Now let me ask you, do you believe yourself to be a good communicator?
Most women are good at communication, certainly when compared to their male counterparts. Yet as a dating coach, one of the most common issues I discuss with women is the frustration of communication problems with a new boyfriend.
It’s not at all uncommon for a woman who has excellent communication skills to find herself at a loss when it comes to reconnecting with her man when he’s shutting down or pulling away. Why does that happen?
The simplest answer comes down to emotions.
Have you ever noticed that we treat the people we are closest to the worst? Brothers and sisters pull out all the stops when arguing with each other as kids. Husbands and wives often talk to each other in ways they would never dream of talking to a stranger or someone they dislike at work. Why does this happen?
It happens because emotions run the show.
The closer we are to a person, the more our emotions get involved. It’s no longer a logical decision about how to interact with an annoying coworker. Our boss may anger us, but our desire to keep our job keeps our emotions in check. But when the relationship is about emotions, we don’t hold back.
You don’t have a relationship with a boyfriend for financial gain or any other non-emotional reason. You have a relationship with your boyfriend because of the emotional benefits. So when the emotions go bad, there’s no longer anything holding us back from expressing our emotional dissatisfaction.
The result? We sometimes regress to a level of communication that is ineffective. We communicate emotion.
At this point I need to clarify something. Among women, communicating emotion works just fine. With men, you can expect very poor results.
Think about this for a moment. You know it’s true. I’m not going to go into all the reasons in this email, but suffice it to say men will irritate you and frustrate you if you try to communicate raw emotions to them with the expectation that they will understand and respond in a way that heals the relationship.
Here’s an example. Your guy starts to pull away from you. You know there’s a breakdown in communication. You’re not sure why he’s pulling away, but you’ve had a front row seat to the building emotional tension between the two of you.
You’re on a date with him, but it gets cut short. He awkwardly asks if you had a good time as he drops you off.
You look at him with furrowed brows and respond in a slightly sarcastic tone, “Yeah. I had a great time.” Your face says the opposite. You continue to hold his gaze for a few more seconds as a tear rolls down your cheek.
He just stares at you blankly. With a slight huff you step out of the car, close the door, and walk away.
That is an example of communicating raw emotion without words or structure. After stretching my male brain to become a more effective dating coach, I now know what your emotion was designed to communicate and what your heart longs for him to do in response. Unfortunately, you cannot count on most men to understand this level of communication.
Generally what happens is he takes your expression of raw emotion as some kind of attack. He feels frustrated and angry and pulls away more. It’s not your fault men are like this, and ideally a man should take responsibility for learning how to understand raw emotional expression. The only reason I focus on what you can do as a woman, is because you can’t fix his part for him. If there were men reading this email, my advice would target their part in learning to get over their phobia of seeing a woman cry.
Now let’s talk solutions. Guys are different. They respond to emotion, but not when you use raw emotion to communicate with them. Men will respond to emotion when it is expressed with clear words along with directions on how to respond.
For example, “Mike, I’m hurting inside right now. I feel sad. I also feel a little bit afraid. I’m sad because I feel like something has come between us and we’re not as close right now. I’m afraid because I value this relationship and I don’t want to lose you.” And now the clear directions: “I feel like there’s something affecting your feelings toward me that you’re not telling me about. I want us to work it out together. I want you to trust me and work through it with me. Tell me what’s bothering you.”
This approach works because of three main reasons.
First, it doesn’t require that your man read between the lines of raw emotion.
Second, it communicates the problem in a way his mind is designed to work. Men like to fix problems, so a clear problem and a clear direction to solve it are like a breath of fresh air to his male brain.
Third, your emotions are expressed in ways that cause him to want to come to your rescue and be your hero. Give him a chance to be your hero and he will generally respond with a degree of nobility and patience you would not otherwise receive.
In the end, the communication advice I’m giving you requires that you become solution focused. It’s too easy for all of us to fall into the trap of showing our painful emotions rather than talking about them with a solution-focused mindset.
Men need to see a solution before they feel comfortable admitting to certain kinds of emotions. So give him a specific “problem” to chew on. Make it clear that you believe a solution exists. Then ask for his help to find that solution.
I hope these concepts will empower you and give you a solid sense of direction the next time you find yourself needing to break down communication barriers with your guy.
Talk to you soon.