In school, it was helpful to give the impression you knew a bit more than you really did. The same thing is true for adults in the workplace. After all, no one wants to draw attention by admitting they have no idea what that acronym stands for when everyone else is nodding like they get the manager’s point.
Projecting confidence in a school or at the office is a smart move, but when we carry that over to our relationships, bad things can happen. Here’s how.
One of the keys to a healthy relationship is deep understanding. The better you understand yourself and your partner, the easier it is to sidestep problems and cultivate intimacy. But you can’t grow in understanding if you aren’t willing to admit there are things you don’t know.
Take Karen as an example. Her boyfriend sees his ex-wife fairly often. He shares joint custody of his 12-year-old son. While Karen is not crazy about him seeing his ex, she knows it’s unavoidable. But from Karen’s point of view, her boyfriend goes above and beyond what the child support agreement requires by paying for some of his ex’s personal expenses. She doesn’t get that, and she doesn’t like it.
But she doesn’t say anything about it, either. Instead, she acts like it’s perfectly understandable.
And guess what? Nothing changes.
Even worse, every time her boyfriend goes over to his ex’s place, Karen feels a little less comfortable. If her relationship is going to get over this hurdle, she’s going to have to start by acknowledging what she doesn’t understand.
That’s where it starts.
We all have things in our relationships we don’t understand. Try this exercise. Sit alone in your room and jot down a word or phrase for every area of your relationship you find confusing.
You’re the only person who will ever see this list. There’s no need for ego or pride. Freely admit what you don’t know.
When you’re done with your list, look it over. Can you think of any questions that could eliminate some of the confusion? What conversations might improve your understanding? And how will it feel to cross off some of the mysteries on your list?
The beauty of this simple exercise is that it creates clarity. You’ll identify the potential obstacles before they have a chance to become an actual problem in your relationship.
Pierre Corneille said, “Danger breeds best on too much confidence.” Boy, is that true in love.
The sooner you candidly admit what you don’t know, the sooner you can go after the information you’re missing. That information will put you on a course to better understanding and a closer bond with the person you love.