridge and then in his lunch for the next day.  Again, he return with the uneaten peppers.  I again asked if he didn't like them, he got a deer in headlights look, and said "Oh, um, not really. No."  I asked why he didn't just say that yesterday, and he said "Well, I wasn't hungry yesterday, so it wasn't a lie." 

He does things like this all the time, mostly about insignificant things like the peppers, but sometimes about important things.  I say this is akin to telling a lie, as it is not the complete truth, and saying the full truth would then let me know not to waste my time washing/slicing/packing the peppers, or whatever the issue is.  He says I am nagging him and calling him a liar without just cause, and that both things are true.  I think that in cases like this, he ought to either say both things, or if he must only say one, then he should pick the more "complete" answer. 

What are your thoughts?  How can I, in the most polite way possible, figure out the real answer during the first conversation without nagging him? 

StarFaerie

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2013, 05:50:40 PM »
In that instance it sounds like he's trying not to hurt your feelings and so engaging in the socially acceptable little white lies that we all use to do that. "No, your bottom doesn't look bid in that." "Hair looks good." "i love your bell peppers, I'm just not hungry."

Maybe at a time when you're not upset let him know that you appreciate that he's trying to spare your feelings and you love him for it, but you really would prefer just to know. And then ensure you don't get upset with him when he does tell you hurtful truths (not saying you would)

Lynn2000

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2013, 06:07:58 PM »
I wouldn't say he's so much lying, as that he/you both have communication issues. Of two true reasons (in this case), he's giving you the one that's least helpful to you in planning your future actions--that's how you see it. I suspect (as StarFaerie suggests) that to him, he's giving you the one that he thinks will spare your feelings, or is less confrontational, in the short term.

I see something I think is similar a lot with some friends and family. I could imagine my friend Amy and her husband Adam having this exact exchange about the peppers. Amy would get really exasperated at Adam, and instead of learning how she would prefer he act, he just learns that this is a really touchy subject that he should continue avoiding in the future. Plus, accusing someone of lying often causes a conversation to spiral downhill pretty fast, rather than being productive.

I could even imagine Amy saying, "WHY didn't you tell me you didn't like bell peppers before I bought that whole bag of them last week?!"

And Adam would probably be like (if he answered honestly), "You didn't ASK me if I liked bell peppers. You just ASSUMED I would eat them. And sometimes, even when you ask and I say I don't want something, you insist I try it anyway, or that it's good for me, so why should I bother giving my real opinion?"

StareDecisis, I'm not saying that's what's going on in your case, because obviously I don't know. :) But, IME, with things like this it's often that the two people are coming at the situation from two totally different angles. So, like StarFaerie suggests, maybe at a later time ask him calmly what he was thinking, without any preconceived ideas, and see if anything interesting turns up.
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StareDecisis

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2013, 06:28:46 PM »
In that instance it sounds like he's trying not to hurt your feelings and so engaging in the socially acceptable little white lies that we all use to do that. "No, your bottom doesn't look bid in that." "Hair looks good." "i love your bell peppers, I'm just not hungry."

Maybe at a time when you're not upset let him know that you appreciate that he's trying to spare your feelings and you love him for it, but you really would prefer just to know. And then ensure you don't get upset with him when he does tell you hurtful truths (not saying you would)

I would totally agree with this in most circumstances, but he has NO problem saying things such as "Your bum looks a bit big in that skirt, maybe you shouldn't buy it" or "Your hair looks frizzy, maybe fix it before we go out?", even if it is completely unsolicited, which is one reason I find exchanges like the pepper incident baffling! FWIW, I actually appreciate such comments - I would rather be told something like that by my husband while I can do something to fix it, rather than discover that I've been walking around with hair like Einstein's :)


TootsNYC

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2013, 06:29:00 PM »
I find that with many people, I have to preface questions with an explanation that says, "I don't care what the answer is, it's no skin off MY nose if you don't like bell peppers or whatever. Please give me an answer that helps me plan."

I really have to do it at work, because sometimes I'm in charge of deadlines.

