Here’s a great letter I got recently:
I have a question about a guy. I think you stated I get one free consult question?? I was introduced to a great guy who is the best friend of my best friend’s husband so there is a lot of history there that I knew about before I met him. This made dating him easy since I knew his awesome character! The only problem I see with this maybe not working out is that his speech is not the greatest. He is from a small town so he says things like, ” I done, I seen and them guys”. My question is: Can this be a deal breaker? …or does this really matter? Or…can I get him to learn a little correct english at age 40? I am not college educated and my english is not the greatest either, but I cringe whenever those words come out of his mouth. Otherwise, he is the greatest guy I have ever dated. Thanks for your imput!! Diana
Thanks for writing, Diana. Your story exemplifies the idea of getting in the way of your own fulfillment.
What matters is how he makes you feel — and how you make him feel. Nobody’s going to be 100% perfect, so if he’s the greatest guy ever except for this one thing that he says, that’s pretty good.
My friend and fellow advisor Evan Marc Katz says “don’t hit on 20”, which is a metaphor from the game of blackjack that’s highly applicable to this situation. Why try to improve something that’s already pretty good?
Here’s what i suggest: instead of trying to ‘fix’ him, focus on appreciating him for what he has to offer.
After you’ve done that, you can ask him if he’s interested in sounding even more intelligent. Only AFTER he’s given his consent can you offer some tips after you have his consent and cooperation.
This is what I call leading with love. To correct him just to relieve your own annoyance is not done out of love — it’s done out of egotism. But once you change your orientation to genuine concern about he feels about himself, then you have license to give him a grammar tip.
In my own practice, I first ask clients, “Are you open to feedback?” After they say yes, I ask, “Would you like me to sugarcoat my statements or to be ruthlessly compassionate?” Once they’ve chosen the hotness of the sauce, then I proceed.
Also, it’s a good idea to focus on getting your own house in order first. Perhaps it drives him nuts that you say ‘imput’ instead of ‘input’ and he’s been a perfect gentleman about it all along. And who knows what dozens of other blindspots we have about our own mannerisms that our friends are too gracious to point out.
So once again, lead with love and you can’t go wrong. Appreciate and reinforce the parts you like about him and worry less about the rest. If you are going to level some kind of criticism or complaint, remember that Prof John Gottman’s research showed that a 5-to-1 ratio keeps a relationship healthy — 5 nice comments for every one negative one.