1. Don’t try to compete with his distractions.
If he’s obviously distracted by something very important to HIM (not you), don’t try to compete with it. If you try to compete with his present distraction you WILL lose and you WILL be upset about it. On the other hand, if you try to force him to focus on you while he’s already mentally engaged in something else, he’ll feel like you’re bossing him around, causing him to shut down or tune you out completely. Instead, look at the situation for what it is and wait until he’s not so focused on something else so that you can have his undivided attention. A reasonable man will appreciate your patience.
If your guy is particularly stubborn, tell him that you’ll give him the time he needs but ask him when will he be ready and open to talk. Ask for a definite time like “after the game”, “at dinner”, or a specific time frame like “in ten minutes.” Vague responses like “later” or “in a short while” will only frustrate you and make it easier for him to lose track of time. Respect his time but also ensure that he respects yours as well.
2. Be brief and don’t beat around the bush.
As you probably already know, men tend to focus on solving problems. It’s nature’s design to have our brains wired this way in order for us to quickly resolve conflict and handle sudden dangers. If your man is as pragmatic as they come, a lack of brevity may make conversing with him extremely difficult. Being brief will help you to get your point across without losing him. If you have a point to make, please make it as quickly as you can. Now, I’m not saying that a man won’t enjoy a good story here and there, but it can get quite annoying when your woman is obviously trying to tell you something but you just can’t figure out what she’s trying to say. Don’t lose his attention by saying more than is necessary. Keep your communication simple and straight to the point.
3. Tell him what kind of response you’re hoping for.
If your guy (like most guys) is apt to provide you with fast solutions to problems even when all you really wanted was for him to listen, try telling him that you’d just like for him to listen. Seriously. Yes, I realize it’s so simple that it sounds downright silly doesn’t it? Just tell him, in a graceful way, that you’re not looking for answers, only his attention, and that you’d appreciate it if he just listened to you without trying to fix your life. Smile when you tell him.
4. End on a worthwhile point.
If you really want to get your idea across and make it stick in his mind, end on a worthwhile point. If he says he understands, believe him. If he looks like he understands, leave it at that. Belaboring your point might provide you with a deep sense of security in which you tell yourself, “Yeah, now I KNOW he understands”, but by doing so you run the risk of doing the complete opposite. Too little information and he’s likely to misunderstand. Too much information and the same thing might happen because he’s either: 1. Lost interest, or 2. Doesn’t know what the point of your discussion/argument was in the first place.
5. Watch your volume.
One of my biggest turnoffs when it comes to a woman communicating with a man is volume. Most guys won’t say it, and even less will voice their dissatisfaction, but I’m here to tell you the truth. Shouting, screaming, and yelling to get your point across will not make him think you’re angry, serious, and desperate to be heard. You won’t get the response you’re looking for (assuming you’re looking for a loving response) because chances are he’s feeling disrespected and/or accused. In a social setting, shouting and yelling at your man will make him feel even worse, especially if he’s not the type to confront you outright in public.
Gentleness and patience is key when communicating with a man. This is the way that a high-quality woman communicates with her man, and she should expect the same sort of respect and civility from him as well. If your man has a personal distaste for loudness, respect his personal boundaries and be mindful of your volume. Believe me when I say that harsh tones and abrasive language will make some men tune you out faster than you can shout “I HATE IT WHEN YOU DON’T LISTEN TO ME!”
6. When discussing your feelings, remind him that it’s not his fault.
If he seems disheartened and begins shutting down as you try to tell him how you feel, remind him that it’s not his fault and that you’re not blaming him. Take ownership of your insecurities, whether they’re impractical or reasonable, own them and tell him that it’s the way YOU feel and that when he does _________ it has the potential to enhance those insecurities. But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell him that it’s his fault. Why? Because he already thinks it’s his fault and he’s shutting down because he feels like a failure. Like I said before, if the only high-emotion he gets from you is when you’re unhappy with him, those are the ones that will register on his “Is My Wife Happy?” meter.
7. Don’t interrupt him when he’s speaking.
A common complaint amongst us guys is how much we dislike being interrupted while we’re speaking. I’m not sure how annoying this is for a woman when a guy interrupts her, but for guys, being constantly interrupted immensely retards our ability to communicate effectively. Some men would rather keep quiet and say next to nothing than to be constantly interrupted. In other words, some women actually train their men to talk as little as possible. If you want him to speak freely and unhindered, don’t interrupt him just because something popped into your head. I should note that I say all of this with the hopes that your man is a gentleman and does not interrupt you while you’re speaking as well.
