Now I know that men are forever expected to be able to fix everything; that broken shelf, the car, the computer… the list is ongoing. And women love that you do this, seriously.
It’s hot when a guy wants to fix the oven himself rather than get someone in.
But there is ONE important time in your relationship when your lady doesn’t WANT you to fix it. When you trying to fix it is only going to make it WORSE.
Have you ever had a woman in your life tell you a problem, then get all mad and upset with you when all you did was try to give her some advice?
Makes absolutely no sense, right!
But here’s the reason behind the madness: what your lady REALLY wants from you when she’s upset and telling you about a problem is NOT your advice on how to fix it, but simply your ACTIVE LISTENING and SUPPORT.
Huh? But if she’s telling me about a problem, doesn’t she want the solution?
Sure, she does want to fix the problem. And she probably even has a good idea of how to do this. But fixing it is not on her mind right now. What she needs to deal with first is the EMOTION that has come along with this problem.
Right now, her negative feelings are the problem.
For example, the anger she feels at being passed over for a promotion at work.
How hurt she feels after a fight with her best friend.
How anxious she feels about a big presentation she has to do.
What she needs is to be able to share these emotions, and make sense of them. Only once she has dealt with her emotions can she go on to find a practical solution to the problem.
What it feels like to her if you try to give advice:
When you jump in and tell her what she needs to do to fix it (no matter how good your intentions are), she feels like you are not actually listening to what she is trying to communicate to you.
She feels angry and frustrated because you are missing the point.
You are trying to tell her how to fix it, while she is trying to tell you about her feelings.
She gets mad and upset because you are acting like she can’t even handle the problem herself.
Wow. Can you see why she gets those claws out now?
What it feels like to her if you just listen and support:
It empowers her when you listen without telling her what she should do, because she is still in control of the situation.
When you just pay attention and listen, she feels heard, loved and cared for, which fuels feelings of closeness towards you.
It may feel like you’re not really helping, and this can be really hard. But know that by not trying to fix it, you are actually helping her the most.
HOW to Actively Listen and Support
If you’re a guy who has always approached problems with a practical, fix-it attitude, then trying to step back and just listen rather than offer a solution may be a real challenge for you.
It may make you feel useless, because you don’t feel like you’re helping, or frustrated, because it seems like her problem could be solved with such a simple answer.
But the key is just to remember that it’s her EMOTIONS that are the problem.
So let’s go through how you listen and attend to these emotions now and ‘fix it’ in a way that you never have before.
1. When your date, girlfriend, or wife approaches you with a problem, give her your full attention. Make eye contact and keep your gaze on her, sit down together if you can, and try to block out any distractions.
2. Let her get it ALL out – allow a short silence if you need to, to make sure she has finished. Try to avoid jumping in too early and cutting her off at all costs.
3. As she is talking, take note of not only the actual problem she is facing, but also what her feelings are about the problem, that she is communicating to you.
Remember back to one of our examples above – “I feel so angry that they gave Sandra the promotion at work over me”.
Here, the PROBLEM is being passed over for a promotion, but her FEELING is anger.
4. The most effective way of making her feel heard and supported is to mirror her emotions back to her.
For example; “I can see how that made you feel really angry”
“I’m sorry that hurt you, babe”.
5. Use touch! Even if she seems really worked up, what she really needs right now is your touch.
Giving her a hug, putting an arm round her shoulder, wrapped your arms around her from behind, kissing her on her forehead, or holding her hand – any of these will help to calm her emotions and make her feel really loved and supported by you.
6. Once you have comforted her and worked through her feelings, you may be able to talk through a solution to the problem together. But just make sure this is initiated by her – she may or may not want to do this.
What if she does ask for my advice?
If she does directly ask for your advice or opinion, help to guide her to come to her own solution. It will still help her to feel better about herself if she feels she was able to come up with a fix, even if it was with your guidance.
At the very least, be gentle and thoughtful about how you come across when giving your advice, rather than just bombarding her with ‘Do this’. For example, you might ask in a questioning way “Hmm… do you think it might help if (fill in your suggestion here)?”
This way, you are offering a suggestion but still asking for her input, which keeps her in control.
So men, resist the urge to fix.
Remember this simple rule: Pay more attention to what she is saying about her FEELINGS than the PROBLEM itself.
And be prepared to become the world’s best boyfriend.