How to Talk to Women Without Pissing Them Off

Express your opinions and give advice, but do it respectfully, says Dr. Christie Hartman.

Whether you’re dating or in a relationship, at some point you’ve probably said something that made a woman angry. From your standpoint, you were only being honest—honesty is good, right? Or, you were simply trying to make a point—after all, your opinion matters, too. Or, in some cases, you were actually trying to help—isn’t it chivalrous to offer help? But unfortunately, your good intentions went awry. You pissed her off.

Conversation is tricky business. Conversation with women can be even trickier. Why is this? As a man, you have a communication style that you’ve learned and honed over the years, one that works reasonably well with other men or in your everyday life. But when you converse with a date or partner, you’re not only communicating with the other sex, you’re communicating with someone who will assign more weight to what you say. Which means it’s much easier to get into trouble.

Do you persist in your arguments because you’re determined to rescue her from the abyss of ignorance? If so, you may win the battle, but you’ll lose the girl.

Many men think success with women is about one’s job or income. Sure, these things are attractive to many women, but they don’t even come close to ensuring success with them. What does? How you make her FEEL. Do she feel respected and understood when talking to you, or does she feel disregarded and talked down to?

There are many conversational ditches one can drive into when talking to a woman, but most of them fall into three categories:

1. Criticizing Her Tastes or Beliefs

Clearly, openly criticizing a woman is a good way to piss her off. You probably already know that. But there’s a subtle, indirect form of criticism that can also get you into trouble: dogging a woman’s opinion.

For example, a woman you’ve begun dating believes in astrology. You think it’s stupid and tell her so. You gotta be honest, right? And your problem is with astrology, not her, right? Not quite. When you say, “Astrology is stupid,” you’re effectively telling her, “You’re stupid.” Likewise, if you deride her shoe collection or her love of Justin Bieber, she will take it as a personal insult.

Did you ever see the episode of Big Bang Theory where Leonard, a scientist, got in a big fight with Penny because she wanted to see a psychic? He mocked her, surprised that she would trust a psychic. The problem wasn’t Leonard’s skepticism over psychics (not unusual for a scientist); his mistake was mocking Penny for her beliefs.

“So what’s the solution here … never state my true opinion?” you ask. Not at all. You have every right to your opinion; the trick is how you express it. For example, it’s okay to admit you don’t believe in astrology or don’t get her obsession with shoes. But you want to show her that you don’t judge or knock her for being different than you. Stand by your opinions, but let her have hers. She’ll love you for it. Moreover, she’ll probably reciprocate by accepting your obsession with Fantasy Football or your devotion to Rush Limbaugh.

2. Needing to be Right

Years ago, when the TV show Frasier was popular, a very stubborn male friend of mine was convinced he recognized the voice of one of Frasier’s radio guests, who were often celebrities. The voice didn’t belong to who he thought it did, although it was a good guess. When we told him who the voice actually belonged too, he refused to believe us. Then, when the credits revealed his error, he still refused to acknowledge the truth. He didn’t care about the truth. He wanted to be right.

Sure, that’s an extreme example. But when you’re talking to a woman and know you’re right, or when you have a lot of damned good data to support your belief that humans were made to eat meat, that monogamy isn’t natural, or that there is no global warming crisis, what happens? Do you beat a woman down like a trial lawyer in an attempt to make your point? Do you persist in your arguments because you’re determined to rescue her from the abyss of ignorance? If so, you may win the battle, but you’ll lose the girl.

“So, what, in order to get laid I have to hide my belief systems or let her think she’s right?” Of course not. Caving in is no better than being obstinate. Instead, stand behind your point of view, but let her have hers without judgment. After all, the more you try to convince people you’re right, the more they’ll resist you. So why not do the opposite and cease the debate? She’ll feel respected and valued. And, in many cases, she’ll be open to hearing your point of view.

And don’t forget: what seems like Indisputable Truth to you is often little more than your entrenched belief system. The bigger the topic, the truer this is. No matter what you believe, there will always be people who believe differently.

3. Offering Unsolicited Advice

When I finished college and was preparing to move out of state with my boyfriend, an older man I worked with began questioning me about it. Did I have a job yet? Did my boyfriend? What was his job? Every answer I provided only gave this man more fuel to openly poo-poo our plans and offer me a heap of heavy-handed advice, as if there were no chance we would survive without his wisdom. But we did survive, and with little trouble.

Was I nervous about striking out on my own for the first time? Sure. But did I need some jackass (whose advice I never asked for) talking at me like I was incompetent? No.