8. If it’s urgent and he’s busy, simplify.
Sometimes he’s going to be busy or not interested in what you have to say, even if you think it’s urgent. For instance, if you want to know what he wants to eat for dinner later on in the evening but his attention is elsewhere, give him options rather than make him think. If you tell him, ‘Honey, what would you like for dinner?’ while he’s trying to focus or unwind might get you an aggravating response like, “Geez, I don’t know, whatever you feel like making.” Of course, if you’d like your knight-in-shining-armor to lead and make these types of decisions more often instead of leaving it up to you, you’re going to have to think of him as your very own caveman. In other words, make the choice ridiculously simple for him. Instead, you can tell him, ‘Honey, I’m thinking of making baked chicken and rice or home-made hamburgers for dinner tonight. Which one would you like best?’ A question like this dumbs it down for your caveman so that he doesn’t have to think too much. More than likely, he’ll give you a much more favorable response. So, remember to make things so simple that even a caveman can do it – your caveman.
9. Dumb it down.
When in doubt, “dumb it down.” If your guy isn’t a big talker and his attention span is ridiculously short, you might want to try breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized pieces of easily digestible information. Avoid talking to your man like he’s one of your girlfriends, because if you do, he’ll have some difficulty following you. As I’ve mentioned before, his brain is designed to solve problems, so if your complex conversation isn’t giving him something to solve, his mind might wonder off elsewhere to put itself to some good use. And when it comes to a man’s memory, keeping your message short and simple will make it easier for him to remember the things that you need him to.
10. Timing is key.
Trying to discuss your vacation plans with your football loving husband or boyfriend during an intense football game is an act of insanity. Trying to discuss the issues you have with your mother with him while he’s trying to unwind after work is futile. As with everything else in life, timing is everything. When I’m writing, my wife knows that it’s best not to interrupt me with matters that can wait. She’s thoughtful enough to know that when I’m engaged with the written word I’m not going to be able to respond to her effectively. You should consider taking the same approach with your husband or boyfriend as well. Learning when to discuss certain matters is pivotal to ensuring high-quality communication between you and your man.
11. Ensure that he doesn’t feel “blamed” or “criticized” by starting with a disclaimer.
How do you make a man listen to you when you want to talk about the relationship without shutting down? Easy (sort of), you ensure that he doesn’t feel like he failed you or failed himself. If your guy struggles to listen to you when you have a relationship issue with him, the problem is usually because he’s been internalizing your unhappiness by taking personal responsibility for it. Chances are, he’s been feeling blamed and criticized even though you might not be blaming or criticizing him at all. You may be thinking that you’re being clear with him and that you’re just letting him know what’s important to you, but that’s not the way he’s processing that information. While all you want is for him to understand you as a woman and make you feel more secure in the relationship, he’s busy battling his own insecurities. In his head he may be thinking, “I’ve failed again”, “What did I do wrong this time”, “She’s always complaining”, “I’m a bad husband/boyfriend”, “I’m making her unhappy”, etc. All of these negative internalizations amount to these two sentences in his head: “It’s my fault that she’s unhappy. I’m to blame.” Read that last sentence again.
It gets even worse because the more he doesn’t respond the way you need him to, the more you express yourself emotionally hoping that he’d finally get it, but he only shuts down even more.So what’s a girl to do when her man has this sort of negative self-talk going on inside of his own head? Well, you can make it easier for him by using a simple little disclaimer whenever you communicate your relationship wants and needs to your man. Say something like: ‘Honey, I’m not blaming you for anything and I just want you to know that it’s not your fault. You’ve been good to me, and I love you just the way you are. But because I’ve been feeling __________________, I thought I should let you know that….’ It sounds simple, but this little statement can literally disarm his “I’ve been a bad, bad boy’ defenses and help him to realize that you’re taking responsibility for your emotions (insecurities) and that all you really want is for him to help you feel more secure (loved, appreciated, adored, needed, etc.) in the relationship. I honestly believe if women used more disclaimer statements like this one, men would spend a lot less time trying to understand what they “did wrong” and spend more time making their wives and girlfriends feel more secure in their relationships.
