By Jontae Grace
As we age, certain qualities become increasingly important, while others fall out of our purview. Once upon a memory, it was all about Retro Jordans and dry-humping cuties at homecoming dances. If you had the Spacejam Elevens and a true story to tell about Ebony (every guy has a memory with an Ebony), you were the man.
Then it became about the car you drove, and how late you could stay out at night. You didn’t have a license and had to sneak in through your bedroom window, but you were the man, rolling around on E.
After school, your success was judged on the beauty and affluence of your partner. It didn’t matter whether you two even meshed together. If she had a postsecondary degree and low mileage, you were the man.
Now, it is clear that real success in love is about how good of a TEAM you and your mate are, how well you operate as one and share the same mind. At times, the hardest thing in the world is finding a partner who speaks the same language as you. Some women claim to speak English, but only understand Dinglish; and despite being the first word they learned, many men still confuse “no” with “keep trying”. But it goes deeper than that – you need someone in your life whose words mean the same out loud as they mean in your mind. Disconnects in relationships happen because we are speaking two different languages without even knowing. And if you two don’t share the same tongue, you are going to have to develop a thorough understanding of one another, so that you are not sitting there at 2AM wondering if this nigga really did text what he just texted – and had the nerve to put an “LOL” on the end, as if that softens it.
Nowadays, it is very possible for people to send two different messages using the very same set of words. Every region, culture and environment has its own rules for men and women, with unique customs and norms shaping how we interact. But in today’s melting-pot, people are moving from one demographic to the next with unique methods of communication that may be completely foreign to you. If you fall for someone who expresses themselves differently, you can still have a successful partnership by playing close attention to their communication patterns: Interpersonal, Technological, and Nonverbal, among others.
- For interpersonal communication, look at how directly or indirectly your mate speaks to you. Some people like to suggest an idea and expect for you to draw the conclusion from there – others will walk you through their opinion from A to Z. Know where you are on the spectrum.
- Technological communication seems to be the area with the biggest disconnect these days. Are you a talker, a texter or an in-person type? Do you have a password lock on your phone, and an expectation to have a degree of privacy from your mate? Some couples aren’t even linked on social media, in order to give their mates freedom to express themselves without having to worry about causing friction. Be clear about your expectations, and respect your mates’.
- Nonverbal communication, which comprises over 90% of our communication patterns, can be understood as body language. A look, an expression, a hand-gesture all serve to convey a message without saying a word. Some women talk with their hands; some men like to stand inside your bubble when facing you. When you become fluent in your partner’s body language, you are better able to understand messages that they may be reluctant to say aloud.
From jump, identify your mate’s communication type, establish your own, and resolve any potential conflicts. You two have to set a tone that you want the course of the relationship to follow, and ensure that it is understood on all sides. The honeymoon period isn’t the time to agree to every opinion, fulfill every request, or suppress your real feelings for fear of rocking the boat. Doing so will only make your mate even more surprised when the real you emerges on the 91’st day.
As you two learn one another’s quirks and nuances, you will be better able to send clear, effective messages with minimal loss in translation. You will learn to accurately interpret body language, voice tone, inflection, and word choice. It is difficult to describe the frustration felt by one’s inability to convey their thoughts clearly, to be misunderstood and have your words received entirely different than their purpose. It’s like putting a dollar in the vending machine, choosing Sprite and receiving Diet Coke.
A healthy relationship involves two people moving in lockstep – mentally and emotionally. Communication is the vehicle through which we establish that understanding, linking two different minds along the same thread of thought. And when times get tough, it can be the crutch on which the relationship leans or collapses on – especially during conflicts.
Thus, arguments can be educational moments which can strengthen your relationship – if you listen carefully and speak wisely. This is due to the circumstance: the intensity of an emotionally-charged war of words only allows you to say what is important to you, and hear what truly concerns your mate. You have to distill your feelings into a razor-sharp message because you only have a small window in which to air it out. It’s like Twitter for warring lovers. But you have to be on the same wavelength, or you risk sending unintended messages that can ruin everything you’ve built.
Whenever you hear a recording of yourself, be it voicemail or cell phone echo, the voice you hear is slightly different than what it sounds like in your head. In my mind I sound like Morgan Freeman by day and Snoop after 5, but on my answering machine, I’m…just me. This is precisely what happens in relationships when you two aren’t on the same page mentally. You may say things one way, but if you haven’t shown your partner how you think and communicate, it’s going to come across radically different. At the end of the day, we all want to be understood by those we love, as it is one of the most satisfying feelings in a world gone crazy with misunderstanding.
Two, moving forward as one, makes you the man.