My wife and I are both very communicative – in other words we talk a lot – we; mainly me. She reckons most of the time she talks I’m not listening anyway.
I loved a little anecdote I read about that on Facebook the other day which said “The best person to tell all your secrets to is your Husband – he won’t tell anyone because he wasn’t listening in the first place” – oh, how terribly so true!
But on the rare occasion we are listening and it ends in an argument is because:
- We weren’t actually listening and misunderstood.
- Our wife was breaking the cardinal rule – “You can tell me what to do, or how to do it, but not both.”
- We actually don’t listen, don’t want to listen – we just want to give advice and fix the problem.
- It’s about the kids and we are on the wrong side (e.g. whoever’s side we are on – with the kids or against them, it is the wrong side!)
- It is about in-laws (see above point 4)
- One of their girlfriends (see above point 4 and 5)
- We are sharing ideas that have two different aspects:
- It is my idea and it is the best idea in the world
- It is your idea which is dumb and cost too much
It is the last point which I think is the most important. We all have about a million ideas a day – most we don’t share as the wife is sick of the next ‘sure thing get rich quick scheme’ – so you keep most of them to yourself – we do actually do a Google search and realise most of our brilliant ideas were discovered decades ago – but we live and dream in hope.
But…. maybe one of these ideas which can be about anything could be THE ONE. How do we get to talk about it and not end up in a “You shut up, No you shut up” never-ending time loop.
The answer is having THE TANK.
My wife and I love to drive and chat – the old adage, it is not the destination but the journey is true for us and we spend kilometre after kilometre discussing our lives, our families, our work and the danger subject of our ideas (which includes comments on existing situations, people, problems or plans). The kilometres would disappear as we chatted about everything – OR – each centimetre would seem like a kilometre for endless hours after the ‘ideas discussion’ degenerated into the argument about ….. well, most times, when you look back you can’t figure out what the argument was about.
Any idea, any comment, any criticism, and accolade can go in THE TANK.
It is a place where you put them all to ferment, to rest, to age, to mingle with other ideas and you see what happens. Okay, this doesn’t sound like the epiphany moment where all things are solved but it is the place where they can be.
My wife and I will often start a conversation with “Tank, Tank what about we……”
Initially it was a lot of training through the formalities before we have gotten to the “Tank, Tank” introduction which initially started out (tentatively) through various conversations such as:
“I am going to go out and start looking a new cars this afternoon…. just putting that in The Tank?”
“I’m think so-and-so is a bloody idiot the way they spoke to me and are wrong…. Just in The Tank – what do you thing…. in The Tank.”
“Hey, in The Tank, I was thinking…..”
In addition it was underpinned by a few rules (which we started with and they splashed into The Tank):
- Thou shall not judge – judging is the hand break to ideas
- Thou shall not comment on someone else’s idea until they ask you to – negative comments stifle ideas
- Thou shall not edit – be allowed to get it all out, tidy up later
- Thou shall not execute – no detail, go big and broad first; the doing is later
- Thou shall not worry – it hasn’t happened yet – its an idea
- Thou shall not look backwards – learn from the past but don’t relive it
- Thou shall not lose focus – stay focused on the problem (or if you are splashing out – splash out big!)
- Thou shall not sap energy – don’t be the Six-Percenter
- Write it down – a quick note saves the moment
It is amazing how conversations which were started with the wrong phrase, sentence, word, look which you can feel are increasing your blood pressure by the millisecond are flicked off in both the head and heart when it is concluded with “….. I just thought I’d put that in The Tank”
Okay, it sounds silly and we have all attempted the ‘password’ or ‘key phrase’ to avert relationship disaster which, in the moment when it was most needed and uttered, has actually been the trigger to degenerate the situation beyond what the password/key phrase was supposed to prevent!
However, The Tank is about ideas, solutions, wild suggestions, imagination, fantasy and that itch that won’t go away, which a lot of the time you wouldn’t say allowed because of its absurdity – but, in The Tank they get time to rest, to grow, to mix with other ideas… of course a lot of things just drown in The Tank – but, sometimes, actually more often than you would image, that piece of gold, that synergy of ideas and thought, that win-win solution, gently (or sometimes popping like a submarine rescue buoy) rise to the surface.
I suppose it is the ‘business brainstorming model for couples’ where the end result is not free cakes, coffee and a 45 minute session of the Boss telling you what is going to happen, but about making your individual life, your relationship, not only more peaceful, but more productive and occasionally mind bogglingly creative.
Sometimes being a better man is in accepting that the questions you are asking yourself all the time, privately, in your head may find a place to live in The Tank – you just have to be prepared to dive in.