And sometimes you need to think what the REAL question is. Maybe the question isn't "why didn't you eat the peppers?" (because parents use "why?" questions to scold their children--I try to make my husband stop it, but it's pretty deeply ingrained), but is instead, "should I stop packing peppers in your lunch?"

Lynn2000

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2013, 06:36:02 PM »
I would totally agree with this in most circumstances, but he has NO problem saying things such as "Your bum looks a bit big in that skirt, maybe you shouldn't buy it" or "Your hair looks frizzy, maybe fix it before we go out?", even if it is completely unsolicited, which is one reason I find exchanges like the pepper incident baffling! FWIW, I actually appreciate such comments - I would rather be told something like that by my husband while I can do something to fix it, rather than discover that I've been walking around with hair like Einstein's :)

If those are real examples, maybe at some point he's learned/decided/just naturally says blunt/truthful things about appearance, but food is a whole different area for him? It sounds like maybe you've praised him for telling you something is wrong with your appearance, so maybe he's remembered that, but it doesn't translate in his mind to other subjects.

Also, TootsNYC has a good point about the "real" question. Is your husband quite literal? Is he not the planner in the family? He may be thinking that, of two answers in his mind, one is just as good to say as the other, without understanding your implied question or your future plans.
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StareDecisis

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2013, 06:36:24 PM »
I wouldn't say he's so much lying, as that he/you both have communication issues. Of two true reasons (in this case), he's giving you the one that's least helpful to you in planning your future actions--that's how you see it. I suspect (as StarFaerie suggests) that to him, he's giving you the one that he thinks will spare your feelings, or is less confrontational, in the short term.

I see something I think is similar a lot with some friends and family. I could imagine my friend Amy and her husband Adam having this exact exchange about the peppers. Amy would get really exasperated at Adam, and instead of learning how she would prefer he act, he just learns that this is a really touchy subject that he should continue avoiding in the future. Plus, accusing someone of lying often causes a conversation to spiral downhill pretty fast, rather than being productive.

I could even imagine Amy saying, "WHY didn't you tell me you didn't like bell peppers before I bought that whole bag of them last week?!"

And Adam would probably be like (if he answered honestly), "You didn't ASK me if I liked bell peppers. You just ASSUMED I would eat them. And sometimes, even when you ask and I say I don't want something, you insist I try it anyway, or that it's good for me, so why should I bother giving my real opinion?"

StareDecisis, I'm not saying that's what's going on in your case, because obviously I don't know. :) But, IME, with things like this it's often that the two people are coming at the situation from two totally different angles. So, like StarFaerie suggests, maybe at a later time ask him calmly what he was thinking, without any preconceived ideas, and see if anything interesting turns up.

Oh, sorry - I didn't actually call him a liar in the heat of the moment; I said something along the lines of "Why didn't you just tell me that yesterday?", and he inferred that I was calling him a liar (which I was sort of thinking, but didn't actually say). I think that particular example drove me batty because he was the one who bought the peppers, lol!  I will try to have a discussion at a time when there hasn't been a recent issue.  It is comforting to know that you know others with similar issues (and you hit "communication issues" dead on, by the way - we have worked on general communication quite a bit, which may contribute to my irritation with exchanges like this).

StareDecisis

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 06:37:53 PM »
I find that with many people, I have to preface questions with an explanation that says, "I don't care what the answer is, it's no skin off MY nose if you don't like bell peppers or whatever. Please give me an answer that helps me plan."

I really have to do it at work, because sometimes I'm in charge of deadlines.

And sometimes you need to think what the REAL question is. Maybe the question isn't "why didn't you eat the peppers?" (because parents use "why?" questions to scold their children--I try to make my husband stop it, but it's pretty deeply ingrained), but is instead, "should I stop packing peppers in your lunch?"

Brilliant - thank you!  I never even thought of that.