Now, I have to add that you shouldn’t use this disclaimer and then still go ahead and blame him. What you must get in the habit of doing is to take responsibility for your own emotions and how you’re feeling. That’s also not an invitation to blame yourself. Don’t do that either. Taking responsibility means that you accept the way you feel and that you have the power to do something about it. Blaming yourself means you think something is wrong with you and zaps your ability to do something about it. One path empowers while the other disempowers. So don’t blame him and don’t blame yourself, but always be genuine in letting him know why you feel the way you feel.
12. Appeal to his desire to be a high-quality man.
A key communication technique used by high-ranking leaders is to impute the qualities that they would like their subordinates to display. What this means for you is that you can influence your man to act a certain way by appealing to his more noble motives. High-quality, reasonable men want to be admired by the woman they love and respected by others. If you imply to him that he’s a better man by taking a certain course of action, assuming that he subconsciously aspires to be a good man, there’s a good chance that he’ll follow through on your suggestion. For example, if your husband promised you (and the kids) that he’ll take the kids out to the park and instead he comes home and gets bit by the lazy-dad-bug and wants to relax in front of the TV, you can appeal to his nobler motives by saying, “Honey, remember you promised the kids a trip to the park this evening. I know you’re a man of your word and the kind of man that puts his family first. Besides, the kids love spending time with their one-and-only father.”
As a woman you may be thinking that he’ll surely see through this as some sort of manipulation. Honestly, even if he does see through it, as long as you’re sincere he’ll realize that you’re right. Your appealing to the “I want to be a great dad and a man of integrity” whispers that goes on in his head. Appealing to a man’s nobler motives is all about using non-forceful, persuasive imputations to get him to agree with you. Think of it like those cartoons that have the little angel on one shoulder and the little imp on the other. Use your feminine powers of persuasion to make the voice of the little angel on his shoulder much louder than the voice of the little imp. Impute the quality you need him to display in a graceful way, then walk away and let him arrive at his own conclusion. Trust me, this is a much better way to get him to be a better man than nagging him incessantly.
13. Discuss your mistakes first before talking about his.
An excellent communication strategy for pointing out a mistake he made is to make reference to your own mistakes first. By doing so, you’re communicating true humility by letting him know that you’re not perfect either. This sets a better foundation for a man to at least hear you out without trying to defend himself or ignoring you completely. Remember, men tend to be ego driven and think in terms of “respectful” and “disrespectful.” If you jump right out of the gate and tell him about his mistakes and how much he needs to change, etc., etc., he’s going to have a much more difficult time digesting what you have to say. But if you illustrate humility by showcasing your own errors, he won’t feel threatened. The act of admitting your own mistakes gives you an opportunity to be vulnerable with him. When you’re vulnerable you have an opportunity to bond (develop intimacy) with him, and once that bond is established he’ll see you as a trusted friend who’s looking out for him as opposed to a nagging harpy who’s never satisfied.
Interestingly, if you can turn the mistake you made into a funny story, he’ll be even more at ease to hear your criticism. Also, the more honest you are the more relaxed he’ll be. If you tell him about some gigantic blunder you made and it gets him laughing, imagine how much easier it will be for him to listen to you criticize something simple about him.
14. Don’t resort to giving him the “silent treatment.”
The silent treatment has one “good” use. It alerts the unsuspecting male specimen of a terrifying truth: “The woman is upset with me.” Believe it or not, there is a better alternative to getting a man’s attention when you happen to be upset and/or angry with him. I’m particularly proud of this suggestion because I’m pretty sure no man or woman has ever thought of it before. Are you ready for it? Here it is: Tell him what’s bothering you. (Yes, I am a genius.)
Telling your man how you feel and confronting the issue is a much more mature way of communicating your emotions. The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive communication strategy that children (and immature adults) use to get their way. By using this mediocre tactic, you communicate that you’re uninterested in problem solving and more interested in self-righteous grudges and playing the role of the victim. If anything, the silent treatment only makes things worse because snubbing your husband or boyfriend will only result in a very hurt or confused man. He’ll either do everything in his power to get you talking again (he gives up and just wants it over with) or he’ll end up angry and just give you a taste of your own medicine (he ignores you indefinitely). In short, all you end up with are two people who aren’t communicating with one another.
