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Yesterday I was in a forum discussion on another thread (here), and I unfortunately was a participant in a threadjack. I apologize for my part in that; it's never my intention for that to happen, but I was intrigued by the conversation and lost sight of the fact that I was having it on someone else's thread. Another poster politely encouraged me to start a new thread...

The discussion involved whether it's ok to ask your spouse why they feel the way they do about something when negotiating a solution using the POJA. The advice I received was that you should not ask "why" because it opens up the possibility that the "why" could be perceived as a disrespectful judgment.

Later in the day, I spoke with my wife about this, and she said that although she sometimes doesn't like when I ask "why" because she sometimes doesn't know why she feels the way she does and doesn't want to have to think about it, ultimately, she likes the result of being asked "why" because she learns more about herself. I like it because I learn more about her as well.

In yesterday's forum discussion, it was mentioned that my marriage is the exception and that most couples should avoid asking "why." It got me wondering if my marriage really IS the exception, or if other marriages benefit from asking "why."

I'm curious to hear what other's experiences are --both positive and negative-- with asking why your spouse feels the way they do while negotiating a problem.

I was also curious about how Dr. Harley feels about this, and I wrote the show. He and Joyce replied on today's show, and it's apparent they are in favor of asking "why," but they caution to do it in a respectful way.

So, what are people's experiences with asking "why" during POJA? I'm especially interested in hearing about the pitfalls of asking "why" so I can learn to be a better negotiator. Thanks!

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I think a lot of it depends on where you are in your skills of negotiation and feeling of goodwill towards each other. It's a lot easier in the beginning to just accept that something bothers the other person and leave it at that.

That "why" question often just opens up a can of worms in the beginning if you get in the habit of it. It becomes confrontational.

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I think it depends how your brain is wired. I know for me that it is really important to know why although I totally see how asking 'why' is disrespectful. So I usually try to understand the why without asking direct questions.

For me 'why' gives me the clues I need on where to direct my POJA suggestions so that I come up with ideas that can work. I am intensely logical so I find it difficult to negotiate unless I have a framework of understanding.


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KL, man, it was the worst thing ever when my ex and I were in State of Conflict. These folks find Why a perfect opening to a DJ. I actually monitored my speech for "why" and used it to let me know when I needed to check for a DJ. Probably other folks misuse other words.

Spouse1: My mom is coming over
Spouse2: Why does your mom need to come over here?

Spouse1: I'm taking DD for ice cream after girl scouts
Spouse2: Why can't you just come home?

Spouse1: I'm going to be home late from work tonight
Spouse2: Why don't we ever just have dinner at a normal time like normal people?


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Originally Posted By: FightTheFight
I think a lot of it depends on where you are in your skills of negotiation and feeling of goodwill towards each other. It's a lot easier in the beginning to just accept that something bothers the other person and leave it at that.

That "why" question often just opens up a can of worms in the beginning if you get in the habit of it. It becomes confrontational.
Spot on.

Also, the why can very easily be because of a mistake of the past, which would be very damaging to start discussing.

Negotiation is a very tricky skill to learn for a couple who is in the middle of recovery. Disrespectful Judgements, in particular, are VERY hard for a newly recovering couple to spot. For those reasons, often times it its best to just stick to "it bothers me" and not get into the details, especially if the subject is emotionally charged.


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Originally Posted By: living_well
I am intensely logical so I find it difficult to negotiate unless I have a framework of understanding.

Thanks for that thought! I am logical as well, and maybe that explains why I ask so many why's at home.

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Originally Posted By: NewEveryDay
KL, man, it was the worst thing ever when my ex and I were in State of Conflict. These folks find Why a perfect opening to a DJ. I actually monitored my speech for "why" and used it to let me know when I needed to check for a DJ. Probably other folks misuse other words.

Spouse1: My mom is coming over
Spouse2: Why does your mom need to come over here?

Spouse1: I'm taking DD for ice cream after girl scouts
Spouse2: Why can't you just come home?

Spouse1: I'm going to be home late from work tonight
Spouse2: Why don't we ever just have dinner at a normal time like normal people?

Those are great examples of why "why" is a loaded word. Those "why's" are challenging.

I think the key is in part of Dr. Harley's response on the show today when he said that when you ask "why" you should do it "with a sincere desire to understand the other person's perspective."

