1. Don’t try to control the conversation.
If you’ve never met a conversation controller, consider yourself lucky. Men and women who dominate the conversation THINK they’re fascinating, witty, or better communicators, but in reality, they really aren’t. No one wants to be dominated in a conversation, especially if you’re trying to communicate with your spouse or significant other. Now, I will admit that some men just don’t talk enough and so women feel the need to fill the dead space with an endless supply of words and verbal strongholds. Don’t do this. Trust me, there are better techniques for getting a man to talk. They may take more time and patience (see that word again) but they’re much more effective over the long-term. Some men are chatterboxes around their friends and even other women, but when they communicate with their wives or girlfriends they tend to clam right up. Sometimes the problem isn’t the guy. If the poor guy can never get a word in, he’s going to eventually stop trying altogether. You can lead a conversation, but that doesn’t mean you have to dominate it.
2. Watch his facial expressions and recalibrate.
I’m going to give you some advice that should dynamically change the way you communicate with a man. Ready? Here it is: Pay careful attention to his body language, specifically his facial expressions. One thing that my wife has learned about me is my facial expressions and how to use it to navigate a conversation (to get her way of course). When we first started out together, being her passionate self, she wouldn’t pay close attention to how what she was saying was affecting me. If she hit on a sensitive issue for me by mistake she wouldn’t notice it because she’d be too caught up in her own emotions, trying to say what’s on her mind no matter what. As she began to figure out what makes me tick (and what turned me off), she’d know if she touched on a sensitive issue just by watching my body language, specifically my facial expressions. If she did touch on a sensitive issue, she’d know whether or not to tread carefully, drop the issue, change the subject, or apologize. Over time I noticed that her willingness to “not go there” made her much more attractive to me. And she wouldn’t have been able to do so if she hadn’t trained herself to take note of my facial expressions. That’s the beautiful thing about loving your man. Over time, you’ll figure out what makes him tick so that you can communicate with him in a more compassionate way. The benefit to this sort of communication is that he’ll never shut you out because he knows that you always have his best interest at heart.
3. Be an active listener.
One of the most powerful communication techniques I’ve ever come across is called active listening. I first heard about it in a phenomenal book by best-selling author, the late Stephen Covey called, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Applied to communicating with a man, the skill of active listening is all about empathizing with your man and getting him to realize that you do empathize with him. It’s the meaning behind the slang term, “Do you feel me?” When a man feels that you understand him, he drops all his defenses and communication flows effortlessly. Most people communicate by “waiting to speak.” They fill their mind with what they want to say to the other person instead of clearing their mind of their own thoughts to leave room to truly listen to what the other person is saying. The act of active listening requires you to listen attentively, then paraphrase and reflect on what he says while acknowledging how he feels without judgment or advice. Read that last sentence again.
Here’s an example of this in action. Let’s say he comes home from work and says, “You know, I really hate my job. I feel like a useless cog in a machine, and it’s starting to get to me.” Don’t say, “Maybe you should look for another job”; that’s you giving common sense advice he could have gotten from his friends. Don’t even say something like, “Well, no use complaining about it. I told you that moving here was a waste of time.” That’s being judgmental, and quite annoying to add. Instead, follow up with something like, “Your job stresses you out and you don’t feel like you’re utilizing your true potential.” This response will get him to agree with you because you understand how he feels. He’ll keep talking until: 1. He chooses to talk about a solution, or 2. He realizes that he’s just having a bad week, etc. and feels relieved to talk about it. It’s a simple example, but it should get you started on the right path. I’d advise really studying this form of communication because it can improve EVERY area of your life.
4. To start conversations don’t ask him “cop out” questions.
If your guy isn’t a big talker, this little trick could get him started or at least interested in what you have to say. It sounds silly, but it’s based on simple psychology. Ask him questions he has to think about to answer. Asking him a “yes” or “no” question gives him an easy escape. It’s even worse if you ask him a question about his emotions. For example, asking him, “what are you thinking” will likely get you this answer: “Nothing.” If you ask him “how do you feel?” he may look at you with one eyebrow raised and say, “fine.” Asking him questions like these will ruin your genius plan to get him talking. He’ll see you coming from a mile away. Try asking him things about his interests or about his past.
5. When he reveals, help him heal.
Men have feelings and insecurities just like women do. No matter how strong, confident, or stoic a man may appear, he has his issues, it’s just that some guys are just better at hiding and/or managing their negative emotions. As you cultivate a relationship with a man you will experience a lot of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
Chances are, you’ve already witnessed a lot of the good and you’ve made your peace with the bad. But the relationship magic happens when you learn about his “ugly” and you can accept him as he is and even help him to heal.
Men have a gigantic fear when it comes to their inner struggles. We think that when the woman we love finds out about them, she’ll either see us as weak, repulsive, damaged, or unworthy. A man may fear revealing the deeper parts of himself to you simply out of fear that you’ll take advantage of that knowledge in the future. In short, it’s a trust issue, and a man needs to feel that he can trust you with his all before he reveals himself to you. So what’s a woman to do to get him to open up over time? Simple, when he does “go there” and reveal a little more than you might have bargained for, help him to heal. Don’t judge, criticize, or condemn him. Instead, be a source of strength and encouragement, a healing balm to his masculine soul. In the same way he accepts you just the way you are, with all of your past and present inner issues, you should do the same.
