I love doing radio shows and TV interviews. Steve, a host from a station in Chicago, just sent me an email asking me to come back on his show—urgently. His new producer has not yet heard me speak about gender decoding. Steve is worried that his producer’s hot new relationship could be jeopardized because his producer is just a man who could very possibly unsuspectingly say the wrong things.
In my book Happy Woman Happy World I talk about how communication between men and women can be so easily misconstrued. I will give you a common example and you will understand in a nanosecond what I mean.
The man says, “Let me help you.” The woman answers (and you could skate on the icy cold surface of her tone), “Help me out? These are YOUR children, this is YOUR house, YOUR dinner… You are doing YOUR part. You are not helping me out.”
Bam! Just like that, the man is in the doghouse.
What the heck just happened? Man offered help and was crucified for it. Fine, if she can’t appreciate what man does and when man offers to help his woman, she’s going to have to do it all by herself. Why would man continue to be a nice guy if woman treats him like this?
I totally get it.
Now let’s rewind.
Woman picked up the kids from soccer practice after working all day. She got groceries on her way home and is now in the kitchen spewing rapid-fire commands. “Do your homework. Wash your hands. Did you read your fifteen pages? Don’t put that on the table. Take it to your room. Set the table. No TV right now. Turn the video game off.” Once again, woman feels like a drill sergeant. Why doesn’t anybody listen or help?
Woman chops away in the kitchen and opens the garbage can. Woman’s eyes grow to watermelon size. Man couldn’t possibly have forgotten to take the trash out AGAIN this morning. Man promised but let woman down. Again.
Woman notices a feeling of resentfulness inside. Why is man not doing his part?
Then a piece of tomato falls on woman’s new white blouse (she didn’t have time to change out of her work clothes yet). The sound of the video game goes bang! bang! bang! in the background, no one is answering the ringing phone, and the boss just sent the sixth post-working hours text. Woman’s life feels like a lot of work and no fun at all. Is there more to life than chores? Why don’t I feel happy?
Man comes into the kitchen at this moment and says, “Honey, you look tired. Let me help you with something.”
SERIOUSLY, you want to help me? This is YOUR LIFE too. (See responses above.)
So, what just happened? It’s a classic case of miscommunication between man and woman. Women often don’t know how to ask for help, mostly because we can’t stand the word “help” and also because nobody taught us how to ask. There was no Women’s Code before now.
Men can often times be (somewhat) clueless as to what they should say or do. If you have ever heard a man say, “I am just a man,” that’s what he is referring to. Man doesn’t offer help unless he is asked to help; such is the men’s code. Offering to help his woman is therefore not an innate preference.
To support you and your partner, I have four suggestions. The first is to read my book Happy Woman Happy World and casually leave it in the bathroom when you’re done (I write short chapters for a reason). And here are three more things that men and women can do to avoid epic relationship disasters:
Immediately replace the word “help” with “support.” “How can I support you right now?” is so much nicer to hear than, “Let me help you out.” Replying, “You can support me by doing this (a specific task).” will get better results than, “This is your life too, you are not helping me, you should know what to do.”
- Disarm your tone from confrontational to conversational. Sometimes it is okay to wait until we have achieved clarity before we talk it out. For example, when he says, “I am not sure what I did wrong,” instead of a lecture on cluelessness it might be helpful to switch to, “It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about feeling connected to you, standing on the same side of the fence.”
- Use verbal cues frequently and add positive reinforcement: “It makes me feel special/important/good when you (one specific task).” This way, woman communicates what makes her feel good and man is thrilled to have a few clues as to what will make her happy. Remember, a Happy Woman means a Happy World!
These ideas can be used in business as well. Switch your thinking from feeling alone and left to fend for yourself to FIRST supporting others and learning HOW TO ASK for support. And guess what? There is an entire chapter in my book dedicated to this subject.
The key to successful communication is to find a conversational, neutral zone. We’ll talk about this some more in my next post. But for now, please try my suggestions and let me tomorrow how tonight went.