Why men find it so difficult to understand women

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.

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  • TAGS
  • communication
  • listening
  • relationship advice for men
  • relationship advice for women
  • understand women
  • understanding women
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Mark Goulston, M.D. is a business advisor, consultant, speaker, trainer and coach trained as a clinical psychiatrist who honed his skills as an FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer who increases people’s ability to get through to anyone. He is Co- Founder of Heartfelt Leadership whose Mission is: Daring to Care and Go Positive Now and is the Resident Big Brother at Business Women Rising and serves on the Board of Advisers of American Women Veterans and Dr. Oz’ foundation, Health Corps. He is the author of international best selling book, “Just Listen” Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, $24.95) which has reached #1 at amazon kindle in six business categories, #1 in China and Germany , #1 in audible audiobooks and has been translated into fourteen languages. Dr. Goulston and his book was also a PBS special entitled “Just Listen with Dr. Mark Goulston.” His next book, REAL INFLUENCE: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In, co-authored with Dr. John Ullment will be the lead book for the American Management Association in January, 2013 and will focus on influencing people in a post-selling world. Dr. Goulston’s development of those skills started with his education: a B.A. from UC Berkeley, an M.D. from Boston University, post graduate residency in psychiatry at UCLA. He went on to be a professor at UCLA’s internationally renowned Neuropsychiatric Institute for more than twenty years, become a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and was named one of America’s Top Psychiatrists for 2004-2005 and again in 2009 and 2011 by Washington, D.C. based Consumers’ Research Council of America. A partial list of companies, organizations and universities he has trained, spoken to, provided executive coaching to or consulted with include: GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Xerox, Deutsche Bank, Hyatt, Accenture, Astra Zenica, British Airways, Sodexo, ESPN, Kodak, Federal Express, YPO, YPOWPO India, Association for Corporate Growth, FBI, Los Angeles District Attorney, White & Case, Seyfarth Shaw, UCLA Anderson School of Management, USC, Pepperdine University. He is or has been a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and is the best selling author of four prior books including the international best seller, Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior (Perigee, $13.95) Get Out of Your Own Way at Work…and Help Others Do the Same (Perigee, $14.95), is a contributor to Harvard Business, blogs for the Huffington Post, Business Insider writes the Tribune media syndicated column, Solve Anything with Dr. Mark, column on leadership for FAST COMPANY, Directors Monthly. He is frequently called upon to share his expertise with regard to contemporary business, national and world news by television, radio and print media including: Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, Los Angeles Times, ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/CNN/BBC News, Oprah, Today. Dr. Goulston lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.