For men, the “ugly” inner struggles are often tied to extreme emotions of guilt, shame, and anxiety. Knowing this, the worse thing you can do to him
when he opens up to you is to judge, revile, or chastise him. Doing so will only enhance these negative emotions and he will begin to attach those feelings to you. When he needs to open up about something, you might be the last person he goes to because he might say to himself, “I can’t tell her that. She’ll despise me and think I’m a loser/pervert/weakling/monster/etc.
6. Don’t force him to talk about his problems.
For heaven’s sake, if a man doesn’t want to talk about a personal problem he’s having, don’t try to force him to open up. If he doesn’t want to discuss a problem with you at the moment he may just need more time alone to mull over the issue. Forceful communication does the complete opposite in this case. If you try to force him to “open up”, he’ll just clam up even more and what’s worse is that over time, the whole experience of communicating with you will leave a bad taste in his mouth.
7. Acknowledge his feelings.
If you think men are impervious to feeling hurt, sad, lonely, misunderstood, confused, or any other vulnerable emotion, think again. When it comes to our relationships there’s a lot bubbling underneath the surface. A great strategy for getting the understanding that you want from him is to show him that you empathize with him. It’s easy to focus on how you’re feeling at the moment and communicate those feelings to him, but it requires a lot more effort to empathize.
Acknowledging his feelings helps to keep his defenses lowered because you’re communicating that you’re on his side. Subconsciously, he needs to know that you’re for him and not against him. If he feels like his emotions matter to you, he’ll feel respected and unconditionally loved. For example, if you begin to have one of those relationship talks and you notice a change in his body language, acknowledge it. You should learn what signals your man gives off when he’s beginning to put up his defenses. So when you notice them, say something like, “I know you’re feeling criticized right now, but I’m not trying to upset you.” If he’s trying to explain something to you and you notice his frustration, say something like, “I know you’re feeling frustrated right now, and I understand how you feel.” If you acknowledge his feelings there won’t be any doubt in his mind about your intentions. It’s much easier to show compassion and change for a woman when she cares about your emotional well-being.
8. Avoid statements that expose his insecurities.
If you decide to say to your husband or boyfriend, “You’re just like you’re father”, I hope you’re doing it because his old man was a phenomenal guy. If you tell him, “I should’ve listened to my mother”, it better be because she gave you some good advice about anything NOT related to your man. These kinds of statements are usually said in the heat of the moment and with the sole purpose of hurting a man’s ego. Statements like these can tear down your man’s self-image because it shows him exactly how negatively you think of him. Avoid these volcanic statements IF you’re more interested in resolving conflict than making him feel like crap.
Now, I know some women may only use these kinds of statements to shock a man into changing his behavior. While this may work in some extreme cases, saying these sorts of things only causes resentment. A perfect example is a statement like, ’You know what? Forget it. I’ll just do it myself’’. From one adult to another, a statement like this communicates that he’s not meeting your standards in one way or another and that you don’t know why you bothered with him in the first place. If you do this enough, he’ll start to doubt his ability to make you happy. Statements like these are insulting and will either cause him to lose his temper or suffer in quiet resentment if he doesn’t speak up about it.
9. Ask him questions or give indirect suggestions.
A really graceful way to handle a man who despises being told what to do is to ask him questions or give indirect suggestions instead. When you make leading suggestions in the form of questions you give him the opportunity to feel self-directed, in charge, and respected. If he hates being told what to do, he may become far more cooperative because you’re presenting him with an opportunity to make the decision on his own. What time did you plan on calling her?’ or even, ‘Hey sweetie, today is mother’s birthday. I’m going to call her. Would you like to wish her a happy birthday before or after me?” Do you see the difference?
Now, let’s say that you need him to do something or you’d like for him to re-consider a decision he’s made. You can always pose an indirect suggestion at him. It’s a subtle change but it lets him make the final call and it makes you look like the caring, supportive first mate of his ship. Remember, respect the captain’s authority and he’ll be more apt to listen to what you have to say. Your mileage on this point may vary because some men aren’t as sensitive to being given direct commands. But if your guy likes to think every decision was made in the crucible of his own brain, a communication technique like this will come in handy.
10. Decode his unloving behavior to feed his deepest need.
No matter how offensive his words or behavior may seem, try to decipher what is it he really wants from you. Actually, when it comes to communication, what a man really wants from you is respect. The trick for you is to see past his disgusting, unloving behavior and figure out in what way he needs to be revitalized with respect. And in order for him to give you the unconditional love you want he’s going to need your unconditional respect. Yes, unconditional respect. Not, “I will respect him when he…” or “I will respect him only if he…” That’s conditional respect and many women fail to get what they want from the man they love because their respect for that man is conditional.
If his behavior is unloving don’t reinforce it with a disrespectful response. Be graceful with him. Chances are that he’s looking for a little respect in some form or fashion. So, when he communicates in an unloving way (as he often will), you have the choice to either respond respectfully in spite of his unloving behavior or give him what he deserves, which is a piece of your mind. By giving him what he deserves, you’re perpetuating the cycle of insanity and feeding his stupidity. Don’t feed his stupidity. Instead, give him the unconditional respect that he doesn’t deserve and stop his madness before it spreads to you. Rise above his pettiness when it rears its ugly head and respond respectfully. You’ll be a better woman for it, and assuming he sees the error in his ways, you’ll help him to be a better man in the process.