More than a feeling

Posted by on Jun 9, 2009

Many times relationship gurus advise men to “quit trying to fix her problems”!  Women are emotional and need to be listened to, not fixed.  So quit treating them like a car engine!

This is great advice, except that it leaves men hanging on what it is they should be doing.  If their gut is chanting, “fix, fix, fix”, but the latest issue of Redbook is warning, “Don’t you dare…” what is a man to do?

Simply listen.  Right?

Well, kind of.  The catch is that if you just listen then odds are we’ll think you don’t care.  Just listening means that you’re being quiet.  Because if you can’t fix her problems there really isn’t anything to say, right?

Wrong.

So, so wrong.

Listen.  For real.
Communication is a game of ‘Catch’, the act of tossing a ball back and forth between two people.  One person has an idea and  this idea is tossed to the other person.  In a game of catch it’s helpful to know that the ball, or idea, has been caught.  How can you let her know that you’ve heard, or caught, what she was saying?  Hint:  Start the sentence with “I hear you saying…” and then repeat back.  Simple.

Empathize
As she’s talking take some time to try to put yourself in her shoes.  How would you feel if were in her place?  If she comes home upset that her boss chewed her out for being late to a very important meeting, how would you feel?  Embarrassed, angry, worried?  Let her know that you understand her feelings.

Part of the importance of empathizing is that it’s just a good relationship skill to have.  The other part is survival.  Because sometimes what’s making her feel like crap is you.  You’ve hurt her feelings.  Or made her mad.  Or frustrated her.  No matter the feeling, it was your fault.  That much is clear.  The longer that you miss this vital point the more she desires to simply make you feel what she is feeling.  If you’re not “getting” that you checking out the waitress made her feel like a dog, then in her irrational state of mind it makes COMPLETE sense to make you feel as bad as she feels.  If you don’t like this part of a typical argument learn to empathize.  Fast.

Guys, it’s more than just not trying to fix her problem.  It’s making sure you hear her heart.

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3 Comments

  1. Just to devils advocate a little bit, why should guys have to adjust THEIR way of listening to facilitate the conversation? Why shouldn’t girls also try to put themselves in their guys’ shoes?

    Guys are hardwired to be the hunter/gatherer/protectors of their households and though the “wilds” have changed many of the instincts have not. When they have someone they love upset about a problem, they immediately go to their fight or flight reactions and want to protect and solve. If us girls could learn to understand THAT as well, and be more concerned when the guys in our lives DON’T care enough to get upset, then maybe we’d be a step closer in bridging the communications gaps that occur between the sexes.

  2. Elisa, I totally agree. Empathy is valuable for BOTH sexes. I made some gender generalizations with this post, that aren’t always the case. The advice in the post is actually directed more towards the difference between Thinkers vs. Feelers which can be stereotypically equivalent to Man vs. Woman.

    The other part is that, from a counseling perspective, whoever is “emotional” needs to have their feelings validated/heard before they can begin to approach the situation with a more logical mindset (like “Oh, he’s problem solving because he wants to help me” rather than “He’s problem solving because he doesn’t want to listen to me”)

    You’re very right, though, women have their own steps to take to meet in the middle on the communication disconnect!

  3. Thanks! I needed that slap & push7

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