In my last blog we discussed the idea that conflict between partners, despite common belief, is not bad. In fact, if it’s done properly, conflict provides an opportunity for you to get closer to your partner. Healthy conflict includes love, respect, and patience. When you practice these variables during a fight, you will come through the other end with greater connection. The question then becomes, ‘How do you communicate with each other when there’s an issue?’
Here’s the first thing we learned about men and women at the beginning of this series of blogs. Men and women are, DIFFERENT! Findings from interviews and counseling sessions showed that the differences extended to communication as well as conflict resolution. Generally speaking, the data shows that men are problem solvers. When his spouse comes to him with a problem, he collects the information and then, logically, identifies the best possible solution. Sounds completely rational, right? He gives her the best advice he can, truly believing that he is helping her – subsequently not understand why she is getting more upset when giving said advice. What he doesn’t understand is that, in taking a logical problem solving approach, he is by passing her emotional experience, which minimizes and invalidates her feelings. What happens when a woman’s feelings are invalidated? Bad things. Trust me, this is not a place you want to go voluntarily.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO COME UP WITH SOLUTIONS TO HER PROBLEM, OR YOU WILL END UP IN THE PIT OF DESPAIR
Men, you first need to recognize that women solve problems differently than you do. So the good news is that problem solving is okay. You just need to understand how she solves problems, and then get on board that train. I’m going to give you an acronym that will help you remember how she solves problems. L.O.V.E – Listen. Openness. Validation. Empathy. Let’s go into a bit more details so you understand what each one looks like.
Listen. This is the first thing we learned at the beginning of this series of blogs. It involves Assuming the position, which means sit close while maintaining eyes contact with your partner. Some people hold hands to build a greater connection. It might feel slightly uncomfortable at the beginning, but ask her if she would like this. If she says yes, do it! You need to provide Undivided Attention, which means there are NO electronic devices anywhere within your vicinity. She is the most important thing in the world to you in that moment. Once you have Assumed the Position and she begins to talk, this is the part where you practice the 5 magic listening words – ah, um, oh, aha, huh? When you insert these in the right place, she receives the message that you are paying attention, that her words are important to you, that she is important to you. If she knows you’re using them, you’re doing it wrong. This part has to be natural. Ask her for feedback until you get it right.
AS WITH ANY NEW SKILL, IT REQUIRES PRACTICE. YOU WILL GET IT. SO HANG IN THERE
Openness. This means staying open to what she’s telling you, even when you have doubts and feel insecure. It means being willing to struggle to make sense of your emotions so that they are not so overwhelming. Once you can do this, you can begin to connect with your partner.
Validation. You must validate her feelings. This means that you need to make her feel that what she’s feeling is an appropriate emotion. For example, if she is upset because she didn’t get the job she wanted, you could say, “I’m so sorry. I would be really disappointed too. I know how much you wanted the job, and how hard you have worked for it.” This sends her the message that the feelings she’s experiencing are the right ones, and that it’s okay for her to feel disappointed. When you tell her (with good intention) that perhaps the other person was more qualified, or “Don’t worry, you’ll get the next one” you are sending the message that she shouldn’t feel bad. The problem is that she does feel bad, so your approach only makes her feel worse. Hence, why she gets more upset. She doesn’t want your opinion. She wants your validation. Most importantly, if you remember nothing else, remember this. Do NOT give your opinion unless she asks for it. 99% of the time, she wants you to listen, validate and empathize. If she wants your opinion, she will ask for it. Even then, here’s how I would reply if I were you, just to be on the safe side. “Do you want my opinion, or do you want me to listen, validate and empathize?” 9 times out of 10 she will want the latter. This question will spare you a great number of conflicts. You’re welcome.
Empathy. You must put yourself in her shoes. Try to experience and feel what she feels so that you can work through the problem with her. Get on board her train. That’s how she works through issues. When you solve problems this way, 90% of the issues will go away. Be on her team!
We’ve covered how women need to work through their issues, and how men can help them through the process. Now let’s turn to the men to find out what they need from their wives/partners to work through their problems. The general consensus among the men was to never discuss a man’s feelings with him when he is feeling them. For him, it stirs the problem and makes him feel worse. What he needs to hear from you is, “Go work it out in anyway you need, and I’ll hold down the fort here. I’m here if you need me.” Remember, men and women work things out differently, so you need to understand and respect that he resolves his issues differently than you.
Okay, you’ve now got the tools you need to get moving this week. Start practicing with your partner, keeping in mind how he or she solves problems.
Lots of love!