Watch out, water! A Personal Communication Lesson.

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Watch out, Water!  A personal Communication Lesson.


This is a personal example of a communication problem from my own life.


It’s an example of how to get communication right and how to communicate in the wrong way.


My wife and I love to walk on the beaches of Central California and look for treasures, beach glass, shells and whatever the ocean washes ashore. It is a leisure time for us to be together and just be.


We both cherish our time at the water’s edge and that is where I learned to really communicate with my wife.


My wife is a beach person who was raised by the ocean, me I’m learning to like the ocean as much as her. So I am very wary of waves and the chances of getting wet and possibly getting knocked down and swept out to sea. Getting swept out to sea is probably a long shot but hey you never know. So I keep an eye on the waves. My wife not so much. She gets very absorbed in the search for treasures from the sea. She has this tendency to look down at the sand and just get lost in the sounds and the pleasures of the beach stroll.


Please understand this running back and forth from the waves and tides is part of what walking on the beach is all about. We have beach shoes and if they get wet it’s no big deal. But if you can stay dry it’s all the better soggy socks and shoes can be uncomfortable.


So one day a rather large wave comes crashing in to the shore and I yell “Watch out” to my wife to warn her. So she does just what I tell her and looks up and around and bang the wave hits her and nearly knocks her down and gets her shoes and pants wet. It’s no big deal really it’s warm and she will dry off, hey we are at the beach. But then it happens again. A wave rolls in and I yell” Watch out”. My wife looks up and around to see what to watch out for and bam the wave hits her and she gets wet again.


This time my wife stops me and exasperated says, “Don’t tell me to watch out, tell me that there is water coming”.


It is that simple I said watch out and she turned to see what I was talking about not about what I really wanted her to be aware of, there is a wave coming.


Since that day I learned to I say “Water” and my wife knows exactly what I am talking about. She moves away from the oncoming wave and doesn’t get wet.


It was a simple solution to a communication problem that many couples have. We have this tendency to say one thing and really mean something else. We don’t measure our words and think of the impact they might or might not have on our spouse.


Here are a couple lessons from my personal file on communicating with my spouse.


  1. Be precise.


Saying “watch out” could mean just about anything. Water means water.




  1.  Understand your spouse’s communication style.


Be an expert at knowing your partner and how they understand things. We all talk and speak and act in certain ways. Be the expert at communicating with your spouse. Ask if they understand what you have said. If they don’t understand give it another try and use their language. Don’t yell louder or say the wrong thing a second time.




  1. Have you spouse’s back.


Look out for them. Check in on them. Be there so they don’t get swept out to sea. My wife can be at ease at the ocean’s shore because she knows that I am there for her. Just make sure you use the right language to communicate your concern for her.




Frank Walker


Marriage and Family Therapist intern # 29002