Question: My husband is a very good man and he has always taken great care of our finances. But I have some concerns. When I try to bring them up, it seems like he either ignores me or just says everything is fine. I am for sure the quiet one of us. But how do I get my point across without being disrespectful?
Answer: It sounds like for the safety and comfort of all passengers aboard, the communication between pilot and the co-pilot of this flight could use an upgrade.
In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell describes a problem Korean Air had with an excessive number of fatal crashes in the 1980s and 90s. During that period, their “loss rate” was 17 times higher than their American counterparts. By 1999, Gladwell reports that Delta Air Lines and Air France suspended their flying partnership with Korean Air over the issue.
An extensive investigation showed that at least one of the problems was the pattern of communication between the pilot, the co-pilot and their crew. Trained by their culture to display (by American standards) an excessive amount of deference to their superiors, co-pilots were reluctant to speak up when their captains were making a mistake – even a fatal one.
Gladwell described a series of communication styles used between superiors and subordinates in various cultures. From most dominating to most subordinate, there was the command (Do it), the statement of obligation (We need to do it), the suggestion (Let’s do it), the question (Should we do it?), the preference (I would like to do it) and the hint (I read a book the other day about somebody doing it).
News flash: you have a very different communication style than your husband. And I’m just guessing you hint more than you command.
Your style of communication makes perfect sense to you. In fact, it probably baffles you that your husband doesn’t understand perfectly what you mean when you say (or hint at) what you mean.
My observation is that some people are born “feather people” and other people are born “2 x 4 people.” As the name implies, it takes very little force to get through to a feather person. But they can also be highly sensitive and require a very gentle touch.
A 2×4 person is the exact opposite. Communication with them requires directness and sufficient force to get through. Like a 2×4 whack right between the eyes. But a 2×4 person is also able to withstand withering criticism and opposition, which can be downright handy in certain situations (think Winston Churchill).
It sounds like your husband is a 2 x 4 person. If so, he needs very direct communication that says exactly what you are thinking and why. Avoid being critical of him (who needs that fight?), but ask good questions, tell him what is worrying you and tell him that you are depending on him for leadership (guys love to hear that stuff). You might try writing it all out – you can just read it to him, or give it to him to read (your call).
If that doesn’t work, I suggest you engage the services of a marriage counselor. Marriage counseling may be a wonderful investment for you. The male of our species is often reluctant to engage in marital counseling. We feel it’s an unofficial admission of failure on our part. That’s not true, but we can still feel that way.
So if he gives you backtalk on going to marital counseling, highlight the next paragraph, roll up the paper, whack him (gently, gently) upside the head with the paper and tell him this is for him. If you are reading this online, don’t even think about it.
“Bubba – you’re wife is trying to learn how to support you in what you are doing for this family. Help her out. Be the man and go do this marriage counseling gig. It won’t kill you and you’ll being doing yourselves both a huge favor. When communication improves, finances can improve along with lots of other things. I know of whence I speak – I’ve been several times and each time was very, very helpful.”
Or you could share with him this helpful tidbit: what’s the difference between a marriage counselor and a divorce lawyer? A couple of zeros on the end of the bill.
Korean Air eventually turned itself around by completely revamping the way its pilots and copilots communicated. It’s back in the SkyTeam Alliance (with Delta) and has a spotless record since 1999.
Turnarounds and transformations are possible. Maybe the key for you too is communication.
Byron R. Moore, CFP® is managing director / planning group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to him at 500 East Reynolds Drive, Ruston, LA 71270 or call him at (318) 251-5800. The opinions of any single advisor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Argent Advisors, Inc.No forecasts can be guaranteed. Argent Advisors, Inc. does not offer tax, insurance or legal advice. The information contained in this column should not be construed as a substitute for personalized investment, tax, insurance or legal advice.