In a recent survey I did with men, 85% said they struggled with intimacy and connection in their marriage. Almost 65% said it was a major cause of fights with their wives. Can you relate?
One of the biggest reasons this happens is because there is a basic disconnect in the way the two of you communicate. While the ability to communicate well is not a magic bullet for a having a good marriage, it’s almost impossible to have one without it. In fact, real intimacy and connection require it.
The commonly accepted belief that women use more words on a daily basis than men do is just not true. Men and women use about the same number of words. They just use them differently. And therein lies the challenge.
As a man, you are rewarded for being goal-oriented. Getting straight to the point, solving the problem, and moving on is the way to get ahead. Conversation is the way to get the necessary information so you can take action. Anything that doesn’t add to this effort is a distraction to be ignored.
In the workplace, this is great. At home, not so much.
That’s because your wife is often talking to you to create connection. She often processes her thoughts verbally as they come to her which can make the conversation hard to follow. She shares what may seem to be meaningless details because they add depth and context to her story.
A conversation with your wife can seem like trying to take a drink from a firehose. It can leave you feeling lost and overwhelmed by her torrent of words. You’re trying hard to find the common thread, the top priority so to speak, but it can feel like being in a maze. No matter your effort, you keep making wrong turns and having to backtrack. It can be exhausting.
Men like things that are definite, measurable and specific. You can actually use those traits to improve communication with your wife by using some very particular techniques. First, you want to expand your role beyond ‘problem solver’. At the beginning of the conversation, you can ask her what hat she would like you to wear—partner, confidante, supporter, defender, and, yes, maybe even problem solver. Once your job is defined, the necessary information will come into better focus and it will be easier to stay present.
Next, master the skill of Reflective Listening. This is when you paraphrase what you heard her say back to her before you reply to it. Doing this accomplishes three things. First, it allows you to clear up any misunderstandings about what she is trying to convey. Second, it slows the conversation down, so you have time to process her words. Lastly, it gives you time to catch any emotional reaction to what she said. This is a win-win-win for you.
Finally, make abundant use of the 3 Cs. First curiosity. Ask questions to learn more or to go deeper. For example, “What happened next?”, “What makes that important?”, “How did that land?” Try not to use “why” questions because they can create defensiveness.
Then, confusion. Asking for more clarity or specificity is always helpful. “I was following until this happened and then I got lost. What did he say again?”, or “I’m a bit confused. What happened first?”
And last, but not least, compassion. Find a way to connect with your wife’s mood and demeanor. If she’s happy or excited, try, “That’s great”, or “How exciting”. If she’s having difficulties then, “That sounds awful”, or “I’m sorry that didn’t go well” can make a huge difference.
Now, like any skill, getting good at it takes practice. You don’t have to communicate the way your wife does, but it is wise to be able know how to communicate with her. I guarantee you will be well rewarded for it.
Previously published on foundationscoachingnc
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