Say what you think.
Carrie and I acquired very different communication styles from our families. I grew up in a home where we said exactly what was on our minds. When something was bothering us, we confronted the problem by talking about it, at times raising our voices. But we dealt with the problem and were done with it.
When Carrie and I got married two years ago, we knew that our different temperaments would be a challenge, especially living in a one-bedroom apartment and with less time for the discussions we had while dating in college. After our baby was born one year into our marriage, we got even busier and more preoccupied.
We then discovered that our temperaments came with different tones of voice. I have three or four tones, while Carrie's family only had two: really angry or not angry. At times, Carrie interprets more in my tone of voice than what's really there.
We run into problems when we are confronted with a pressure situation; a little chaos easily throws us off course. For instance, if we're cooking and I need to get Carrie's attention quickly, I use a tone of urgency to say, "Quick, stir the pasta." On the other hand, Carrie interprets my tone as condescending.
After an exchange like that I can usually tell that I've said something wrong, because Carrie gets really quiet. When I ask her what's wrong, she tells me that my tone of voice came across differently than what my words said. Before you know it, I'm defensive, she's defensive, and the downward spiral begins.1