You probably aren’t so condescending. Yet, do you ever find yourself telling a woman what she should do? When a woman mentions a challenging or difficult situation, it’s tempting to swoop down and rescue her, to be the wise one who saves the day. After all, she has a problem and you have the solution, right? I get it. Hell, I used to make this mistake all the time. Here’s the problem:

Offering unsolicited advice can send the message that you know what’s best for her (you don’t) or that you don’t believe she can handle her situation (she can, or will learn very soon!). In some cases your advice, while good, may not apply to her individual circumstances. And, most important of all, when a woman is in a difficult or troubling situation, what she often wants most is support, to know that you’re on her side. If you instead tell her what to do, she may get pissed.

To avoid this, lend a sympathetic ear, then offer your services without actually telling her what to do. For example, if a woman complains about her boss and you see a better way to handle him, ask her, “Would you like a suggestion on how to deal with your boss?” Likewise, if a woman tells you her mortgage payment has become an albatross around her neck, you could ask, “Have you considered refinancing? I have a good contact if you’re interested.” Make your willingness to help known. Then, it’s up to her to take it or not take it. Either way, you win.

In dating and relationships, conversation is an opportunity to connect with a woman. By rethinking how you phrase things, you can be the man you truly are while still making a woman feel respected and valued in your presence.

 

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About Christie Hartman

Christie Hartman, PhD is a psychologist and author of Changing Your Game: A Man’s Guide to Success with Women.

Comments

  1. This post is very puzzling to me, not because of the advice (which I wholeheartedly agree with) but because of the way the advice is framed. I think that the title and premise of the post are misleading, for two reasons.

    First, it seems odd to me that this advice is framed as “things not to do when talking to women”. Aren’t these things that are likely to be offensive to someone of any gender? I’m a man, and I get pissed off by all three items on the list. This isn’t some mysterious Girl Whisperer conversation magic, it’s good advice when talking to anyone whose respect you value. Men have feelings, too, even if we’re not supposed to show them, and we’re just as capable of being offended when someone criticizes our beliefs, won’t admit they’re wrong, or offers condescending advice.

    Second, I think that the whole “how to talk to the opposite gender” genre of advice is unproductive, because it perpetuates the idea of men and women as different species whose attitudes and desires are wholly alien to each other. There are more similarities than differences between the genders. Furthermore, it’s not particularly helpful to say “women dislike this” or “men dislike this” because there is far more variation between individuals than there is between genders. Many women love to argue about their beliefs, and many men are thin-skinned. Do women care more about these things than men? Maybe a bit on average, but that’s not what matters. What matters is the tastes and preferences of the person you’re courting.

    I think a better way to frame it is “how to talk to someone you want to maintain a romantic relationship with”. All of these behaviors are things that we might put up with sometimes from friends or acquaintances but not from a romantic partner. For a straight man – and it does seem like straight men were the intended audience of this post – who has mostly male friends, that might mean treating women (who you hope to date) differently from your male buddies (with whom you have a different kind of relationship). But that difference in behavior is due to the difference in the kind of relationship you want, not the difference in gender.

    • Agreed!

    • I agree on that first point–I’ve run across tons of well-intentioned articles for men about communication and interaction, and they all–every single one–revolve around a laundry list of things NOT to do. Which amounts to nothing more than lists of pet peeves, something very easy to generate and not at all helpful to the target audience.

      The irony is that the articles often have titles like “How to Communicate Successfully with Women,” followed by several hundred words of how to do it wrong…. and no mention anywhere of how to do it right.

      • I’ve run across tons of well-intentioned articles for men about communication and interaction, and they all–every single one–revolve around a laundry list of things NOT to do.

        That’s a good point, Copyleft, and I can understand the frustration. Yet, when we’re working from personal experience, it’s a lot easier to remember the really bad shit than it is to remember the subtle good stuff. What’s ‘right’ sometimes just feels natural. What’s ‘wrong’ sticks out like a sore thumb. Say go on on a series of dates. Some were good and some were bad. What do you remember of the good ones? There was chemistry, a spark, his eyes, good conversation, he was hot. Really vague. You’re probably coming down from a high, as well, so you might not really remember what he DID, just that you liked it. It’s sure as hell easy to remember why the bad ones were bad. He stared at another woman. He grilled or insulted you. He refused to get off of his phone. He grabbed your boob at the dinner table (I probably wouldn’t mind this one, but it’s not entirely kosher). He gave his card out to every woman in the bar. On top of that, for the bad ones, chances are you vented to someone else about it, so it stuck out in your head more.

    • This. As if we needed more gender separatism. Good advice, horrible framing.

    • I agree with the first point. I disagree that men and women share in common more than they don’t, for the reason where there might be agreement could be due to differing motivations. As for the conclusion, women who don’t like how they are being treated have many options lined up for them to green-light. Men get to go back to the bar and bitch about how crazy women are until another manipulator shows up to try her luck.

