Over-Interpretation

This is a term I have coined recently in my house to describe what most of my immediate family does on a regular basis.  This refers to reading so much more into whatever question I am asking or statement I am making and assuming there is always a hidden message or ulterior motive behind the question or statement.  This assumption usually leads to a very defensive response from whichever family member, often times before I am even done talking or asking the question.

My husband seems to think everything I say is somehow a criticism of him, or I am trying to imply that he did something he shouldn’t have, didn’t do something he should have, did something incorrectly, or he should have been done with something already. Asking him in a pleasant tone of voice how much longer he thinks he’s going to be working on something often gets a response in a not so pleasant tone of voice such as, “I don’t know, maybe a half hour, maybe 45 minutes. Does it matter? I guess I could have stayed up late last night or gotten up early this morning and done it, but I was really tired.” Most of the time it doesn’t matter what he is doing and how long he is taking, but I just want to work around it and see if I have time to go for a walk or something.  If I take the time to explain why I am asking the question first, then I get accused of providing too much information or rambling on, so I can’t win with that one.

My kids often assume I am trying to get them to do something right then and there or make a decision about something right away, when in fact, I am often just presenting them with some options to think about for now or letting them know some things that need to be done by the end of the day.  They make other assumptions about what I am trying to say as well.  Telling my son to be sure not to read any library books before he finishes his homework might get a response such as, “What?!? I wasn’t reading my library books!”  I have to explain that I wasn’t saying he already had been reading them but was merely asking him not to, moving forward, knowing what he typically would do.

I do sometimes ask if someone has gotten something done as a nicer way of reminding them it needs to get done, but for the most part, I am not playing games and asking leading questions like my husband thinks I am.  In fact, I am a pretty straight-forward person who tells it like it is and wishes people would do the same with me, so it especially bothers me that he thinks I am speaking in code or have some hidden meaning to everything that comes out of my mouth.

I also ask questions when I am unclear about something so that I am not making inferences about what someone meant or what they are thinking, which annoys my husband as well.  He takes it to mean I am grilling him or challenging him, when I just want to be clear about something that he didn’t communicate effectively in the first place, or perhaps he contradicted himself and now I am confused.  Sometimes he even agrees with me but makes it sound like he is coming up with a new idea, which is also confusing.  I don’t like having to play guessing games and ask so many questions to figure out what someone is thinking or feeling or what they really meant.  Therefore, I am trying to be clear and complete with my words so that no one has to do that with me.

The fact that my family is very impatient and doesn’t like to listen is part of the problem as well, but I think that’s partly because they make assumptions about what I am really trying to say or ask instead of actually listening to me.  I catch myself doing this on occasion as well, but I usually apologize when I realize it.  I don’t expect that it is never going to happen, but I sure wish the over-interpreting would be kept to a minimum.

Do you ever over-interpret what people say or ask?  Or do you have experience with others doing so?  If so, please feel free to comment by clicking on “Leave A Comment” below the title of this post.

3 thoughts on “Over-Interpretation

  1. Yes…I used to have that problem as well. I find that now I don’t even ask…..I just do what I want to do…..I figure if they ask me when I get back from a nice walk what I was doing…I will give them a cryptic answer like they always give me. I am so tired of hearing “places” when I ask where they are going. I don’t really CARE where they are going….but if they don’t return in a timely manner….at least I will know where they were. I think it’s a mom’s mind to always be curious….since we are the schedule-keepers. I’m not sure that your family really “gets this”, though. Sadly….the only one in my family who has gotten this…is my daughter. She will “normally” text me to tell me when she is leaving her job late nights — to let me know. Unfortunately, like what happened last night, she will do that…and then get involved either talking with a co-worker and/or finishing up work. Last night she was about 45 minutes later than she “normally” gets home and about 30 minutes later than when she texted me and told me she was on her way home “soon”. Everything is there for interpretation. One day I would just like to go away for a weekend and NOT tell anyone — turn my phone off and see how “nervous” they get — wondering where I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how many people can’t handle just basic communication skills or see it as somehow a threat or attack or something else negative when it’s often just about common courtesy or not being a mind reader. Unfortunately, once that person is in that mode, it seems very difficult to get them to see things any differently. Your weekend away sounds like a wonderful idea!

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    • The flip side of the “over-interpretation” is taking things too literally. When I say, “Why don’t you start the grill now,” I am making a suggestion, not looking for reasons why the grill shouldn’t be started now. Between the two situations, communication in my house is rather challenging. Life is too short, and it shouldn’t be so difficult.

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