All week he has worked on other projects, most of them have nothing to do with you. He is gone every day and most of the evening helping his new pals or getting stuff ready for an upcoming event. His chores at home remain undone. Is it about time to start getting a little irritated?
The garage, which is a shared space between the two of you, has become a dumping ground. Stuff is laid down anywhere, piled into haphazard heaps, all over the floor, stacked in corners and forgotten about. The floor has become an obstacle course. Sorting through your own projects in the garage has come to a standstill, because to have an uncluttered thought and to attempt to organize anything among the chaos he has left behind is nearly impossible without first cleaning up the mess the garage has become.
And you refuse to do that.
Enough is enough.
You make a list.
The list isn’t long, but it is asking for the respect the garage deserves. You’re not trying to pretend that you’re always the person cleaning up this shared space. Nope. That would be silly because you know he’s cleaned up the garage before. It’s just been a long time since then. You are, however, always the one that finally points out how cluttered and nasty certain areas have become from neglect.
The list actually provides you with the illusion that perhaps your partner will be interested in helping you clean up.
Making the list is cathartic. You can see all of your frustrations written out. You have numbered them and put some care in how it’s worded because it is never your intention to be hurtful or bossy. In fact, in number five on the list, you offer to help. The list is your way of organizing your own thoughts and for making a game plan on how to tackle a project that is way overdue.
The list can also give you a false sense of participation. Making the list is so totally soothing that you are now entering the zone and in your mind, everyone else has entered the zone with you.
Except they haven’t.
No, no…it’s still just you, the list, and the dirty garage.
So the new problem becomes how to make the list mean something to someone that never pays attention to, respects or even follows lists. That’s right! You know who you are! Lists are for babies! You don’t need no stinkin’ list!! Screw the list! I did it my way!
And that’s why this isn’t your first list. You have watched lists lay untouched for months before finally doing the tasks yourself, or throwing the list away and starting a new one. So you offer to read the list to him, so both of you can discuss what can be done first and when. You’re smiling, or at least you’re trying to smile because sitting across from you is the list hater and the person that wants to hear anything, but let’s clean the garage together and use a list to do it.
He sits across from you.
You start to read number one.
He picks up his laptop and begins tapping on the keyboard.
You stop reading.
“What?” he asks innocently as he glances at you over the top of his screen. “I’d like to have your full attention. This is important to me.” you say.
He puts the laptop down.
You start reading from the list again.
He picks up his phone and begins tapping on the screen.
You stop reading.
“What?!” he asks with a frown. “You’re on your phone now. I want your attention!” Your reply has escalated.
He puts down the phone. “My friend was asking if I needed help on the other project. I was just answering him.” You look up in alarm. “Are you kidding me? You’ve worked on that project all week. You promised you’d help me with this today!” Your voice is raised in frustration.
Deciding to let this go, you start reading from the list again and again he picks up his phone and starts tapping on the screen. This time you’re pissed and you stop reading. “What?!” he gruffs. “Just read!! Read the list!! Read it!”
The list reading isn’t going so well anymore, if it ever had a chance to go well at all.
What should you do?
Should you keep reading the list?
Throw the stupid list at him?
Let’s be very clear about something. If this situation was already agreed upon and the other participant is the one being stubborn about helping, while you’re doing your part, then this guy needs to be reminded of the agenda. In this scenario, the agenda was cleaning the garage and it was something he agreed to do on that day. If this isn’t something he’s willing to do anymore, then agree to do it another day. Reasonable people will work with you. But yelling and getting angry isn’t the way to get out of doing the task.
Picking up any other kind of distraction isn’t so much about needing to respond to someone else or look at something important while you’re speaking to them. What they’re telling you is that whatever it is that you want from them is not as important to them as it seems to be to you. They’re letting you know that if it’s at all possible, they are not going to complete the list of “stuff” you’ve made for them to do.
When that doesn’t work out, they might pick a fight.
By the time you reach the place where you’re both supposed to be acting like the adults, giving logical reasoning and calm replies, yelling back and calling each other a jerk seems so much easier to do. But let’s at least give it the old college try and remain calm while we remind them that we are all adults here and mutual respect is deserved.
If this is someone you are used to dealing with, then don’t go into this discussion unprepared. You already know what to expect, so if you get goaded into a full blown fight, then that’s on you. Don’t beat up on yourself too hard though. And try your mightiest not to mentally beat on them either. Even I realize this is the easiest way to deal with some situations and I’m the one giving the advice here! Knowing what you’re going to say in order to accomplish the task at hand is what is most important and doing this without confrontation and aggravation is even better.
Before you sit down to discuss details, ask that all devices and distractions be removed from reach.
Ask for their undivided attention and helpful participation before you start reading from a list you already know they aren’t going to like.
You don’t have to tell them they aren’t going to like it, but the fact that you know this before you get started, means you can do whatever you can to soften the blows.
Lower your own expectations for their reaction.
I have found the best expectation to have is to expect nothing, or even to expect the worst. That way if you get a semi-interested reaction, it feels amazing! If you practice this often enough, soon it will be easier to have these discussions and more will get completed on the list than before.
You might also consider not making a list at all. My husband doesn’t mind a list, but he works just as efficiently without one too. Our garage is pristine, by the way. 🙂
Good luck out there with your Honey-do lists! This is Madeline Laughs and I go through the same things in life that all of you are going through. I’ll be here working on those tried and true solutions so we can all have a more peaceful and loving existence! Hugs to you guys!!