    • Jamie jones says:

      Brilliant! I am a woman and am horrified at the gender divide in this article! Nice post!

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      So strongly agree. I had a hard time reading or taking seriously anything she said because it was framed as a gender binary. This is how I communicate with people of any gender, and any sort of relationship. And I know people of all genders who could use this advice. This is actually good advice, but couched in that old “Men and women are from different planets” garbage I think it does more harm than good.

  2. Just from personal experience, I’ve seen something interesting relating to the last one. I’m a big culprit for it actually, and whenever my girlfriend starts to talk about an issue I’ll be straight onto trying to discuss a solution. I think this is in large part due to subcultural gender differences.

    We already know that men have a lot of trouble discussing their problems, and even more so in a therapy or direct environment, so it’s almost a subtextual clue in an all male conversation group that if someone brings up something that is annoying them, they want others opinions. This causes no problems in the groups I buzz around.

    But I can’t speak for women. I’ve heard and been told that a lot of women treat talking about problems purely as venting, which is equally valid but could explain some of the friction that is being caused here.

    Maybe we just talk about problems differently.

    • Yeah, well, women telling men how they should lead their lifes and solve their problems aren’t exactly unheard of either, IMO.

      Which, coincidently, is exactly what the author here is doing…

  3. I agree whole-heartedly with the above…

    If you are going to start a conversation with a total stranger…be brief, be funny, and be respectful…if someone gives you the look that says “Drop Dead”, just take a hint and go on your way…

    If you ask about the book that she is reading, it helps if you can say something insightful or interesting or amusing….if she responds, then you might be able to continue the friendly conversation…otherwise, if there is no smile or a look of someone with a huge migraine headache, then move along….

    I love it when guys can talk about writers they are really into (i.e., Henry James can be a home run!) or artists (i.e.., very sexy if a guy can identify a Gauguin vs. a Cezanne…I married that guy!)….or music….[My husband grew up with 2 older sisters, who must have clued him in]

  4. Number 3 is how men are socialized, to offer advice when someone discusses a problem with us. Number 2…weellllll I’ve met plenty of people that say “the woman is always right”, so both genders need to drop their need to be right on this one. It’s ok to disagree, and finding a way to accept that difference in opinion is what is sorely needed.

  5. Well, I agree with most of the posters above. Many of the things that the author was talking about are common from both sexes. And regarding men giving unsoliticed advice? Really?!?!
    Granted my experience is anecdotal, and I am painting with broad strokes here- I usally see women volunteering advice to anyone on how to live their lives, how to deal with relationships,etc. Men, I believe, tend to offer their own unsolicted advice on specific problems- how to fix that whatchamacallit, telling your boss to f@ck off, etc. It’s all annoying.
    The biggest difference I’ve found (as Jake mentions above) is how men and women discuss their problems. It took me a long time to understand that women, when verbalizing their issues, are often thinking out loud and want only to be heard.
    I thought that was mind blowing.
    Now, when a female friend or relative is talking to me about what’s going on in her life, and I ask her, straight up, “Do you need me just to listen, or are you looking for advice as well?” Works pretty well, and has saved me beaucoup stress and misunderstandings.
    Hope y’all are well.

  6. Number two… oh dear. There is a difference between insisting that you are right and actually being right. You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. If I am right, and it can be proven, I will not sit there and say, “Well, you have a valid opinion.” When I am right, I am right, and there is nothing quite so unattractive as a person who cannot accept that they are wrong. I run into people all the time that use words incorrectly. I’m not going to pretend that you’re using it properly and let you walk around sounding like an idiot. Would you rather I tell you that you are using a word incorrectly or let you continue to sound like an idiot to the rest of the world? Would I want to even have anything to do with someone who gets angry because I have the audacity to tell them when they’re wrong and attempt to correct her error? No.

  7. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I try not to do any of the above. But I am very frank with women (or anyone,) that I don’t think women hold any moral high ground automatically, and that I frequently think that they go too far in trying to regulate men’s speech and behavior. I don’t mean chauvinist stuff; I mean all of the “too much information” stuff or the “overboundarying” that I think came in with trying to make anti-sexism real (in a surface and meaningless way pretty much,) since the 1970s. I realize that professional women have to protect themselves from harrassment designed to strip them of the roles they’ve earned (I’m a retired professor, and have many female colleagues,) but I do think we should get back to the more diffusely erotic and friendly atmosphere of 1960s-1970s countercultural feminism. It’s great to hug people, and not to expect sex, necessarily.

    We’ve become so dirty-minded now, and I frequently fear that women are leading the charge toward the bureaucratization of everyday life.

  8. If she’s really that easy to piss off, She will make your life miserable. Stop wasting our time. Lose her phone number and move on to someone more pleasant and less full of herself.

