Disputes are a way of life. Settling them effectively with people you see every day eliminates the stress that comes with carrying around resentment. The problem is that while we all need to be heard and understood, men and women speak different languages.
For instance, according to marriage expert and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn in her book, For Women Only, “a man’s highest need is to feel respect, whereas a woman’s highest need is to feel loved.” Therefore, to settle disputes with the opposite sex, you need to speak the same language. Here’s how:
Dos And Don’ts For Resolving Disputes With Men
It’s likely to make him feel disrespected, Feldhahn notes. Also, according to Dr. Steven Stosny and Patricia Love in their book entitled How to Improve your Marriage without Talking About It, “most men have a heightened sensitivity to feeling shame and inadequacy.” As a result, they note, “when a man feels shame and senses he’s a failure, his impulse is “to disguise it with annoyance, impatience, or anger.” By the same token, according to author and coach Laura Doyle in her book, The Empowered Wife, he’s likely to try and shore up his sense of worth by dismissing or demeaning what you said by saying something like “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
DO respond by admitting you’re hurt instead of defending yourself. Women can do this, Doyle recommends, by teaching him how to treat you by saying “Ouch!” when you’re hurt.
DO say to men “I hear you.” That way, says Doyle, he can feel heard without you agreeing or disagreeing with him.
DON’T begin a conversation with “we have to talk.” A man is likely to slip into avoid mode and expect to hear you tell him something that he is doing wrong,” notes Stosny and Love.
DON’T suggest a man is “abusive” or has “an anger management problem.” As Doyle notes, men “hate to be analyzed” and such comments will likely be met with anger and verbal retaliation.
DO plan your timing. According to Stosny and Love, “men’s brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time, and they are socialized in many ways to take advantage of that single-mindedness.” Therefore, when you start talking to a man, he has to choose between completing the task at hand and talking to you. by the same token, Stosny and Love note “men like routine.” For example, “a man gets up in the morning and has the same thing for breakfast he has every day, so he won’t have to use energy thinking about what to eat, sits down and reads the paper.” Therefore, “when a man breaks his routine, he loses focus, which makes him feel that he will not accomplish tasks as competently.” Before approaching a man, Stosny and Love suggest, “simply hold a positive attitude and do something else until he’s finished his routine of reading the paper.” It helps to “think of times when you felt close in the past” or positive traits of his that you admire.
DO remember talk is cheap to a man. A man needs to see real changes in behavior and will be skeptical until a woman’s behavior proves that her words are actually reliable.
For a man, actions speak louder than words.
Dos And Don’ts For Resolving Disputes With Women
DON’T defend yourself in response to something a woman says. “The implication,” according to Stosny and Love, is that the man “doesn’t care about her hurt—only about defending his own ego.” Women, on the other hand, note Stosny and Love, “are more sensitive to isolation and lack of contact.” They note that “when a woman does not feel safe, secure, and connected, she suffers unconscious fear of isolation.”
DO show you care about her feelings. Men often skip this part this because they believe it’s assumed.
DO keep in mind that for women, words are often interpreted with emotions. They are therefore generally more subject to getting their feelings hurt. That’s why men can become baffled when a woman reacts emotionally to something he said or did in the past. In his mind, it’s over, and not relevant.
DO make it clear you heard and understand what she said. Use phrases like “How can I help?” Or “What do you need?”
Resolving disputes with Both Men and Women
A particularly effective technique to help both men and women resolve disagreements is called “affect labeling,” introduced by Doug Noll, attorney and mediator in Clovis, California. When one person is speaking, the other disregards the words and just listen for the emotion behind the words and repeats back the emotion that was heard. This can be an extremely effective way to build trust and reach agreement much more quickly and successfully.
Which Dos and Don’ts did you find helpful? Please share your comments. Thanks for reading!
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