StareDecisis

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 06:40:17 PM »
I would totally agree with this in most circumstances, but he has NO problem saying things such as "Your bum looks a bit big in that skirt, maybe you shouldn't buy it" or "Your hair looks frizzy, maybe fix it before we go out?", even if it is completely unsolicited, which is one reason I find exchanges like the pepper incident baffling! FWIW, I actually appreciate such comments - I would rather be told something like that by my husband while I can do something to fix it, rather than discover that I've been walking around with hair like Einstein's :)

If those are real examples, maybe at some point he's learned/decided/just naturally says blunt/truthful things about appearance, but food is a whole different area for him? It sounds like maybe you've praised him for telling you something is wrong with your appearance, so maybe he's remembered that, but it doesn't translate in his mind to other subjects.

Also, TootsNYC has a good point about the "real" question. Is your husband quite literal? Is he not the planner in the family? He may be thinking that, of two answers in his mind, one is just as good to say as the other, without understanding your implied question or your future plans.

Also brilliant!  Those are real examples, and now that you mention it, it does seem that appearance is fair game for bluntness, while food is not.  He is quite literal, and I like the suggestions for re-phrasing. 

Lynn2000

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2013, 06:46:35 PM »
There is hope! :D These kinds of things drive me crazy, too, because I can never solve the ones I'm actually involved in, but seen from outside, they seem more obvious. I feel like a lot of people are the same way. Thus, a good reason for asking for third party advice. :) I should post about my dad sometime...
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Onyx_TKD

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2013, 07:09:36 PM »
In that instance it sounds like he's trying not to hurt your feelings and so engaging in the socially acceptable little white lies that we all use to do that. "No, your bottom doesn't look bid in that." "Hair looks good." "i love your bell peppers, I'm just not hungry."

Maybe at a time when you're not upset let him know that you appreciate that he's trying to spare your feelings and you love him for it, but you really would prefer just to know. And then ensure you don't get upset with him when he does tell you hurtful truths (not saying you would)

I would totally agree with this in most circumstances, but he has NO problem saying things such as "Your bum looks a bit big in that skirt, maybe you shouldn't buy it" or "Your hair looks frizzy, maybe fix it before we go out?", even if it is completely unsolicited, which is one reason I find exchanges like the pepper incident baffling! FWIW, I actually appreciate such comments - I would rather be told something like that by my husband while I can do something to fix it, rather than discover that I've been walking around with hair like Einstein's :)

Two things jump out at me about your examples of his bluntness:

1) In both cases he is telling you about something in advance so that you can avoid it. Before you buy the skirt, he mentions that it isn't flattering so it probably isn't worth buying. Before you leave the house, he mentions that your hair is frizzy so that you can fix it before you go out in public. If you walked in the door wearing the already-purchased skirt, would he still tell you just as bluntly that the skirt made your bum looked big and you'd been running around with frizzy hair all day? That information could help in you in the future by letting you know to avoid the unflattering skirt and check the mirror more often, but I think a lot of people would try to be much more delicate about saying something after the fact. Would he?

In the case of the peppers, they had already been packed in his lunch, so he would have been telling you about a problem (you packed him food that he didn't like) after it was over and done and couldn't be fixed. You view it as information about how to pack future lunches, but he might be thinking of it as criticizing a past lunch that can't be changed.

2) In the examples, he was warning you about something that would negatively impact you. He knew that you would not want to purchase/wear a skirt that was unflattering, and you would not want to have frizzy hair in public. Is he usually as blunt mentioning how something you did negatively impacts him? Having a lunch he dislikes, now or in the future, mainly impacts him. Sure, it's frustrating to spend time packing a lunch that won't be enjoyed, but he's the one who's going to be stuck eating food he doesn't like if he doesn't want to go hungry. Also, his dislike may not be as strong as you assume. If he'd rather starve than eat a bell pepper, then it makes sense to mention it so you don't waste your time. If he doesn't really care for them and wouldn't pack them for himself, but wouldn't mind eating them if was still hungry, then he might not think it's worth mentioning.

WillyNilly

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2013, 10:16:30 PM »
Quote
I asked him if he didn't like them, and he said "Oh, I wasn't very hungry today."

If this is really what you asked, I say he did straight up lie to you.  You didn't ask "why didn't you eat the peppers?" you asked if he didn't like them, and he gave you a different answer then the truth.  I would actually consider this baiting and gas lighting behavior.  Or some sort of power play, like he thinks he knows the real question you're asking and is going to answer that, instead of trusting you know what you are asking and would appreciate the answer to your actual question not the answer to the question he assumes you weren't clear enough to ask.

