How Nonverbal Communication Can Improve Your Relationship (Part II)

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O.K.  I got way off-topic in Part I of this post, but I’ve established that I’m a Gemini, which is a perfect excuse each time I veer too far in the wrong direction.  Or run into the house with my ginormous SUV.  Or forget to pick up the kids at school.

But I’m drifting.

Now that I’ve been married for more years than I’ll ever admit, I’ve developed a proven communication technique I’d like to pass on.  I believe in divvying up the good things in life, like my Charlie’s Angels action figures.  I always shared them in the sandbox, even though Courtney Higgens buried Farrah alive, pretended she died in a dramatic speedboat explosion, and stole her.

Charlie's Angels

Image via Wikipedia

There I go again.

A successful relationship requires a lot of give-and-take, back-and-forth, and general ego adjustment to thrive.  Unfortunately, it took me a long time to figure this out.

Being the uber communicator of the zodiac, I thought my way of doing just about everything was the right one, and that my husband, Scot, would naturally fall in line.

Except it wasn’t.  And he didn’t.

Our failure to see eye-to-eye has never been about politics, parenting, or who gets the good seat when we go out to eat (you know, the one that faces the expanse of the restaurant and not a wall, so if a mega-star happens to stop by the table you can be the first to snap a picture on your phone and email it to TMZ).

Tom Cruise December 2008

Tom Cruise is a mega star. Plus he's short like me. Image via Wikipedia

The disconnect always drills down to something much more mundane, like who’s turn it is to sweep out the creepy garage or restock the bathrooms with toilet paper.  The mere mention of ironing is probable cause for launching World War III.

After years of unsuccessful trial-and-error communication tactics such as repetitive vocal chord shredding, whisper-nagging, slipping magic ink lists under the bathroom door, and hypnosis, I’ve developed the perfect method to get my point across in a quiet, clear, and non-threatening way.

Visual Manipulation.

Everybody knows the reason that Denny’s is in business today is due to their laminated, multi-color, plasticy foodish, genius picture menus.  Well, those and the fact that you can get a Moon Over My Hammy Omelette 24/7.

at denny's

Gross. Image via Wikipedia

So I thought, why not rip that idea right off their pleatherette booths and bring it into my home?

Exhibit A

I don’t like to cook.  I’ve mentioned this before and will continue to belabor the point until you start sending me care packages full of nutritious food that my family will love.  Unlike many of my friends, I can’t create dinner on the fly from an egg, raw pudding, and flax seed.  For me, meal preparation requires a lot of thought, and sometimes I don’t feel like thinking.  It’s on these days that I’m compelled to warn my family there won’t be anything of interest waiting on the kitchen table when they get home.  Actual discussion of this issue always leads to disappointment (Scot), whining (the kids), and guilt (me).   Hence, the visual.

At first, I wanted to construct a bat-signal, because it’s retro and super-cool.  Plus, if you happen to be a neighbor you might see it, feel sorry for my children, and drop off a hot dish.  Added bonus?  I could learn Morse code and communicate with alien life forms in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.

The Bat-Signal as seen at the end of Batman

That's me in a bat costume trying to talk to aliens. Image via Wikipedia

But Scot said that would be a colossal waste of money, not to mention an invitation for all the nasty coyotes in the area to congregate in our back yard.

So I came up with this instead:

Get out.

I usually create my display early in the morning when I’ve been up all night and the ankle-biters are still in bed.  I keep it simple and to the point.  The kitchen is closed for dinner before it even opens for breakfast.  No discussion necessary.

Exhibit B

Ever since I left the corporate world to become a full-time Mom, I’ve been under the impression it’s my job to do everything around the house that nobody else cares about.  Like laundry.  Recently, however, I conducted an unofficial survey of my peers and discovered that Domestic Goddesses don’t match socks.  Like, ever.  Domestic Goddesses lounge around the house all day in togas, watch really bad reality T.V., take naps, and forget to pick up the kids at school.

