Andrea and Ron were enjoying their long weekend at the beach when Andrea was feeling adventurous. Despite it being dark out, Andrea said, “Let’s go swimming at the beach.” Ron responded, “That’s not a smart idea.” They didn’t talk the entire next day.
We talked about this incident in couples counseling, and Andrea took offense to Ron’s statement. She interpreted Ron’s statement—of it not being a smart idea—as calling her not smart or stupid. Ron was surprised by her conclusion since it wasn’t his intention.
We talked about Ron’s statement being a zinger—a statement that isn’t intended as criticism but can be experienced as critical. Ron acknowledged that it was a poor choice of words. In response to going swimming, he realized he could have said, “I’m not in the mood.”