In marriage, there is a complaint that is almost universal among wives…their husbands don’t talk to them.
Yet, when I pull the husbands aside, they tell me they talk all of the time, but their wives don’t listen to them.
What’s the problem?
It’s a problem of context and styles. I know the conventional wisdom is that men don’t understand women (we don’t), but the reverse is also true: women don’t understand men.
Let me give you an example. When a wife tells her husband she wants to talk, she never understands that in guy language, that signals a confrontation.
When one guy says to another, “Hey, we need to talk…” he’s initiated a combative stance. Likewise, when a wife says she wants to sit down and talk, her husband thinks she’s getting ready to fight.
So, he gets ready to fight. He becomes defensive and protective. It’s hardly a good posture for listening.
Perhaps if wives used questions that sounded more like an invitation, the husband would be more responsive and engaged. They could use phrases such as, “I need your input on this…” or “I could use your thoughts about…” or “Could you give me some feedback?” Sending a clear signal the conversation is about information would help get things off to better start.
In addition, men talk sideways. Rarely, do guys sit face to face and discuss the issue before them. Guys talk while they do something else. We hold long discussions while we’re driving, working on hobbies, playing golf or watching sports on TV.
Here’s a typical conversation between two guys while playing golf:
Guy 1: What’s the yardage?
Guy 2:“About 250…how are things?
Guy 1: Think I’ll use my 3 wood. Things are good, but I’m a little worried about my son.
Guy 2: 3 wood will work. Just swing easy. What’s up with your son?
Guy 1: Yep, keep my head down and swing through. I really don’t know what’s up with him, just picking up a lot of anger lately.
See how that works? Woven in between all of the stuff about golf is a very serious issue Guy 1 WANTS to talk about and wants his friend to hear. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong. It’s just the way guys are.
So, what do wives do? Create spaces where your husband can talk.
Do things with him.
Work in the yard.
Find a hobby you enjoy together.
Learn about his favorite sport. If it’s Nascar, learn his favorite driver. If it’s baseball or football, learn his favorite team and WHY they’re his favorite team.
Then participate with him and learn to listen for the truths he’ll slip into the conversations.
I’ve been married for 34 years and over the years, I’ve learned to speak Jeannie-ese. Over those same years, she’s learned to speak Mike-ese. She’s very different from me and that’s one of the things I love about her. Husbands and wives can learn to talk to each other. It does take a little effort but when it happens, husbands will suddenly be impressed with how smart their wives are…and want to talk to them more.