I should also add that there is a clear difference between giving your man the silent treatment and taking some personal quiet time to cool down after an argument. Getting the space you need to think properly or giving your man some space to do the same is perfectly okay. But using the silent treatment to force him to pay attention to you is a form of emotional abuse that will only backfire in the end. Give yourself some space, get a hold of your emotions, and then address the issue rationally and gracefully.
15. Don’t be a nag.
You should have known this was coming. A man would prefer to live alone in a rundown apartment than to share a stately mansion with a nagging woman. I feel that God has a unique sense of humor and gave women the power of nagging and gave us men no natural defenses against it. Yes, if you want a man to do something sooner than later there’s a fair chance that nagging might work. But trust me, you won’t win any popularity contests with him. Some men get so used to a nagging woman that over time they actually become immune to it. Other men may be more avoidant and non-confrontational with a nagging woman, so they’ll resort to white lies, half-truths, and coward-like evasion tactics (like staying out late or taking the long way home) just to avoid having to deal with being nagged about something. Yes, you read that right. Nagging a man habitually actually forces him to censor himself so that he doesn’t say anything to start you up.
There are better alternatives than nagging a man into submission; many of them have already been mentioned in this book. But if you need a few focused reminders, I’ll give you two ideas to help you change your nagging habit (if you have one). First of all, you’ve got to let go of control. Sometimes women nag because they have an incessant need to be in control. For whatever reason, they don’t trust their husbands or boyfriends and feel compelled to harp on them until they follow through on something. Fear of losing control of an outcome will fuel your need to nag. So what if he forgets to mow the lawn before your parents come over? It’s not the end of the world. Learn to let go and you’ll find yourself less apt to nag the man who does so much more to make you happy than you probably realize. Secondly, talk about your needs. If you have needs that he’s neglecting, gracefully communicate with him in order to arrive at a compromise. Men do forget and sometimes neglect what’s already in their possession. If something is important to you but not quite as important to him, use the communication strategies in this book to get through to him. There is nothing wrong with giving him a little reminder now and then once it’s done with an attitude of gentleness.
16. Don’t flaunt your intelligence if you’re naturally smarter than he is.
Just because you might be smarter than a man doesn’t mean you always have to flaunt it every chance you get. I’m not singling out all intelligent women mind you, only the ones that like to show off. When a guy does it to a woman, the effect is the same. It’s annoying. Likewise, if a woman uses every opportunity she gets to broadcast her storehouse of knowledge, it doesn’t impress anyone except her. This sort of behavior tells a man that you’re insecure since you require an attentive audience to approve of your intelligence. A high-quality man prefers to discover a woman’s intelligence on his own. Your brevity and discretion will stir his curiosity and draw him into you because in all honesty, a quality man loves learning from and being in the company of an intelligent woman. And believe me, as a woman, one of the most seductive things you can do to a man is to give him the gift of unraveling the beauty of your mind on his own.
17. Understand and communicate in context.
Sometimes it’s not what you say or even how you say it that matters, but it’s also when you say it. One of the most powerful habits you can do to greatly enhance the way you communicate with men is to understand context. A graceful communicator understands the importance context plays in communicating, whether she’s on the giving end or the receiving end.
For example, in an earlier point I mentioned that you should learn when to accept criticism gracefully and when to shrug it off. The reason I mentioned this is because just like you, a man may not be in his “right mind” at the time he criticizes you. He could have just had a bad day at work, found out some frustrating news, or lost his iPhone in Dunkin Donuts (it happens). If he has a momentary lapse in judgment and takes his frustration out on you by criticizing you, shrug it off gracefully, give him some time to come to his senses, and go about your business as if your life couldn’t be better. In this context (situation), he criticized or complained because of his own frustrations. You just happened to be the nearest victim in his vicinity. If he’s conscious of his behavior, eventually he’ll apologize, thank you, and shower you with affection because he saw how well you handled him in that situation. If he’s not so behavior conscious and you begin to notice a bad habit forming, do what I’ve been repeating throughout this book: Approach him respectfully, and talk to him about it. As you can see, understanding context is key, not only for resolving conflict but also for avoiding unnecessary arguments altogether.