1. If you see that he’s getting upset or angry…back off.
If you and your husband or boyfriend have gotten into a tense argument and you see that he’s beginning to get really, really angry…back off. This is especially the case if you know your man has a temper problem and doesn’t handle his anger very well. Instead of pushing the issue, give him some time to cool down and come back to his senses. When a man externalizes his anger, the emotions are made manifest through action. This action is expressed when he yells at something, breaks something, hits something, or slams something. When a man’s emotions have been compromised (especially his patience), all reason goes out of the window. Don’t be the kind of woman that gets a kick out of arousing her man’s anger. Just because you know how to “push his buttons” doesn’t mean that you should. No man wants to say or do something to harm the woman he loves because of his anger.
2. Don’t play the blame game.
As I’ve touched already on an earlier point, we tend to either blame others or ourselves when we have disagreements or experience unhappiness in our relationship. It’s extremely important that you don’t get into the habit of playing the blame game with your boyfriend or husband, because doing so will only lead to self-pitying or resentment of and from the other person. Most men are fully aware of their responsibilities in society and to their significant others. They take it pretty hard when their relationship fails or when their wives or girlfriends are unhappy. Blaming him for all of your problems won’t solve them, doing so will only exacerbate them instead. Blaming yourself helps to perpetuate a victim mentality and cripples your ability to enact positive changes. So what’s the lesson here? Simple, take responsibility for your own happiness in a relationship and refuse to pass the buck onto your husband or boyfriend. He’s not there to “fill in your missing pieces”, he’s there to complement you, not complete you. And like I said, don’t be so hard on yourself. People who judge themselves too harshly tend to do the same to their loved ones. Remember that.
3. Keep your reproofs succinct.
If you must speak your mind about something, he does that really annoys you, insults you, or crosses a personal boundary, be quick and concise. Don’t give him a lecture and don’t talk to him like a child. Mind your tone and be concise with him. For example, if your boyfriend’s a jokester type and he makes up a fun nickname for you that reminds you of some girl who stole your first boyfriend, tell him that you don’t like the name and you’d be happier if he called you something else. “Baby, I really don’t like that name. It reminds me of a girl I never liked in high school. I’d be much happier if you called me something else, thanks.” This is a much better response than, “I HATE being called that. DO NOT…EVER… CALL ME THAT AGAIN! It’s a stupid name and you’re an idiot if you think I’ll answer to that. What would possess you to call me that?” Yes, I dramatized that example for effect, but believe it or not, there are women who would respond this way. Don’t let that be you. While a reasonable man prefers a woman who’s honest with what she accepts and doesn’t accept, it’s even more preferable when she can communicate her dislikes in a tasteful and brief manner. Try not to get emotional and belabor your dislike of something he said or did, especially if it’s a first offence.
4. Avoid “you” statements.
Any sort of criticism that starts off with a “you” statement is usually followed by a comment that may be perceived as an attack. Starting things off with “you” will incite a man’s defensiveness as opposed to his empathy. If you want his empathy, take responsibility for how you feel. For example, instead of saying ‘You never take me out anywhere anymore’ you should try, “I don’t feel important to you anymore because we don’t go out like we used to.” Instead of “You always ignore me when we’re out with friends” you could say, “I feel like you’re ignoring me whenever we hang out with our friends.” And instead of saying, “You don’t understand me” you could try, “I don’t feel like you understand me sometimes.” In every example you’re saying the exact same thing. The difference is that one statement will cause a man to become defensive and shut down, the other will help him to empathize with how you’re feeling so that he can get to the heart of the matter. If you want a man to respond favorably to how you feel, you MUST get to his heart. If he throws up defenses, he’ll never really understand what you’re saying. He may hear you, but it won’t stir up his compassion; and without compassion his desire to change his behavior will be limited.
5. When you feel out of control – create space.
When he says or does something that causes you to lose control emotionally, create some distance. Sometimes you’re just going to have to create some space for you to think and grab hold of your emotions so that you don’t say or do something you might regret later on. It’s as simple as telling him how you feel, walking away, and counting in your head to a high number until you calm down. For example, if he does something particularly enraging you can respectfully say, “Honey, please. Right now you’re making me very upset and I need some time to myself.” If he’s reasonable, he should be fine with this and then you can walk away and do something to bring your emotions back down to equilibrium.
6. Don’t exaggerate or over-generalize your argument.
Do you know those people who exaggerate and even over-generalize their point when they’re having a dispute with someone? Don’t be one of those people. Yes, I understand that telling your husband that he “always” ignores you is a strategy to get his attention and explain how you feel, but there’s a good chance he’s taking that literally. Some men take things literally when you’re upset or over emotional. Why? Well, most of us have been trained to do so from birth. When our mothers got upset at us we knew things just got serious. We’d pay attention and take her seriously, exaggerations and all. Let’s translate that to our adult lives and how we might relate with a woman. If she’s upset, things just got serious. So, we take you quite seriously. And when you say something like, “You never take me into consideration” or “I’m always the one who…”, we take you at your word and believe that’s exactly what you think.
The problem with exaggerations and over-generalizations is that they are unfair, unless they’re absolutely true. When a man hears something like this, he thinks to himself, “So…I guess she doesn’t care about the time I did __________.” When you exaggerate or over-generalize something he does or doesn’t do, you’re telling him, in essence, that you don’t really notice or appreciate what he does right. In all honesty though, the more time a man spends in a relationship with a woman he’ll eventually (hopefully) realize that this is just her way of communicating something that she desperately needs more of. A smart and reasonable man won’t hold it against you, and he will learn to read between the lines. Of course, that’s not an excuse to be abusive with it. Many of the communication techniques in this book can be used as better substitutes for getting your point across without always resorting to dramatic tactics.
