By Alan and Pauly Heller Walk & Talk Ministries
Jerry, a sales representative for a textile firm, makes frequent calls on the furniture design studio where Mary works. He finds her attractive, and, hoping that the feeling is mutual, asks her to lunch. She says yes, and they make a date for the following day. Over a double cheeseburger (Jerry) and dieter’s choice salad with the dressing on the side (Mary), they share life stories. Their eyes meet across the table, and Jerry, feeling encouraged by Mary’s smiling response, remarks, “Your diet seems to be working really well.”
Silence. She frowns. The emotional temperature drops 20 degrees. Uh oh, he thinks, suddenly not knowing what to do with his hands. He tries to make a joke, reminding her of something they’d just been laughing about, inwardly pleading for a return of her smile. Mary stares at her plate, hands folded in her lap.
Jerry asks, “Is something wrong?”
“No,” Mary replies, then adds flatly, “I think I am ready to go now. Waiter, separate checks, please.”
When a woman is offended, she closes her heart and her mouth too. A man wants to know, “How do I get her to open up?” George Barna of the Barna Research Institute tells us that the Baby Boomer generation will have the most divorces ever. And Gen Xers may be even worse. Why is this? Men and women do not know how to relate and really understand or commit to each other.
This kind of statistic is discouraging, but it’s why we feel the need to fight for healthy marriages through the ministry of Walk & Talk—to help people who are married, or thinking of marriage to be strong and proactive in their relationships.
Many men wonder how to get a woman to open up and respond positively after an offense. In our book The Marital Mystery Tour (available here), we share the importance of a man accepting a woman’s invitation to enter her world, or see life’s situations from her point of view. She wants him to relate to her, not fix her. She wants to know that he is “safe” and that he won’t be angry with her if she tells him something that she thinks he might not want to hear. So, men, ask yourself as you go on that date with her, “Am I fixing her or listening to her?” Not just waiting for your turn silently or giving a grunt for a response.
In our Communication Connections Workshop we teach couples skills to defuse the emotional tension that accompanies misunderstanding and help them learn to actively listen to one another and verbally “close the loop.” Each partner learns to be self-responsible and share his or her perspective using “I-statements” instead of the “you’s” that frequently put the other person on the defensive. Couples learn to “feed back” what’s been said without attacking the other person.
By simply reflecting or restating what one has heard until the message’s sender says “that’s it,” the receiver demonstrates respect and value and, ultimately, love. A simple skill but not used in the normal conversations of those trying to get to know one another or for that matter understand each other. But whether you are a couple or single looking for Mr. Right or Miss Right, the principle is the same. This is just a start.
Males tend to want to know the “bottom line” of a story before getting all the small details filled in. They process information linearly, in categories and boxes. But the female mind usually works along a much more complex framework of mental and emotional wiring; she wants to relay the whole picture, including background, colors, smells, and how it all affected her, and eventually she will get to the point of what it is she is saying. Women tend to want to relate; men, on the other hand, want to fix problems, take action and reach a specific goal. They want to know “What do you want?” so they can do it.
So here is a practical tip for getting her to respond. Take time to reflect what she says before giving her the answer. Close the loop with her or him and say, “are you saying…” and then in your own words tell them what you heard. This will lead to a much refreshing conversation. And guys, she will feel a lot more valued in the process, and will respond to you. Give it a try. Let us know how it went as you practice this tip.