Emily is telling her man, Sam, about a difficult problem at work, and she’s just about to get to the important part: her confusing emotions and reactions to the situation. And, what does Sam do? He interrupts to give Emily the “solution” to a problem that he doesn’t even understand.
Most women understand this situation all too well. They get frustrated with their men for solving problems when they ought to simply be listening. Men, on the other hand, recoil with hurt that their suggestions and answers were unappreciated.
Most of us know and understand the above scenario; in fact, it’s practically become a clichï¿½. But, if we look at it from a different viewpoint we may see something new. Men are penalized for doing something they do best–solving problems–and they gradually get the message that (once again) they are wrong for doing it.
Most men aren’t so great at exploring issues with women or communing, empathizing and listening to emotionally-based problems. They’d rather get to the point quickly and see what actions are necessary. Therefore, consider drawing your man into what he’s good it–problem-solving discussions–and going much lighter on the feeling-oriented ones. “Would you help me solve this problem?” will get a man interested quickly.
Similarly, “How do you think we should split up the kitchen chores?” is a much better approach than “I’m frustrated about housework; let’s talk about it.” A man likely won’t be interested in exploring all the issues and feelings about housework. He very possibly will look at that kind of conversation as an uncomfortable waste of time. He’ll simply want to know what you want him to do. So, either be willing to make a specific request for a new action, or ask for his help to solve the problems about keeping the kitchen clean. If you do ask for his solutions, be prepared to build on his suggestions, contribute your own ideas and willingly collaborate with your man. If you criticize his ideas it will only cause resentment
Phrase your problem with an open question: “How do you think…”, or, “What do you think we should do about…” It’s not playing fair to already have a solution in mind. Nor should you make your problem statement an accusation: “Why am I the one who always has to drive Billy to baseball practice?” The idea is to create genuine participation and engagement. Men who are busy solving a problem with you are much more willing to listen and try out new behaviors. Most important, you’ll be solving problems with your man as you play to his strength.