When communicating that you’re upset with your guy, do you ever feel as though (to him, at least) your words resemble the “wah-wah-wah” sounds made by Charlie Brown’s teacher? If so, you’re not alone: according to Donna Sozio, dating expert and coauthor of The Man Whisperer: A Gentle, Results-Oriented Approach to Communication, the belief that men are incapable of genuinely listening to their female partners is a common misconception amongst women. The truth, Sozio says, is not that men don’t listen; rather, it’s that women don’t communicate in a language that actually reaches and is understood by their men.
Fortunately, communicating effectively isn’t a lost cause. According to Sozio, it is possible for women to become “man whisperers” — in other words, experts in the “male” way of communicating. Doing so, she says, will ensure that your guy really hears what you’re saying so that he can make the changes you’d like to see. To get your own “man whisperer” certification, follow these five simple steps:
1. Identify the real problem hidden behind what’s making you upset right now
Have you ever noticed how after a particularly annoying dinner with his family or rough day at work, you’re much more likely to rip your guy’s head off for leaving dirty dishes in the sink? Sozio notes that this approach in voicing your displeasure is pretty typical female behavior: “Usually, when a woman is peeved, what’s actually making her upset is almost never what she’s outwardly upset about. It’s not really about the socks on the floor; rather, it’s the feeling she has that if he left them there, he doesn’t respect and love her.” In order for your man to truly understand where you’re coming from when you’re angry, Sozio says that it’s important for you to first identify the real motivation buried within the incident that hurt your feelings or made you feel “less than” in your relationship and communicate that to him instead. By cutting to the chase and explaining your true feelings to him instead of focusing on the less important, more tangential ones, a man will be much more likely to understand what’s really upsetting you and change his behavior in a way that will really make a difference, Sozio says.
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2. Lead with a positive statement about your partner before bringing up the problem
Before voicing your concerns about something he’s doing that upsets you, give your man a “win” first by bestowing a genuine compliment about what he does do right, Sozio advises. “A man has a deep desire to feel like he is the good guy — not to mention a deep fear of failing,” she says. So if his habit of perpetually leaving dirty dishes in the sink is driving you insane, approach the issue by buttering him up a bit first. Then, explain in clear, free-of-sarcasm (or irritation) terms exactly what it is that’s bothering you. For example: “Honey, I really appreciate how you got the laundry started this morning; that really helped me out. I’ve noticed that you’ve been leaving a lot of dirty dishes in the sink lately. Could you rinse them off and put them in the dishwasher after you’re done eating? That would also be a huge help!” should do the trick beautifully.
3. Once you’ve said your piece on the subject, drop it
After you’ve mentioned whatever it is that’s got you all hot and bothered, you’ve done your job; now, let him do his job of trying to fix it. This might require him taking a moment of silence — or an afternoon (or two) to mull your thoughts over, Sozio says. Regardless of how long he needs to process everything, Sozio strongly warns against breaking your silence: “So often, women want immediate satisfaction and/or feel like if he doesn’t address the discussion immediately, then there is something wrong. It’s a wise woman who gives her man the space and time to come to his own conclusions.” If you doubt your decision to keep mum on the subject, remember that men give more generously with their efforts when they think a solution or change in behavior is their own idea, she notes. Which leads us to the next step on the list...
4. Let your partner fix the problem
Once your guy has had as much time as he needs to mull over the concerns you expressed in your discussion, Sozio says that you need to let him to come up with — and enact — his own plan for making a positive change. “If you want your man to change something about himself or listen to you wholeheartedly and give you his full attention, you must let him come up with the solution on how to do so,” she explains. “It may take more time than you are comfortable with, but generally, a man’s solutions come from the heart and are well worth waiting for.” If you feel that his way of solving the problem still isn’t enough to make you happy, Sozio recommends repeating the three steps mentioned above to see if he comes up with another, better solution. “Most likely,” she says, “he will get it right the second time around.”
5. Reward yourselves with affection for making a positive change
Women don’t have to do much to make a man feel good (but you already knew this, didn’t you?). “A simple squeeze, smile, kiss and a verbal ‘thank you’ is enough to make a man feel appreciated — though more is always welcome,” Sozio says. And remember: the more he feels appreciated for the things he does to please you, the more likely he’ll be to continue with his new pattern of behavior.
When DC-based journalist Chelsea Kaplan isn’t helping you solve your relationship problems, she’s making jewelry. Check it out atwww.chelseabellejewelry.com.