John Gray With Anat Baniel: Tips 12 and 13 - The Art of Asking for Help and Effective Communication
One of the biggest challenges for a woman in any relationship, particularly when she has a child with special needs, is the expectation that your partner is going to automatically do what you think he should be doing. There is a big point of difference between men and women, because women are nurturing by nature, constantly alert to their child's needs and wants.
Another important difference between men and women is that when men don't know what to do, they often stop acting. When women don't know what to do, they keep trying different things. Men are designed to have a goal and to figure out how to get there. If he doesn't know how to get there, he doesn't do anything and he thinks, What can I do? If he doesn't have an answer, then he starts to feel depressed.
Women don't become depressed when they don't know what to do. Women become depressed when they feel that they're not supported. So, here you have a dynamic of the man being over here, doing nothing, because he doesn't know what to do and his partner over there, feeling like: We gotta do something, but I don't feel supported because he's not doing anything. And then her depression and unhappiness and stress begin to increase.
When there is a child who requires special attention, this dynamic can get amplified. The good news is that there are four simple steps that you can take to solve this problem, feel supported and have your partner feel successful and participate more.
1. Ask for What You Want
Men instinctually don't do anything unless necessary. And the way that men know what's necessary is by being asked to do something. When you ask a man to do what you clearly see is needed for your child at that moment, the dopamine in his brain is activated, motivating him into action. Women don't require to be asked. They automatically have that tendency to go forth. Once a man clearly knows his job description, then, quite often, he no longer needs to be asked to perform that specific job.
To be there for a child with special needs is a whole re-education for men. And we men depend greatly on our partners asking us for that support, not presuming that if we're willing, we'll just do it. Men often just don't join in. Women do right away, men don't. They want to be asked, they need to be asked.
2. Ask Without Blame
Women, it is very important that you ask for what is needed without blaming him or making him wrong, even if you feel frustrated. Pay attention to the tone of your voice and to the way you word your request. Blaming him will make him defensive rather than excited to be useful to you by making you happy. (Read our previous tip on blame.) You can see this as a wonderful opportunity to have your partner be successful and for you to get the support you need.
3. Give Him a Project
What you communicate to a man when you make a request makes a huge difference. If you say, "Do you want to take care of the kids tonight?" he may say, "Oh, no, I'd rather just watch the news."
Don't ask him about what he wants to do. If you need his help, give him a specific project. Men are really good at projects. Say: "Honey, would you take care of the kids for forty minutes? I need to go off and do..." If possible, give a time frame for the task, so in his mind, he will respond: "Yes, that's a project. I can do this." And send him on his way.
4. Express Appreciation
Something women often don't realize about men is that whenever they do a project for you, they need appreciation. Make sure to acknowledge him, to celebrate his accomplishments profusely, even if what he did seems like no big deal to you. Say to him: "That was so helpful," or "Oh, that made me feel so good," or "Thank you, this makes such a big difference," or anything else you can come up with. That feedback lets him know that he was needed. Women don't often require this kind of feedback, (although men, it's always good to express your appreciation to your woman -- she is working really hard). Women aren't as dependent upon the feedback of "Oh, you did a good job." Women are just going to do it anyway. Men tend to need that feedback to tell them that what they did was necessary. Then gradually, he starts learning his job description so he is automatically motivated to do things you want him to do.
Women, do remember that just because he's not doing something that you need him to do, doesn't mean that he's not willing to do it. Having to ask is one of the most important challenges and lessons for all women to learn today in relationships.
How are these tips working for you? Please share your experiences with us!
Watch for our next video blog Tip #14 with John Gray: Communicate Without Complaining or Criticizing
Attend a free, experiential 2-hour "Children With Special Needs" Workshop with Anat Baniel on August 3 in San Rafael, California.
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