She: "You need to work harder on this relationship?"
He: "What the f--- does that mean?"
When a woman says the above to a man, he scratches his head and thinks, "Do I need a shovel, do you want me to fix something in the house and when it comes to communication, I listen to you and then tell you what I think is a good solution... which you hate."
What a woman needs to understand is that "working on a relationship" does not make sense to a man, is something he can't understand and clearly from the tone of voice coming from that woman is obviously something he is incompetent at.
If you as the woman want the result of your little lecture/tutorial to be for him to be more caring, understanding, demonstrative and emotionally understanding and you think the above approach will produce that, with all due respect... You're batty.
I realize I have about one more paragraph before you ladies tell me to take a hike or worse, so here goes my last shot with you.
Men don't know how to work on a relationship, or nearly anything intangible or something they can't use cold (yes, guys... COLD) logic with. What men do know how to do is focus.
A couple that are two of my closest friends could have had the above exchange. When the wife said to her husband, "You need to listen better," he smiled through clenched teeth and replied, "I do listen to you."
He may have thought he was listening in his strategy to turn a conversation into a problem, come up with a solution, offer the solution and expect it to be greeted with opened arms and a, "Why thank you honey" smile! NOT A CHANCE!
Instead, she realized that he was great at focusing. And so she told him, with a kinder, more patient and one-glass-of-wine-induced, loving tone, "Just focus on what I am saying."
Bingo! He was amazing at focusing on what his clients, customers and employees said and then drilling down even deeper until he understood and they felt understood. So now when his wife spoke, instead of pulling back and anticipating a "You're clueless" look or those actual words, he leaned into what she was saying.
When she said something that had an emotional spin, a little hyperbole, or a word such as "never," "always," "awful" or "if only," he would wait patiently for her to finish and then respond with, "Say more about that (repeating the word to her)."*
That would cause her to go even deeper and open up more and after she finished what she said next, he simply replied in an affirming and validating and encouraging her to talk even more tone, "Really!" After that she would go even deeper.
Following that he would say, "And the way that (situation) made you feel was __________ (and if she didn't say, he would suggest words, such as: "frustrated," "hurt," "angry," "ticked off," "betrayed")," after which she would open up even further.
He then asked her: "What did you do next?" to which she told him. And then he asked her, "How did it work out?" to which she answered.
He then followed with, "I'm sorry that happened to you, what can I do to help?"
She just smiled, communicating that he already had.
And that night... he got lucky.
* The above dialogue is explained in greater detail under the concept of conversation deepeners in "Just Listen" Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (Amacom, $24.95).
For more by Mark Goulston, M.D., click here.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.