Life as a Domestic Goddess seems awesome, and since I absolutely hate absorbent footwear, I devised a non-confrontational way to get Scot to take this forgettable task off my hands:

Man-chair.

This is Scot’s man-chair, the same one I’m giving Tim Tebow when he stops by to say hello.  By quietly dumping about forty-seven pairs of unmatched socks on top of it, I’m assured of immediate action because this is his favorite place to:

  1. Eat a bowl of cereal for dinner.
  2. Obsess over his swing while watching thirty-one different “How To Not Suck” shows on the Golf Channel.
  3. Ignore me.

Point made.  Task completed.  Argument averted.

Exhibit C

The simplest and most compelling wordless method to get your partner to help with anything involving manual labor is this:

Fix me.

That’s the entryway from the garage to our house.  Scot parks in the garage and uses this door to come inside.  It’s currently blocked (like, right now) by my daughter, Grace’s bike.  Her bike has an unsolvable (by me) issue that renders it useless.  Grace would like to actually ride her bike sometime this year.  I don’t know how to repair it.  So now, thanks to my non-verbal cue, Scot can’t get in the house to not sit in his favorite chair in anticipation of the meal that isn’t waiting for him until he fixes it.

I could go on and on but it’s almost naptime again.  While I’m sleeping, I’d appreciate it if you’d tell me your best non-verbal communication tip.  Maybe we’ll write a book together, become mega millionaires, and hang out in my soon-to-be-constructed Hawaiian isolation chamber.  I’ll let you in if you’re nice, but please leave your socks at the door.

24 responses »

  1. LOVE THIS! It’s so funny! I just responded to your comment on the Tall Lady blog with a similar banner to yours. I love finding other writers who share a sense of humor and are able to communicate that visually, with words, with both, whatever. I don’t have a partner or husband but man, if I’d known about this technique 15 yrs ago…. there’s just no telling. I suppose the best I can hope for now is to internalize the strategy in anticipation of partnership, share with friends, drill into my daughter. Women everywhere, rejoice! In fact, I might actually try this with my teenaged daughter, but I’ve noticed in the past that no matter how many piles of clean clothes I leave on her bed, or smears of toothpaste on the sink across which I’ve written, “if you can read this, it’s time to clean the bathroom,” her activities continue uninterrupted. 😦

    • Without even trying, you’ve just shared two non-verbal communication tips of your own. Congratulations! I love the toothpaste idea and can probably just use the leftovers my kids spit in the sink and leave to dry. I’d post a picture but it’s too disgusting. You are now officially invited to my isolation chamber. I forgot to mention that it will be filled with a limitless supply of fruity can’t-taste-the-vodka cocktails and will have the best ceiling-to-floor views of the ocean Hawaii has to offer.

  2. I enjoyed this so incredibly much. I despise cooking as well. Just this morning I broke the bad ‘meatloaf for dinner’ news to my kids over breakfast – just so I wouldn’t have to listen to their whining at the end of a long day when I am slaving in the kitchen forcing myself to do something I loathe as much as they loathe the meatloaf. I think that sign you posted should be blown up and framed or plastered on canvas. I’d buy it and hang it in my kitchen where it would serve a very profound purpose.

    And the socks! What on earth is it with the socks?! We had a winter blast here last week and my laundry got backed up like you wouldn’t believe. I sat and folded clothes for two hours yesterday – and I am pretty sure half of that time was alotted to the matching of socks. I wish my husband had a man chair I could deposit them on. And even more so, I wish the sock monster would just leave us well enough alone. I need to buy a man-chair just to store the lonely soles that are taking over the house.

    Again – I just love your writing and your humor. Thanks!

    • Let’s start an anti-cooking revolution! I’ll go first by not cooking tonight. Are you with me? If so, go to whatever park is closest to you, pitch a tent, and wait for all of the other revolutionaries to join in. I swear I’ll be there soon, I just have to pick up Taco Bell for the kids first.