To be honest, I broke up with a long term boyfriend in large part due to this type to thing, I find it overwhelmingly disrespectful and condescending. (My big peeve with my ex-BF was we'd be getting ready to go somewhere and I'd ask "what time is it?" and he'd answer "we have plenty of time" or "its getting close" or some other answer that was not a number. As far as I was concerned the only two acceptable answers were either "I don't know" or a number.  I asked him nicely, I asked him angrily, I pleaded, at one point I cried, and yet every time he refused to tell me the answer to my actual question and just always assumed I wasn't asking for the time, but rather "how are we doing for time" even though I never, ever asked that.)

So my advice is to sit him down and tell him "I chose my words carefully.  Please take some care to listen to me and answer my actual questions with the truth, not the answer you think I want to hear, or the answer to a similar yet different question I didn't ask.  When you don't answer my direct questions with direct answers I feel frustrated, like you aren't listening to me, and aren't trying to help me.  We are a team, and good communication is key to our success."
« Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 10:21:22 PM by WillyNilly »

Coley

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2013, 07:14:08 AM »
I asked him if he didn't like them, and he said "Oh, I wasn't very hungry today."  Thinking nothing of it, I put them in the fridge and then in his lunch for the next day.  Again, he return with the uneaten peppers.  I again asked if he didn't like them, he got a deer in headlights look, and said "Oh, um, not really. No."  I asked why he didn't just say that yesterday, and he said "Well, I wasn't hungry yesterday, so it wasn't a lie."

I agree with WillyNilly's assessment. You asked him if he didn't like the peppers. This is a yes or no question. His response didn't answer your question. It sounds like he answered a different question and wound up with peppers in his lunch again the next day because of it.

That's what I'd put in the category of natural consequences. He's choosing to use an indirect communication style. You put peppers in his lunch the second time because he didn't communicate properly with you. For this or other similar types of concerns, if his behavior (communication style) isn't getting him the results he wants, he will need to change his behavior (communication style).

I'm not sure it's your responsibility to have to guess at whether the answer he is giving you is the real answer or if he's avoiding giving you the real answer. I'm also not sure it's your responsibility to question him until you're sure of the real answer. If he doesn't want peppers in his lunch (or whatever the issue is), it is his responsibility to tell you. If he chooses to avoid telling you, then that's also his responsibility. Getting peppers in his lunch a third, fourth, or fifth time because he isn't telling you is the consequence of that -- also his responsibility.

You could approach this or similar situations with, "I want to pack your lunch in the way you'd prefer, but I can't do that unless you tell me you don't like peppers. Telling me you don't like peppers will help me make a lunch that you'll enjoy."

On a related note, I have had to address this behavior with my DS when he is trying to avoid getting in trouble. When I ask a question and he avoids giving me the answer to THAT question, I say, "That's not what I asked. I asked ___." Granted, there are big differences between a DS rel@tionship and a DH rel@tionship, but I wonder if a similar approach might work with your DH.

Zilla

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2013, 09:51:13 AM »
Ask a more detailed question.  If he said, "I wasn't very hungry." then ask, "Will you eat it tomorrow for lunch then or would you rather me pack you something else?" 
It just sounds like he is trying to be nice, and that's a nice quality.  Just be a bit more detailed in asking to get the "right" answer.  I highly doubt he is gaslighting you though, might want to look that up.

sweetonsno

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Re: When there are two reasons, but the speaker only states one
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2013, 04:03:51 PM »
Ask a more detailed question.  If he said, "I wasn't very hungry." then ask, "Will you eat it tomorrow for lunch then or would you rather me pack you something else?" 
It just sounds like he is trying to be nice, and that's a nice quality.  Just be a bit more detailed in asking to get the "right" answer.  I highly doubt he is gaslighting you though, might want to look that up.

That's pretty much what I was thinking. Alternatively, phrase the question in such a way that you are asking for the information that you want to use the first time around. I don't think either you or he is necessarily doing anything wrong, but it sounds like you have different communication styles.