Remember first that men and women communicate differently: Women tend to use emotional, gray language that is oriented toward people while men tend to use concrete, a black and white language that is situationally oriented.
Often women have difficulty relating what they are thinking to men because men are trying to categorize so that they can solve the issue where women are seeking mutual understanding of where they are, relationally. This can be overcome by adjusting the way they communicate. There are strategies to get your man to listen to you and understand your emotional language.
Ways to get your partner to listen, speak and understand emotional language:
- Get the conversation started
Refer to Part 1 of this article on how to get your husband to listen to you and how to get the conversation started. By referring to this you can get tips to make your husband listen to you. But there’s more to do if you need him to understand and fulfill what you need from him. Keep reading to learn how to make your husband understand and speak the emotional language fluently.
- Use simple emotional language
Stick to the basic emotions (happy, sad, mad/angry (frustration is a good modifier), surprise, disgust, contempt, and fear/scared) as a start because he can understand those as they are universal.
This is almost a guarantee that he will be able to relate on some level and be able to respond using the same language – which you can, and should, encourage.
- Use concrete (Black & White) language
Try to frame what you’re saying in some concrete parameters; this conversation is necessarily emotional and you can translate it for him into as concrete a language as possible. After all, you want to be heard and the best way to ensure that is to try to speak his language while mixing it with yours.
This offers him a way to communicate with you that uses your language as well as his.
- Be patient
You’re teaching him to speak emotionally. This does not mean to treat him like a child or an idiot (he’s not); it just means to keep it simple and short (that means 3 to 5 sentences).
- Set boundaries
It is a man’s learned tendency to try to solve or fix. Unless this is a situation where that is what you want, ask him to refrain from solving and fixing. He will likely default to it because it’s what he is used to and what he understands best. Gently stop him and ask him to simply hear you out because that’s what you need and solving/fixing is actually hurtful to you.
- Ask him to actively listen
- This is your opportunity to clarify what you are saying
- Stop and ask him to please tell you what he’s heard. This is not to embarrass him, it’s to make sure that what you are saying is being heard clearly and is not being filtered and reframed via his personal filters and beliefs (which we all have a tendency to do). Remember that, early on, he will not reframe what you are saying very well.
- Ask him to, at an appropriate pause, ask you if he can tell you what he’s heard you say so far (this gives him permission not to act like he is understanding what you are saying and ask for clarification). If he does this, that’s really advanced because, now, he’s willing to admit that he isn’t perfect.
- If he reframes what you’ve said, is what he said good enough? Really think about that – you want him to get what you are saying. If you rationalize or accept “sort of,” then you are dismissing yourself and your needs. He can get it. This is not the time to say, “Okay, that’s good enough.”
Never assume that he is hearing you accurately without checking via his feedback.
- Help him stay present
If you see him wandering off in his head, he may be formulating his answer or thinking about other things that are more comfortable (e.g. work, a project, the gym); patiently pause long enough to get his attention and ask him to come back.
- Be aware of his possible defense mechanisms
- Defense mechanisms are pretty much automated defaults – so it’s likely one will come up.
- Some possibilities:
- Excuses and rationalizing: It’s a natural defense when we’ve done something wrong and are embarrassed/ashamed by our actions. A soft hand on his arm or heart can calm that.
- Blaming you: If his defense is blaming, a boundary needs to be set. It is best to calmly say that you can pick this up later. This will take a lot of restraint but further discussion at his point will likely be fruitless, or worse.
- Remind yourself throughout
He is not yet skilled at listening and “getting” emotional language. This will help you have patience. This is no easy thing for him but he can get it.
- Remember your purpose:
You want to be heard for your thoughts, ideas, and feelings and to be seen for who you really are.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by James W Annear