Can You Not? And Other Questions You Should Never Ask

February 27th, 2019

Relationships and communication. Communication and relationships. Although I suppose you could technically have one without the other, I don’t recommend it. 

Maybe you’re an ace at relating and speaking to the people with whom you’re in relationship. If that’s you, don’t bother reading the rest of this because you’re about to learn of my dysfunction and you could end up being ashamed for knowing me. Before you click off this page, though, might I suggest you and I set up a coaching session to explore this belief of perfection. I might be able to offer helpful insight that your friends and family will appreciate. 

Before I got married, I was comfortable with my relational capacity and felt like I was adequate at communicating with coworkers and the few friendships I chose to pursue. I dated off and on, had running buddies with whom I could chat for hours on end, and shared pretty tight working quarters with some of the greatest people in my life. I guess I was a little cocky heading into the relationship that would eventually turn into marriage.

Spoiler: the way you talk to your coworkers is not the same way to relate to your husband. 

I genuinely thought this was a lighthearted and joke-y way to bring things up and point out a more optimal way for us to cohabit. It worked with friends, or so I thought it did.

Can you not leave crumbs everywhere after breakfast?

Can you not breathe so loud?

Can you not leave your dishes in the sink?

Can you not talk to me first thing in the morning?

Clearly I’m a joy to live with.

Thank goodness I ended up with someone who is much more evolved than I am and was patient enough to let me know how this sarcastic twist on words is perceived by the recipient. Brooks helped me see that pointing out the negative side of the issues is much less helpful than asking a positive question that suggests and reinforces the requested behavior. 


Seriously, I had never thought of it that way.

When I started flipping the negative statement (which, let’s face it - it really was more of a statement than a question) to a positive question, the connotation changed completely. Brooks didn’t feel attacked by some of my ridiculous annoyances and I felt better learning to speak positively. It changed both of us and made addressing concerns so much easier. 

To be fair, I have learned a lot about myself over the years and now resist the urge to bring up most things anyway because they are often more my problem than his.

Here is my new verbiage:

Hey Sweetie, do you mind wiping down the counter after you make your toast?

***Honestly, I can’t get over the breathing thing sometimes, so I just leave it alone. Easier than something mean coming out of my mouth. haha

Will you please put your dishes in the dishwasher? 

Babe, I would love to have a little time to wake up before we start chatting.

I have a very dry sense of humor and even though I married a pretty sarcastic person, I have to be careful how I say what I’m trying to communicate. So often it’s the tone and style that communicates way more than the actual words. 

I know this lesson has helped in every other area of my life as well. Any improvement in communication bleeds over the lines into all segments of life and I’m grateful to have these daily opportunities to grow as a person. I can speak more gently and am very aware of the effect my choice of words can have on someone now, though I’m nowhere close to being perfect.

Think about who you’re talking to this week and make sure you are maximizing the impact you can have on them.

And if you ever catch me saying, “Can you not…?”, call me out immediately.