15 Tips For Avoiding Miscommunication - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 10, 2014

15 Tips For Avoiding Miscommunication

“I can’t stand this any more,” says Roxanne. “You work long hours; you’re never here. When you are, your head’s still at work. I feel like I’m a piece of furniture for you.”

John says nothing.

Roxanne continues, “We never go out; you never tell me you love me.” She stops. When John still says nothing, she continues. “We rarely make love; maybe you don’t like how I look any more.” There’s another silence.

These silences may last half a second or ten seconds, but they feel like an eternity to Roxanne as she waits for a response. Without one, she continues — either out of her discomfort with the silence or from a belief she hasn’t been clear enough. At some point, she cries, “Are you listening? Say something!”

John’s been listening. From his perspective, he’s been waiting for her to finish speaking, waiting to hear the point of her complaints. Otherwise, he doesn’t know what to say. And with such a long list, he thinks, “She must not love me.”

Roxanne’s expecting a response, and without it she feels ignored. From her perspective, her comments are an indication of her love; “I love him enough to want to fix some problems in our relationship.”

Miscommunication is a major cause of marital problems. Part of miscommunication springs from not understanding the language differences between men and women. Another part comes from not using similar rules for a discussion.

Therefore, in an effort to make serious discussions go smoother, to decrease the difficulties that arise when men and women talk to each other, here are some tips for avoiding most communication problems.

1. Make sure you have each other’s full attention before starting any discussion. Set a specific time, like 9:00 that night or 2:30 the next day. Then make sure you both keep the appointment.

2. Don’t make your partner guess what you want. Say it directly; don’t hope she or he will figure it out.

3. In presenting your point(s), be brief and specific. Condense them to no more than two to three minutes.

4. Use “I” statements. Rather than complain about what your partner is doing (no one likes that), say how you feel about what he or she does. Rather than, “You shouldn’t ignore me,” try, “I feel ignored when you don’t talk with me in the evenings.” Be aware of pseudo-I statements, such as, “I feel you shouldn’t ignore me.” That’s just a “you” statement in disguise.

5. Avoid absolutes like “always” and “never.” They are inflammatory and sidetrack your point. Stick to the present situation; don’t dredge up yesterday’s lunch,

6. Shape your specific question so it eliminates blame and offers a solution. For example, “What can we (you, I) do about this problem?”

7. Consider if it’s really necessary to say who caused the problem or why. (Remember, when it comes to relationships, women like to analyze a problem; men just want to solve it.”

8. End with a specific question, such a, “Do you see the problem the same way?” “Do you have any suggestions for fixing this problem?” Avoid vague questions like, “What do you think?”

9. To make sure you are clear about your points and how you want to present them, practice what and how to express them. You may want to write them out first so you can edit; remove your “You statements.” Anticipate the other’s reactions and how you’ll handle them.

10. When you are well prepared, make your point and then stop. Give your partner time to think and respond. (Have you trained your partner to keep silent while you keep talking?)

11. Keep the whole discussion under an hour. If you need more time, set a specific time to continue, later that day or the next.

12. Women: Don’t let your emotions interfere with what you need to say. Crying, from sadness or anger, defuses your point and is distracting. Don’t let your tears become the issue.

13. Men: Make sure you talk to her, not at her. Share your feelings; don’t sound like a teacher. Check if your intensity comes across in the volume of your voice or your facial expression. A woman’s reaction to your non-verbals may prevent her from hearing your points.

14. Don’t be defensive; don’t react if your partner has a negative reaction to what you say. How you respond will contribute to an escalation of tension or a discussion of a workable solution.

15. Remember: You’re on the same team, not opponents.

If John and Roxanne had followed these tips, the above conversation might have gone like this.

“John, is this a good time to talk?” If he says no, Roxanne asks when would be better, and they set a specific time to talk. If he says yes, she continues, “I am annoyed that we don’t spend enough time together. I like being with you and miss it. Do you have ideas how we can do more of this?”

She is silent and waits for a response. It may feel like an eternity, especially if John has come to expect she’ll keep talking. When he realizes that’s not going to happen, he says in a rising voice, “I can’t do anything right for you. You’re always criticizing me.”

Roxanne ignores the raised voice and sidesteps his defensiveness. She responds, “I’m sure you’d also like us to spend more time together. I know we both have busy schedules, but let’s put our heads together and find a way to make it happen more often. Do you have some ideas?”

By sidestepping his criticism of her and by not blaming his busy schedule for their not getting time together, she deflects his defensiveness.

She sticks to the specific question. While she may want him to take responsibility, in the long run, changing the situation is more important than getting him to confess to being wrong.

Following these 15 tips won’t remove all communication problems but you should notice significant improvement in what can be tension-filled conversations.

About the author

Dr. Karen-Gail-Lewis

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis is a marriage and family therapist (39 years) and author of numerous relationship books — on marriage, for singles, about adult siblings. Her latest is Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary .

For 17 years, she has run Unique Retreats For Women, weekends for self-growth and fun. She is available for phone consultations.

Go to her website and get a free article about Clues for Understanding Male-ese and Female-ese.