      I am happy that you too, hate socks. We are now sistas for life.

      (and thank you for the kind compliments)
      =)

  3. EX CELL ENT! (see how I put CELL there in the middle, harkening your isolation chamber). Hawaii is nice. That really is disgusting about the stuff in your sink. Now I remember why I only had one kid. Oh yeah that, and the fact that the idiot I married left before she was born. Unofortunately at the time, my marital skill-set did not include non-verbal communication techniques for “don’t have an affair.” But I have since come up with a few things (VCR tapes–this was the 90s–of the Jerry Springer show cued to play whenever the tv is turned on, wearing my wedding dress for occasional nights out on the town, a “post-nup” attached to a large insurance policy, etc).

  4. This Stacey also hates to cook! I feel better knowing I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by moms who cook lavish, delicious meals while I struggle to come up with something halfway healthy my kids won’t complain about…I love my mom’s cooking & I’m a little sad knowing my boys will never utter those words about my cooking.

    Keep up the writing! Love it!

    • Thanks Stacey! I hope all is well in L’ville. It’s nice to know I’m not the only mom out there who would rather get take-out than provide nourishment for my family. I try to tell myself that I’m more available for quality time with them since I don’t like to cook, and anyway, they really love fast food.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. =)

  5. Hilarious! I’m afraid that my husband and I are both really good at ignoring non-verbal cues when housecleaning is involved. When I was sick recently, I managed to pack up all the Christmas decorations, but carrying the plastic tubs out to the garage was a bit much for me – so I left them neatly stacked right next to the kitchen island. You couldn’t miss them whether you were going to grab yourself a drink or leave the house (we use the kitchen door since it leads to the garage). Those darn tubs sat there for two weeks. I finally hauled them out into the garage myself. Perhaps I should have stacked them right in front of the door. If I’d had, my husband would have said, “Why didn’t you put them in the garage…it’s only a few more feet.

    Thus, I’ve resorted to uber verbal cues (i.e. Honey, can you get out of bed and clean up all that crap you left on the table next to the chair?) It’s important to always start with “Honey,…” because I believe that sets the tone for a sweet request. Ultimately, I can’t complain. Matt loves to iron his shirts, helps with the cooking and laundry and dishes. I kinda lucked out with this one.

    Anyway, loved the photos, the writing was fantastic. The bike was the best, but I’d end up tripping over it and breaking my neck.

    As your new bestie, I wanted to comment that the font you’re using in your posts is a little hard to read. I know we’ve got the same theme, but your font seems different. Am I imagining this? BTW, changed my heading back to white. Let me know what you think.

    • Thanks for letting me know about the font. I always squint when I read it, but I thought that was just me getting old. Will check it out AND your font change. I owe you a response to the comment thread I started on your blog but thought I’d wait til tonight when I can focus (ie kids are in bed). =)

      I dated a guy named Matt in college. I’m sure it’s not the same one, right? Were you by chance born in Atlanta? I’m thinking we may be long-lost sisters or at least cousins. I don’t have a sister so that would be super-cool plus we could star on a reality show. BTW I posted my blog (with a pic of Tom Cruise) and then saw your scientology/Tom Cruise comment ten minutes later. Freaky!

      More back on your blog….I’m so happy you made Freshly Pressed, otherwise, who would I be talking to right now?

      • That’s so funny. When I saw your Tom Cruise photo, I wasn’t sure if you’d posted it before you’d read my post or not. Did you ever read Lois Duncan when you were growing up? One of my favorite books as a tween was Stranger With My Face – which involved a teen with a long-lost identical twin sister who began communicating with her via astral projection. Of course, it turns out the sister is evil, locked in a mental ward and trying to take over the protagonist’s body, but still… What’s my point? Don’t really have one. But I did see the film version of the book the other day and it was sooooooo awful. I think it was one of those Lifetime movies. Now, if we were to communicate astrally, we could exchange bodies and you’d discover what it’s like to be tall and I’d find out what it’s like to wear killer stilettos and communicate non-verbally with some guy I don’t know. You could also be warm because I live in Florida and it’s quite balmy here right now. And I could hit that amazing bookstore you guys have in Denver. God, I love that place. If I was there now, I’d slog on a baggy sweater and sit in a corner in their cafe with a hot mug of brew and write all day long, pausing only to stretch out my legs and peruse the books.

