My husband and I were browsing Yahoo News recently and stumbled upon a story about a Navajo Code talker, defending the name of the Washington Redskins. Sheepishly, I asked my military history buff spouse, “Exactly what were the Code Talkers?”
My husband explained that during WWII, they were Navajo men who used their ancient language to devise a virtually uncrackable “code” to assist the Allies in communication. They played a pivotal roll in the outcome of WWII, sparing hundreds of lives.
“It wasn’t simply a code,” he told me. “It was so difficult for the Japanese to decipher because it was an actual language, not a code based on patterns, symbols or algorithms.”
A few days later, out walking the dog, where most of my inspiration strikes, it occurred to me that some of the Code Talker principles can be used to improve communication between spouses. The next time your spouse seems to be “speaking Greek” try to apply these principles to the conversation:
1. They are not speaking a crackable code. It’s no secret that men and women speak different languages. Honestly, we know men are from Mars and women are from Venus. In spite of all the wonderful books about understanding your spouse, it simply will not always be possible. Simple common sense and logic will not aid you in unraveling their mysterious words and behaviors.
2. Your spouse is speaking an actual language, therefore, it can be learned. Given unlimited time and patience, you can learn your spouse’s language. This is why wedding vows conclude with, “As long as you both shall live.” It will take you the rest of your life to master this foreign tongue.
Remember, your language is baffling to your spouse as well. When a German and French man have difficulty communicating, neither one is at fault. They simply speak different languages. Apply that same grace and understanding to your spouse when what they say seems to make no sense.
3. Consult an interpreter. It’s amazing the levity and clarity that others can bring to a heated miscommunication. A few nights ago, my husband and I sat around a fire with another couple. I was amazed by how some of the other man’s statements sounded so much like my husband’s. It lent validity to his thoughts, because surely this other man wasn’t crazy too! Also, the other wife said things that made sense of our husbands’ strange tongue, as she has developed better fluency than me.
4. This last observation is the decoding “trick.” When two people do not speak the same language, they usually default to gestures, expressions, and body language. Learn to speak to your spouse using symbols and sign language. Many signs have universal interpretation. Consider:
- A smile is the same in any language.
- A non-sexual touch is affirming.
- A hug is comforting.
- Even silence conveys a message.
- Holding hands shows affection.
- Admiration and respect can be expressed with the eyes.
It may always seem easier to talk to your girlfriends, or use non-verbal grunts and backslaps to communicate with the guys. Sometimes your wife will carry on until you’re hopelessly lost in translation. And sometimes you will be convinced that your husband’s monosyllabic answers actually are meant to confuse you.
Communication between the Code Talkers and the Allies required significant trust. It also took a lot of work. At the beginning of the war they used about 200 terms to relay their messages, but by the end of the war they employed over 600 words. Imagine how your communication with your spouse will improve over the course of a lifetime.