Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Talk to a Guy

photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Women baffled by their unsuccessful efforts at communication with the men they love can adopt some simple but effective techniques. If a woman can approach her man on his wavelength, she will overcome her frustration and get her points across. Here's how to communicate with men so that they will listen.

Say the Punchline First When Talking to a Man

Often men complain that women "beat around the bush" as women generally tell the details first, leading up to the punchline. Men don't usually communicate this way. Marian K. Woodall, in her book How to Talk So Men Will Listen, states that "men want to know the bottom line first" and then, if necessary, learn the details. This may seem too condensed or even backwards to most women, but females will find conversations with men more effective if they get to the point early.

For example, a woman should say, "I spent $100 today," rather than beginning with a description of her foray into a shopping mall, what she observed, what finally caught her eye, the debate she engaged in with herself about the pros and cons of purchasing it and finally, the decision to buy. The man is mainly interested in a one sentence summary or conclusion (she bought something), not all the details unless he specifically asks for them.

How to Talk to Men About Feelings

Men generally proceed to fix things that are broken, like cars and leaky pipes. When a woman is crying or otherwise emotional over a problem, the man's natural tendency is to "fix" her. Often the woman simply wants to be heard and have her feelings validated. She may assume the man understands this, resulting in frustration when he tells her what to do to solve her issue. He is neglecting to validate her feelings or worse, may walk away or shut down because he senses he is unable to do the job.

According to relationship expert John Gray, the solution is to preempt this male predilection by starting the dialogue with, "I don't want you to fix this, I just need for you to listen." This gives the man a direction or path to follow, and she may be surprised to see him relax with relief that he is not required to do any repairing. She then can be listened to as she vents her feelings.

Another technique is to ask a man, "Would you?" or "Will you?" instead of "Can you?" The difference is subtle and lost on most women, but "can" implies ability or competence, while "would" or "will" imply a decision. "Can you help me?" questions the man's abilities or qualifications to achieve the task, whereas "Would you help me?" respects his right to choose to help or not. Generally, men like to have a sense of control over themselves, so the simple adjustment in the wording of a request can elicit a more receptive male response.

When Talking to a Man, Protect his Ego

A woman should be sensitive to a man's self-esteem by avoiding demeaning words that tear it down. On the flip side, she can build his confidence with a belief in his capabilities and good qualities, when she sincerely believes in him. Oftentimes when a man feels affirmed, respected and admired, he will rise to fill the shoes offered him. The old cliche about the fragile male ego is actually quite true. Men respond to admiration.

When bringing a problem to a man's attention, a woman can disarm his defenses by saying, "When you do such and such, I feel angry, disappointed or whatever." That way the woman is putting the emphasis on her reaction to what he is doing, so that he can see how his behavior affects her. If he cares, he will correct himself to avoid the undesired response.

How to Save a Marriage by Fighting Fair

In a verbal fight, when one side throws out, "You always ..." or "You never ...", the tactic usually fails to help in prevailing over the other person because the problem has just escalated from the current one to a broader level. If a woman feels justified and compelled to bring a chronic flaw to her man's attention, she should avoid the superlatives "always" and "never."

Instead, she should use the words "seldom" or "often." "You seldom call me" is better than "You never call me." This wording will keep the man's attention focused on the problem at hand and not sidetrack him to begin defending himself with supporting facts, like specific days he did call. If he can come up with even one example that refutes a superlative, he has won the entire argument, and the woman will be left feeling frustrated and invalidated. Avoid words that indicate a 100% level, and communication with a man, or anyone else, will stay on track.

If a woman talks to a guy with respect and consideration for his feelings and his time, she will build trust and most likely enjoy a healthy discussion on any subject.

Gray, John. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992.

Woodall, Marian K. How to Talk So Men Will Listen. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press, 2001.

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