Use these five phrases or questions when speaking to the women in your life. You’re welcome.
“My husband really listens to me,” said no wife ever.
Why is listening such a massive chore for most men, especially when it comes to the opposite sex? Just go ahead and add this to an already long list of things we don’t do well:
- Read instructions.
- Watch kids.
- Use a map.
- Share our feelings.
If you really dig deep, you’re going to see a valid reason behind these “shortcomings” of men. We like to figure things out so we can master it. We want to fix stuff and show our ability to accomplish a task well. So, when it comes to listening, we do it primarily to gather information so we can resolve a situation.
Most people would agree that there are times when this strategy is necessary. Sometimes, you just need help with something that’s broken or need some specific advice about how to handle situations life throws at you.
- Need a step-by-step process on how to mow the lawn correctly? We got ya covered.
- Want to know the best mechanic in town to fix your car? We know a guy.
- Dealing with a jerk at work? Here’s what you do…one, two, three.
But, there are times, particularly with women, when having something fixed is the last thing on their minds. It’s not what they want. It’s not why they told you. Do not apply the previous strategies. What they need more than anything in these moments is EMPATHY. (Remember this word, guys. There will be a test later, I promise you!)
Women want to feel like someone is on their side; that someone understands. They want the security of knowing that they are not alone in what they’re thinking. This doesn’t make them weak, and it definitely doesn’t have to be a struggle for us to engage in this kind of conversation.
In fact, we can learn a lot from women when it comes to feeling and relating. Society leads us to believe that this is a weakness. We fight these urges to identify with them, but all it does is isolate and polarize us.
Listening is a key component here. We’re not talking about listening as in staring blankly at that picture on the wall behind her until she stops talking. This is listening so that you are learning, and feeling, and relating to their situation.
The art of good listening requires engagement.
So, how are we to engage with a woman without fixing? What can we add to the conversation that shows we care?
If you want to win at being a good listener to a woman, here are five sure-fire phrases that will keep you on the road moving forward toward understanding and empathizing with her.
(DISCLAIMER: If you’re a woman reading this, please give your man some grace here. Sometimes we men need a little help. Don’t be too hard on us guys for things you assume we should already know. Trust me. We don’t.)
- “I understand.”
This is a biggie. This is not necessarily about agreeing with them or their choices. It’s really about letting them know that you’ve been there and have felt what they are feeling. Someone at work ticked her off and she is angry. You can see it in her eyes that are now fixed on you just a little too intensely. Don’t try to tell her how to fix the relationship or even respond; simply let her know that you’ve been angry at people at work before, too, and have felt the same things she’s feeling. Score one for you!
2. “I’m sorry that happened.”
This is a “care” statement. When you hurt because they hurt, it sends the message that you really care about their feelings and emotions. Expressing hurt and disappointment at their hurt and disappointment doesn’t mean you agree; it simply validates the pain they are experiencing.
This is one area that I struggle with the most. In my mind, I am showing care for my wife by helping her fix the situation. Although there may be a time for that in the future, during that initial conversation, the care statement lets them know they can trust whatever advice you may offer later.
3. “What did you do?” or “What are you going to do?”
These questions let her know that you’re still engaged in the conversation. My brain tends to move right into “fix it” mode when my wife is explaining something that happened to her. I have to tone that down and fish for more details instead. Asking questions while someone is talking lets them know you are still engaged. Do not think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t think about working on a solution. Simply show an interest in their situation.
Here’s a compelling side-note. By asking them what steps they took, you can actually give support to their decision and offer advice appropriately. They may even tell you what they did and then ask you what you think about their response. Win-win!
4. “How can I help?”
This is a safe question that lets you know whether the “fix it” door is open for you. They usually don’t want you to tell them what to do; they may just want to vent. Asking this question lets you dip your toe in the water to see if your advice is needed or not. I’ve asked this question before in conversations with my wife and the response I got was “Nothing. I just needed to vent.” Then, she took a breath and moved on. Other times she gave me suggestions on how I could help. Either way, asking this question puts you in a position of caring.
5. “I’m on your side.” or “I support you.”
Part of the security that women want from us is to know that we’re in their corner. This statement fits in several different conversations. Whether it’s venting about strained relationships with extended family or voicing insecurities they feel about themselves, women need to hear that they aren’t alone in their feelings. There have been a few times when my wife and I have disagreed. Ok, there have been many. My need to be right will often rear its ugly head. It’s those moments when I have to decide, “Wait. Is it more important for me to be right or to be supportive?” It’s actually doable to disagree with someone and still let them know you’re behind them.
Guys, I want to do a better job communicating with the women that are important in my life.
Using these hacks will require some adjustments on our part. Making changes is never easy. But, if we’re willing to make some shifts in our listening skills and ask the right questions, it can make a huge impact.
Doesn’t it make sense to improve your listening skills with the women in your life? Which of these hacks would go a long way in improving your relationships?