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Originally Posted By: Prisca
Also, the why can very easily be because of a mistake of the past, which would be very damaging to start discussing.

That's a very good observation, thanks!

Originally Posted By: Prisca
Negotiation is a very tricky skill to learn for a couple who is in the middle of recovery. Disrespectful Judgements, in particular, are VERY hard for a newly recovering couple to spot. For those reasons, often times it its best to just stick to "it bothers me" and not get into the details, especially if the subject is emotionally charged.

It sounds like you've had experience with this. Have you ever been in a situation like that, wanted to ask your husband "why," but chose not to for fear of escalation? I'm trying to understand if doing that would cause any kind of resentment; wanting to know something about your spouse, but feeling nervous about asking.

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Originally Posted By: Prisca
Also, the why can very easily be because of a mistake of the past, which would be very damaging to start discussing.


This was going to be my other point. It is very hard to restrain yourself when asked why. Like for example:

Spouse 1: "The girls are all going out to the club on Saturday night and want me to come".

Spouse 2: "I would be very bothered by that"

Spouse 1: "Why does it bother you if I go out with the girls to the club at night? Do you think I'm going to hook up with somebody? It's a trust issue, right?"

I wouldn't be sucked into that answer for any amount of money.


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Originally Posted By: FightTheFight
Originally Posted By: Prisca
Also, the why can very easily be because of a mistake of the past, which would be very damaging to start discussing.


This was going to be my other point. It is very hard to restrain yourself when asked why. Like for example:

Spouse 1: "The girls are all going out to the club on Saturday night and want me to come".

Spouse 2: "I would be very bothered by that"

Spouse 1: "Why does it bother you if I go out with the girls to the club at night? Do you think I'm going to hook up with somebody? It's a trust issue, right?"

I wouldn't be sucked into that answer for any amount of money.

That is a very tricky situation, and I can see how avoiding "why" would be beneficial.

Just a thought about how to handle this, stemming from part of Dr. Harley's show today in which he said that an essential part of the statement "no" is the accompanying explanation of why. Spouse 2 could pre-empt the "why" by saying:

Spouse 2: "I would be very bothered by that because XYZ"

I don't know, that IS a tough situation.

In reading some of the posts on this thread and listening to today's show, I think Dr. Harley's advice seems to fit well with healthy marriages, and I wonder if he were given some of the scenarious above, whether he might qualify his advice and urge caution. I suspect he would but don't know for sure.

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Originally Posted By: KeepLearning

So, what are people's experiences with asking "why" during POJA? I'm especially interested in hearing about the pitfalls of asking "why" so I can learn to be a better negotiator. Thanks!


I heard your email being read and I have to tell you that asking "why" in my marriage will shut down negotiations right away with my H. Ask my H that question and the conversation is over for life. Part of the reason is because we were not good negotiators at the beginning and "why" pre-empted a railroad job that was characterized with DJs.

So I don't ask "why" because it makes my spouse get defensive and shut down. I ask him "what are your feelings about that?" If I put it that way, we can usually negotiate.

I think "why" is a little more fraught with peril in marriages that are overcoming some rocky pasts. That is why it might work for you, KL, and not work for me.


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Originally Posted By: Prisca
[

Negotiation is a very tricky skill to learn for a couple who is in the middle of recovery. Disrespectful Judgements, in particular, are VERY hard for a newly recovering couple to spot. For those reasons, often times it its best to just stick to "it bothers me" and not get into the details, especially if the subject is emotionally charged.


Previously, I DEMANDED that my husband justify himself in every position. Of course that never worked and of course he did not have to justify himself. When my husband says he doesn't want to do something, I do not challenge him. If he wants to discuss the whys he can. If not, that is fine too. It is enough for me to know he doesn't want to do that.


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Quote:

It sounds like you've had experience with this. Have you ever been in a situation like that, wanted to ask your husband "why," but chose not to for fear of escalation? I'm trying to understand if doing that would cause any kind of resentment; wanting to know something about your spouse, but feeling nervous about asking.

Yes, all the time. I like to know why, too.
But I found that the information I needed could be found by asking other, more direct questions. If Markos said: "it would bother me if you bought that dress," instead of asking things like "Why don't you want me to buy this?" (which can sound very loaded and confrontational) I learned to ask "would it bother you if I buy it next payday instead? Or, maybe if I saved for it? Our would you mind picking out a different one with me?"

