Communication is beautiful when we are expressing ourselves, being understood, comforting someone, and being comforted. We all know that it takes more than one person to communicate, but I have observed that instead of really listening to the person who is speaking to us, sometimes we can be solely focused on being heard. This can cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and mistrust.
While it is important that we have great relationships and get the things we want, need, and desire out of our relationships, more often than not, we speak the “language of hint” which can cause us to miss out on what is important to us. In order to come to a complete understanding of what the other person is saying, we first need to understand the language of hint so that we can avoid it and be clear and effective in our communications.
Breaking Down the Language of Hint
In an effort to understand ourselves, our motives, and our actions better, here are a few of the possible reasons why we speak the language of hint:
- We want to be surprised because the surprise makes us feel good.
- Our own self esteem may come into play and we are unsure if we deserve what we are asking for, so we hint.
- We may not want to feel reliant on what we are asking for, but if we hint, we can pretend it doesn’t matter whether we receive it or not.
- We have an issue with being able to receive, or don’t want to feel indebted, so receiving a gift is easier than asking for a gift.
The language of hint is both ineffectual and unhealthy. It is ineffectual because it is not clear and generally does not get us to our end goal. It is unhealthy because we can easily become upset when the person that we have hinted our wants to doesn’t provide exactly what we wanted.
Another reason that the language of hint is not effective or healthy is because we put all of the ownership of what we want onto the person we are speaking to with heavy expectation of a desired result. Sadly, upset feelings occur when the result does not materialize. Then we blame the person we are speaking to for not understanding us.
Next, negative thoughts such as “they weren’t listening,” “they don’t love me,” and, “I’m not important” begin to stir within us.
It becomes the other person’s fault for not understanding our hint instead of us taking ownership for our communication because we didn’t convey what we wanted clearly and concisely. The truth of the matter is that because it is our want, need, or desire, we should take ownership and admit that we did not communicate effectively or give the other person the opportunity to understand what we wanted. Instead, we selfishly use the language of hint by putting the ownership of the failed expectation on them and insist that they should have been able to understand our hints.
Despite the fact that most people use it, the language of hint is not a method of communication that most people understand. Yes, we want people to know us deeply, intimately, and happily. But if we don’t speak clearly, we are not giving others the opportunity to know us with any level of depth, and our relationships can suffer.
Joanne’s Communication Gap
Here’s an example of what I mean. A few years ago, Joanne came to me and told me she was afraid that her relationship was going to end because she was having a lot of issues with her partner. She explained how she felt that her partner never really gave her anything she wanted, whereas she always put a huge effort into what she gave to him. I asked her to give me an example and she said, “I love to have fresh flowers in my bedroom. I purchase them for myself as often as I can but he doesn’t ever buy me flowers.”
I asked her if she ever told her partner that she would like for him to get her flowers for her bedroom. She replied with frustration, “Yes, lots of times.” I asked her to speak to me as though she were speaking to her partner. She looked at me curiously, paused for a moment, and then said, “Fresh flowers are beautiful and I really love having them in my bedroom” and that was the extent of her conversation with him.
I had a lengthy discussion with Joanne about how she was speaking the language of hint because she wasn’t directly stating that she would like for him to buy her the flowers. Her eyes opened wide with confusion and she replied, “I can’t ask him to buy me flowers.” I asked, “Why not? You like them and it’s something that makes you happy, so why wouldn’t you ask him directly? You don’t have to be rude or demanding. You could possibly say it like, ‘You know honey, I really like to have flowers in my bedroom because I like to wake up to beautiful flowers. I like seeing them when I walk into the room, and I enjoy the aromatic fragrance they give off; and if at some point you would like to surprise me with something, flowers for the bedroom would be a great gift. I would really appreciate that.’”
I explained to her that clear, effective communication with love and tenderness should be practiced to help create a beautiful relationship. I further explained that if she really wanted fresh flowers but only said, “I really love flowers in my bedroom” and left it at that, then she was hinting to her partner and therefore holding unrealistic expectations that because she simply mentioned it, he would realize what she is asking for and provide them. She looked at me, shook her head in understanding and said she would try communicating in a clearer way.
A month later, Joanne came back and sat down more relaxed. She told me that she had spoken to her partner very specifically and with love about what she wanted. When she arrived home two weeks later on their anniversary, there was a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers. Joanne was so happy and expressed her happiness in many ways. Afterwards he said to her, “Wow, I wish I knew this made you this happy. I would have done it a long time ago.” I told her I was delighted for the both of them and encouraged her to continue to use the tools of effective communication. Joanne stopped speaking the language of hint and started practicing effective communication and she and her beau are still together and at a great place with each other today.
The Power of Effective Communication
When we communicate effectively, the ownership of the conversation and its outcome becomes mutual because we are communicating in a way where both sides are speaking, listening, asking questions, and understanding. At the end of a conversation that has been effectively communicated, there is a mutual understanding or agreement, and the chance of hurt feelings is lessened.
We are an intelligent society and as such, it’s important for us to communicate effectively because we all share in the benefits. We should be able to succinctly convey our wants, needs, and desires to the person we are speaking to and have them completely understand us.
In speaking about effective communication, don’t get me wrong, when a gift is given, it can be a beautiful, happy moment for both parties. But if it doesn’t happen because you have only hinted at what you wanted and not clearly stated it, then you need to rethink your lines of communication.
When you hold onto an unfulfilled expectation and the blame that goes with it, bitterness sinks in. Then, when an argument about another topic occurs, you might bring up the fact that you said you liked flowers in your bedroom but never received them, and then that becomes another thing that your partner has failed at. We all know that when we are faced with multiple unresolved failures it can feel like a bottomless pit and the relationship suffers.
It’s important to take ownership for not fully communicating so that you do not place all of the ownership on the other person for not understanding your hints. This only gives the person you are in a relationship with the understanding that they don’t think the way you want them to.
We all have different upbringings and learning styles, which means we all process incoming information differently. Referencing the above story, there is the possibility that he simply doesn’t like flowers and therefore doesn’t think to purchase them. Maybe his thoughts were that flowers are your thing and not his, and for him it is okay that flowers are your thing but he isn’t going to put effort towards it. Remember that everyone’s thought process belongs to them and that when you are in a relationship, it is your responsibility to continually get to know the other person.
The language of hint does not work within happy, clear communication. If you are unable to tell your partner, friend, co-worker, or family member what it is that you want, then you may need to look within yourself and figure out what is stopping you from saying what you want. Work on your method of communication so you can always have amazing conversations expressing your wants, needs, desires, and expectations. Work toward mutual respect, love, compassion, understanding, honesty, and mutual effective communication.
With regards to material gifts; it can be very special and wonderful, but the only time it should be expected is when it has been fully communicated, understood, and agreed upon. If someone asks you to “give them a hint” of something you would like, clearly tell them what you would like because they have asked you to. Their expectation is for you to tell them. You also may want to ask them what “giving them a hint” means to them.
It is wonderful when someone has thought so much of us that they take the time to add beauty to our day and surprise us with a gift of thoughtfulness or love. But we shouldn’t expect it, so communicate the things you want clearly with love and tenderness.
When you learn to communicate effectively and convey exactly what you would like, your life’s fulfillment can be just around the corner, happily waiting for you with open arms.
Written by Monica Ortiz Founder & CEO of The Exceptional Life Institute for publication at Wellness.com