Most men I know break into hives and immediately feel the pang of guilt when their wife says, “We need to talk.” I realize this plays into a “females-like-to-talk” and “men-like-to-not-talk” stereotype. I also realize there are exceptions and if you fall into that exception category–fabulous! Change the context and you can read this just the same.
My experience is that when my wife, Cathy, says “we need to talk,” she really doesn’t need me to shoot words in her direction. Rather, she is looking to connect with me.
When I was younger, I assumed there was a certain number of words or amount of time of “talking” that would lead to connection (i.e. “If we’d just talk more, we’d be closer.”) But over the years I’ve learned it’s more accurate to say, “If we connect more, we’d be closer, and ‘talk’ would be more natural.”
Cathy and I know that when we get away on a date, or share a meal together, or have planned pillow time, our connection is going to be much stronger. But we also realized that life with kids was so busy that we’d have to steal a few minutes and be intentional to get to the heart of connection.
These are specific questions that seem to fast-forward our connection:
• Tell me: What’s happening with you?
• What occurred today that you want me to know?
• How are you feeling about life? Us?
Obviously, it would be irresponsible to write about “talk” and “connecting” and not comment about “listening.”
No one wants to be in a relationship with a world-class talker. We all want to be with…
• Someone who doesn’t rush to judge or evaluate what we’re saying.
• Someone who isn’t quick to agree or disagree.
• Someone who doesn’t feel the need to express every opinion that flies across their mind.
I have many regrets over things I’ve said. I can actually grieve some misplaced and hurtful words I’ve used. But I have no regrets over listening. I’ve never regretted thinking, Why did I pay such careful attention to her?, or, Why was I so patient and empathic and understanding?”
On the other hand, I have regretted checking email and reading my texts while Cathy was talking. But listening has never led to regret.
Connecting and listening will lead to more talking. But keep in mind that talking isn’t the end game… connecting is.