I could likely ask why now, but we are in love. He KNOWS without a doubt that I have goodwill toward him. We have built that history. But when is new, and your marriage is broken and suffering from years of neglect, abuse, and possibly affairs, and you are not even sure the other guy is on your side, it's best to just avoid it. Don't start negotiation with what is going to be seen as a battle cry.


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Originally Posted By: KeepLearning
It sounds like you've had experience with this. Have you ever been in a situation like that, wanted to ask your husband "why," but chose not to for fear of escalation? I'm trying to understand if doing that would cause any kind of resentment; wanting to know something about your spouse, but feeling nervous about asking.


When I am in that situation, I do what living_well suggested:

Originally Posted By: living_well
I think it depends how your brain is wired. I know for me that it is really important to know why although I totally see how asking 'why' is disrespectful. So I usually try to understand the why without asking direct questions.


"Why?" just sounds too much like "why don't we do it my way, the obvious way?" in so many cases. Or "justify yourself." Far better to ask more detailed questions about your spouse's thinking:

"What problems do you see?"
"What do you need in this situation?"
"Would (other proposed solution) work for you?"


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Originally Posted By: Prisca
and you are not even sure the other guy is on your side


I think that's the key - when one or both spouses is still feeling injured and the love has not been built back, "why?" sounds like a challenge, even when it is asked with the purest of intentions.

And if you are very emotional, you can go back to feeling that way again in a heartbeat if a question is asked the way it would have been in the days before you learned to negotiate and care for each other.

I need all the same information you do, KeepLearning - I just get it without asking "why?" And once you know how to get that information without it, you tend to just stick to that habit.


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I've learned to avoid statements like "why did you..." And "why didn't you...". They come across as disrespectful.

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Originally Posted By: MelodyLane

I heard your email being read and I have to tell you that asking "why" in my marriage will shut down negotiations right away with my H. Ask my H that question and the conversation is over for life. Part of the reason is because we were not good negotiators at the beginning and "why" pre-empted a railroad job that was characterized with DJs.


Even if you have a great marriage, 'why' can be difficult for a very emotional person because he or she may not know why.


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Originally Posted By: NewEveryDay
Spouse1: My mom is coming over
Spouse2: Why does your mom need to come over here?

Spouse1: I'm taking DD for ice cream after girl scouts
Spouse2: Why can't you just come home?

Spouse1: I'm going to be home late from work tonight
Spouse2: Why don't we ever just have dinner at a normal time like normal people?

It's not the word "why" that was the problem, if that was how one of you made decisions. It's the first three statements that are unwise in these examples, far more so that the responses. The first statements are all expressed as independent decisions that do not even acknowledge the existence of a spouse. All these independent decisions have an impact on the other spouse, so why is he being told that "this will happen"?

It is NEVER acceptable to impose a visitor on a spouse, and from sound of it, you should know that he is not keen on your mother coming over whenever she likes, so why are you doing this? Ice cream costs money, the trip takes time and your daughter has already had a treat with the girl scouts, and as for telling a spouse you'll be late home - like it or lump it - that's terrible for a marriage!

1. Would it be okay if my mother comes over?

2. How would you feel about my taking our daughter for ice-cream after girl scouts?

3. I'm getting behind with work. How would you feel if if worked late tonight, or perhaps if I brought work home and caught up with it after dinner? I could finish on time tomorrow and we could go out for dinner if you like, or maybe you could meet me for lunch today. Meanwhile we could discuss my looking for another job that is compatible with our marriage.


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Originally Posted By: living_well
Originally Posted By: MelodyLane

I heard your email being read and I have to tell you that asking "why" in my marriage will shut down negotiations right away with my H. Ask my H that question and the conversation is over for life. Part of the reason is because we were not good negotiators at the beginning and "why" pre-empted a railroad job that was characterized with DJs.


Even if you have a great marriage, 'why' can be difficult for a very emotional person because he or she may not know why.


I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. My H has very emotional reactions and that is something we have to work around.


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I finally got to listen to Dr. Harley's response. I find it interesting that the "why" he is taking about is in response to a "no" when a request had been made. What we were dealing with on the other thread, however, was a"why" in response to "it bothers me." It should be noted that Dr. Harley has said that you do not need to give a reason why something bothers you. It is simply enough that it does.


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