The Perfect Catch
Men and women and those frustrating conversations
Christine Baumgartner, dating and relationship coach, has helped hundreds of individuals and couples successfully through their dating and relationship processes. She is an expert at listening to who you are and then using that knowledge to help you explore your dating and relationship needs.
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Do you have a man in your life who - every time you talk - responds too quickly with suggestions and solutions?

As a coach, I hear this complaint from many of my women clients. Again and again (pretty much without fail), it all comes down to how differently men and women view communication.

Over time, my clients and I have found an image that they can use to bring about positive changes. The metaphor involves (believe it or not!) building a sandwich.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First a little background on what's behind this communication problem.

From the woman's point of view.

She wants the man to listen to what she's saying until she's done talking and then if she wants to hear his opinion she'll ask. Here's what is considered "very normal woman" behavior:

  • A woman talks to another person to feel connected to them.
  • A woman feels cared about when she knows someone is listening.
  • She knows someone is listening when they don't interrupt and when they validate that she knows what she's talking about.

Women automatically know how to do this with other women, because it's what they want, too.

From the man's point of view.

When men talk it's usually to do one of the following:

  • Share information - the news, accomplishments, scores, etc.
  • They have a problem they've tried to solve on their own and now they need a solution. When they ask someone for a solution they expect an answer right away.

Other men automatically know how to do this because it's what they want as well. 

A few thoughts for the woman in the conversation.

It's frustrating when a man tells you how to do something differently. You may feel like he's saying you don't know how to do it yourself (and I'm sure you're very capable of doing it yourself). And when this happens, you end up feeling disrespected and uncared for by him.

Something to think about - what if the intention behind his "solution" was to show you how much he cares about you? How would that make you feel? Differently? Possibly not as frustrated with him?

Here's the scoop. When you tell him about something that sounds like you have a problem, he says to himself, "I hear her problem and I'm going to come up with a great solution so she'll know how much I care about her. The solution will make her happy and she'll think I'm wonderful for helping."  

Then, when everything backfires (and you get mad) he doesn't understand why. And he gets frustrated, too. 

So, this is what I tell my clients:  The next time you want to "just tell him something" (and don't want or need his input), create a conversation "sandwich."

First slice of bread.

  • Tell him that you appreciate his solutions.
  • Tell him about solutions that have been helpful in the past... I can imagine there have been a few. (By the way, it's good to come up with these ahead of time so you don't have to think of them on the fly.)

The sandwich insides.

  • Tell him, "I want to tell you about _________ (name the topic) and it would make me so happy if you would sit and listen while I tell you. I don't need a solution. I just want to tell you about it."
  • This is going to be a foreign concept for him (remember, when he talks he expects to be offered a solution) so be patient if he forgets you've asked him to just listen.
  • It's also helpful if you say how long this might take, such as "I just want to tell you about it, and I think it'll take about 15 minutes." This further helps him (especially because it's a new concept).
  • If he starts to interrupt then patiently say, "Thanks for offering me a solution. It would make me feel cared about if you would listen until I'm done." See? New behavior for each of you.
  • Important note: Use this technique initially for things that don't have to do with him or the relationship (those topics require additional preparation).

Second piece of bread.

  • When you're done tell him, "Thank you so much for listening. It made me so happy." This will encourage him to be open to doing this again in the future.

Optional: A bonus after you're done talking:  

  • If you want to hear a solution at this point, tell him, "I'd really like to hear what you think."
  • After he tells you his solution, respond with, "Thank you, that was really helpful."

As you work with this technique, I think you'll start to see changes. Your conversations will begin to improve. Let me know how this unfolds in your relationship! If, along along the way, you find you need assistance with your sandwich building, don't hesitate to contact me!

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