        I’m afraid I was not born in Atlanta, but I’ve been there AND I’ve ridden the MARTA several times. BTW, RWA (Romance Writers of America) has an awesome YA division. I attended the national conference in NYC last summer and met sooooo many agents and editors. If you think you’ll have your book completed by then, you might want to consider attending. I think it’s in California this year, so it’s not horribly far away from CO. I may go again this year. I haven’t decided for sure. We’re already making one trip to CA for a conference my husband is attending, so we’ll have to see if it’s in the budget.

      • Tattered Cover….it’s the best in CO, and is actually the place where I found out about an amazing writer’s workshop http://www.lighthousewriters.org, where I started taking classes from an awesome YA writer/teacher http://www.sarahockler.com, began my novel, got tired of writing it in the aforementioned closet, started a blog, and met you. Whew! I’m tired. But since I started my blog? I’m always tired. MY MIL, who I actually adore, lives in St. Pete’s Beach (well, really Tierra Verde but nobody knows where that is) so we get down there once a year. I’m pushing for June to shop the book, so it might coincide nicely with the conference. Keep posting your awesome stuff…you’ve already written 1/2 in a week of what I’ve done in 5. So maybe I’d better shoot for the 2014 RWA conference. =p

        (p.s. didn’t ever read Stranger With My Face but I love twisty YA)
        (p.s.s. can’t remember if I told you but I like the white font better…there was something blurryish about the chocolate brown)

      • FYI – just figured out the blogroll thingie and added a link to your blog. I think I may have to go back tomorrow and add the actual names of the blogs I added, but the links are there! I’m learning…slowly. I just got a Twitter account two days ago. Slow to wit; slow to twit.

      • I’m seriously flattered and will do my best to keep up. I just showed my husband your blog and saw that you had over 21,000 hits your first week. I now also have blog hit envy. Envy is not a good thing to feel, but since we’re blog besties and all that I think I can downgrade to just being jealous. =p

        I’ll add your blog to my site right now. I just started tweeting too. I have 11 followers, which is kind of depressing. BTW, the same Stacie Chadwick who has my URL also has my twitter handle. Bummer.

  6. What? Vocal shredding doesn’t work? I didn’t notice. I am still laughing (snorting actually) about the bike blocking the door to your house. So classic. I sent this article to my AZ girlfriends I loved it so much.

  7. Stac…..
    It’s mom again…..laughing at your humor! It comes out in your verbal exchanges also and always did….except for a couple of clashes we had over time!! That might give you more “fodder” for your blogs! Remember when………..
    Love,
    Mom

  8. This is really great stuff! We share a general disdain for absorbent footwear. I will now raise a quizzical eyebrow at everything my wife does thinking she is trying to send me some diabolical non verbal cue.

    • Yes. We women can be super-tricky when we’re trying to get out of menial household tasks that make us feel completely marginalized. Keep your eyes open and don’t let your wife read my blog. OK, scratch that. Let her read my blog, but read it FIRST so you’ll be one step ahead of her sneakiness. I’m coming to check out your blog in the next day or so. You’re funny, and I generally like to orbit around wit whenever possible. =)

      • Why thank you and please come by and make yourself at home. Congrats on FP, It is a pretty fun experience. Enjoy it!

  9. Stacie,
    Is your isolation chamber like the hatch on LOST? Because I don’t want to get stuck entering numbers into a wildly outdated computer for the rest of my life. So I’ll need an iPad Thank you in advance on your anticipated cooperation.
    Bill

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