  9. Not buying it says:

    Hmm, how to talk to women without pissing them off? ? !!!

    I suppose we have to be careful when talking to women, since direct, straight & to the point talk is too much for them to handle & comprehend, just like children !!!

    That’s the point this article is making since you never here about ” how to talk to men without pissing them off” , it takes agency & ability of dealing with life from women, sexist attitude covered up as a proper way to treat women, way don’t we call it what it is, ” how to be chivalrous towards women, without pissing them off “

    • That’s a fair point; how much advice do women seek out on “how to communicate effectively with men”? Zero; they assume they’re already doing a great job, despite all evidence to the contrary.

  10. There is only one way for a man to talk to a woman without pissing her off: Never disagree with her about anything, and never say more than “Yes, dear” to any question.

  11. #3 is interesting because I also have that problem but from the OPPOSITE end. When my partner complains about something or is in some trouble, I just listen and I’m sympathetic. Then HE gets pissed off because I’m just sitting there and not offering him advice or telling him what he should do. I do what I would want done to me in that situation, which is just to have someone to vent to and who will make me feel better, but he wants something else. It’s tough. Of course, I’ve been on the other side, too, where I’ve just wanted someone to listen, and they start giving advice. If I’ve had a bad day and I’m complaining about woman who was mean to me, chances are, I’d rather you say “yeah, she acted like a total bitch, I’m sorry,” than offer me some advice on how to start a friendship with her.

  12. Adam Thomas says:

    Just tell a girl she is beautiful and that no matter what you will do everything you can to make her happy no matter the situation. She’ll never get pissed at you if you take the time to learn more about her! :D but of course im terrible with girls -__-

  13. I read this entire article, but either I’m too much like a guy or this can be taken both ways because I’ve definitely been #1 and #2. I definitely remember arguing my father and grandfather down about Michael “Turbo” Chambers teaching Michael Jackson the Moonwalk and even when I gave them a copy of the page in MJ’s book where he said he learned from breakdancers, they STILL said it wasn’t true. Honestly, I think the person who can’t admit when he/she is wrong is childish and refuses to learn new things. Know-it-alls are annoying, too, but still. And I just dated a guy and told him astrology was stupid. Every damn thing this dude did, he swore up and down it was because he was a Virgo and wouldn’t take responsibility for his own actions. #3, well, that one is really good advice though.

  14. Can I write an article entitled “how to write about men without pissing them off”? Because I think somebody would really benefit from reading that.

    This is exactly the kind of shit women have had to put up with for years from Cosmo, etc, and it serves only to highlight why so many women are rightly pissed off.

    Surely equality shouldn’t mean that now everyone has to put up with being patronised with pseudo psychology by hacks with books to sell?

  15. This article borders on offensive. A lot of how I feel is already said above. The title is misleading, this is more about how people ought to treat each other and is so obvious I find it offensive that it pretends to be new information. But seriously… “Stand by your opinions, but let her have hers. She’ll love you for it.” Oh, thank you for letting me have my opinions and this will NOT be the reason I love you. Any man that would swagger around criticizing, needing to be right and offering advice is clearly completely insecure and won’t get very far with women or anyone. There is NO NEW INFO here. And certainly, again, this has nothing to do with “How to Talk To a Women W/O Pissing Her Off.” I also really don’t like when headlines try to grab readers for the sake of a read. And just PS– there are many ways, a laundry list, of manners in which to speak to a woman to avoid making her angry and the opposite is true as well. I’m sorry, but I find this so elementary like it was written by a therapeutic intern who does not have a lot of experience. This could be a very good article but misses the mark.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Express your opinions and give advice, but do it respectfully, says Dr. Christie Hartman.   "Conversation is tricky business. Conversation with women can be even trickier. Why is this? As a man, you have a communication style that you’ve learned and honed over the years, one that works reasonably well with other men or in your everyday life. But when you converse with a date or partner, you’re not only communicating with the other sex, you’re communicating with someone who will assign more weight to what you say. Which means it’s much easier to get into trouble."  [...]

  2. [...] Read More here… TweetPin It Filed in: News, Relationship & Family [...]

  3. [...] interaction. But assumptions can get the better of us, too. And they can really f*ck up a romance.How to Talk to Women Without Pissing Them OffI got caught up in an argument on the Internet. Maybe you've had that experience? If you're [...]

  4. [...] Check out the article here. Your comments are welcome. And, if you can think of good examples for how women piss men off in conversation, share them here so I can start working on that article. Cheers! [...]

  5. [...] and Find a good Wife”.  Another article from The Good Men Project that caught my eye is, “How to Talk to Women Without Pissing Them Off” By Christie Hartman, which touches on a big theme that will have a focus in my next book as [...]

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