Dealing with Lack of Directness


A few weeks ago I made a post on how Filipinos seem to be more “people oriented” than concerned with causes or goals. They give the impression of wanting to please everyone and not disappoint anyone and, for this reason, it often happens, and I experience it pretty often, that they say one thing to one person and something quite different, or even opposite, to someone else.

If you live with both your wife and her extended family you probably see it happening all the time, especially if the extended family still has some resistance toward you, she may be trying to please both you and her family.

Another consequence of this attitude of trying to have smooth relationships with everyone is the inability to be STRAIGHTFORWARD AND TO SAY EITHER YES OR NO and, even more importantly, to be specific about WHEN something she has promised in a vague manner will happen.

For example, shortly before my first trip to the Philippines, my wife had vaguely promised me that we would visit Mindoro and other islands. Although I was repeatedly trying to get her to set a specific date and make a reservation in some hotel or resort in advance, to make sure that this plan would come true, she kept hedging and saying that we would have arranged things only once already in the Philippines. I kind of sensed that she didn’t want to make any specific arrangements because she wanted to be free to do something else in case her relatives had other plans.

Besides dealing with my wife’s lack of clarity I also have regular interactions with her Filipino friends and relatives who also deal in half-promises and half-truths.

I could actually write a book only to enumerate the million half-promises I’ve heard in 20 years.

The only healthy way to go about dealing with these idiosyncratic communication styles is taking them with a grain of salt. Getting mad and stewing over the inability or, more realistically, the lack of willingness on the part of your Filipino spouse to be precise and specific when it comes to promises can only make you sick.

Again the key is deciding the adopt the idea that people do what they know how to do based on where they are at in their level of consciousness which is the product of a deeply embedded cultural and social conditioning that hardly changes once a Filipina gets married to a Western man.

Only if you have the insight of probing past the apparent “dishonesty” toward you and look into the long-standing and deeply entrenched cultural conditioning that gets Filipinos to keep smooth interpersonal relationships come what may, you will be able to build what I call an “emotional” bridge that trumps the endless causes of frustration and irritation.

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