7. There’s a right time and a wrong time for sarcasm.
Once again, if you want to be heard and arrive at a win-win solution during an argument with your beloved, avoid any form of communication that comes across as disrespect. This means that you must avoid all forms of sarcasm. Granted, this should be common sense to anyone trying to resolve conflict; but during those times when our emotions are out of control, we tend to use our words to mock the other person by insulting their intelligence.
While sarcasm can be a fun and harmless way of communicating when you want to playfully tease your boyfriend or husband, like everything else there is a time and place for it. The problem with sarcasm is that using it at the wrong time with your man could be disastrous. For instance, telling your man, “Once again, the genius gets it” in a playful manner during a laid-back conversation in which he takes forever to remember something is quite different from saying the exact same words in a more snide way during a quarrel. As another example, if he wants to make amends and says to you, “Honey, I’m sorry…” and you reply with, “It’s about time you realized what you are”, you’re obviously not interested in hearing him apologize to you ever again.
During an argument few things are more irritating than having to endure a woman’s biting sarcasm. Most men simply aren’t quick (or stupid) enough to even attempt to hash it out with you in this way. So, if you didn’t know before, I’ll lay it out simple and plain for you…sarcastic remarks will make it exceedingly difficult for a man to hear what you’re saying and cooperate. If you want to be nasty and show him just how clever you are, go right ahead and sarcasm away. On the other hand, if you want him to listen to you and be more open to your point of view, avoid it altogether. Remember, when it comes to sarcasm there’s always a right time and a wrong time for it.
8. Don’t use his words against him just to “win.”
A classic technique used by political candidates when debating is to use their opponent’s words against them. Trapping your opponent in his or her own creation is a masterful tactic for winning an argument or discussion, but things work a bit differently if you want a healthy relationship. If all you’re trying to accomplish is to get your point across and win the argument, you both lose. This is especially the case if you’re a better communicator than he is.
If you are naturally quick on your feet when speaking, you might be tempted to outwit him and twist his words or use them out of context just so you can get the upper hand. After you twist his words and tangle him in your web of confusion, the whole affair will become distasteful to him, and he’ll be quite reluctant to speak his mind in the future. The whole idea is to allow him to save face and make mistakes as you smooth out the bumps in your communication. As long as he’s not outright lying to you about something, there’s no reason to twist his words and use them as weapons in your verbal arsenal.
9. Don’t use negative, emotionally charged language like “I hate” or “This isn’t working.”
Similar to a later point I make about controlling your internal self-talk, it is very important that you take into account the very words that leave your lips. Don’t broadcast to a man that communicating with him causes you pain. The last thing your husband or boyfriend wants in the back of his mind is the thought of him being a major source of stress and unhappiness. Using emotionally charged language that focuses on the negative tends to reinforce not only your personal beliefs about a situation, but the personal beliefs of your beloved as well.
Instead of losing it and crying out in anguish something like, “I HATE it when you say things like that”, try saying something like, “I feel very hurt and misunderstood when you say things like that” or even, “Saying things like that makes it difficult for me to communicate with you.” Spoken in the right tone, using one of the latter phrases makes it easier for him to understand how you feel without him internalizing your anguish as “his fault.” Being vocal about your negative feelings more often than not is akin to always playing the victim. Catch yourself in the act of playing the victim role and decide that you are not going to say anything that communicates hopelessness or disaster. Optimism and patience are a powerful combination for getting through to those we’re trying to communicate with. Exercise both of them whenever you feel the need to exaggerate negative emotions.
10. Don’t get defensive when you’re on the receiving end.
When the searchlight gets turned on you and the man you love begins to criticize or question your behavior, don’t become defensive and belligerent. It’s a fascinating thing to watch human nature sometimes. Observe human nature for your own and you’ll arrive at some very interesting conclusions. For example, have you ever realized that people who dish out the most negative criticism usually have difficulty accepting it themselves? Overly critical people tend to struggle with some serious inner issues that cause them to project their self-dissatisfaction onto others. So when the attention is really focused on them, they become unreasonably defensive.
I remember watching an episode of Hell’s Kitchen hosted by British chef, Gordon Ramsay. The episode focused around a restaurant owned by a married couple and let me tell you…it was spectacular! Chef Ramsay (in his usual in-your-face style) asked the owners some difficult, probing questions in order to do what he does best…critique the chaos to destroy and rebuild a better eatery. The owners couldn’t handle it…at all. Unfortunately, the wife could not handle criticism to any degree. Her husband definitely seemed to have some serious problems accepting criticism from both Ramsay and customers as well, but his outbursts paled in comparison to that of his hysterical wife. Now, I’m not here to judge because I have no idea what these people went through to make their dreams a reality, but I will use this unfortunate event to make a simple point: Don’t become hostile when others criticize you.
Learn to accept constructive criticism with grace and dignity. Don’t lash out every time your husband or boyfriend is displeased with something you said or did, especially if he approaches you in a loving manner. Be the kind of woman that takes criticism in stride. The kind of woman who knows when to take it into account or when to shrug it off as “his problem, not mine.”