Does the woman you love keep saying the same things over and over and over again? You heard her the first time. So why does she keep harping on the same subject?
The problem is …
She doesn’t know you heard her or, more importantly, that you place any value on her input because … you’re not responding.
- You’re silent because you don’t want to encourage her line of thinking … which at best seems angry or anxious, and at worst … totally unreasonable. But your strategy backfires.
- You hope that if you remain calm, she’ll calm down. But she doesn’t.
- When you can’t take it anymore, you walk out … or lash out.
Until you engage in a conversation with her, she will wonder if you care about her. She feels alone and worried, so she will escalate her efforts to make contact with you. And her increasing efforts to talk with you – about something that’s important to her – will feel like “nagging” to you.
The solution is …
The next time she brings up the subject again, do these three things:
- Stop what you’re doing and look into her eyes as she speaks. You may feel frustrated, I know, but do your best to convey – without words – that she matters to you.
- Allow for the possibility that you may not be hearing accurately what she’s trying to tell you. (That’s most often the case.)
- Say, “Can you pause for a minute? I want to make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying.”
- Then play back what you heard her say, followed by these three questions, waiting for her response and repeating her response after each question.
- “Did I get it right?”
- “Did I miss anything?”
- “Is there more?”
- What do you think she is feeling? Angry, sad, hurt, afraid, guilty, ashamed, or happy. If you can only see her as angry and controlling, you may be missing the point. Instead, look for her vulnerability and respond kindly to that emotion instead. Don’t worry. You’ll get better at this over time.
For example, if she is verbally attacking you for ignoring her.
- Say, “You sound hurt.” Then ask if you got that right.
- Apologize for hurting her. “I”m sorry I’ve been shutting you down. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just didn’t know how to respond.”
- Touch her hand or hold her as appropriate, but only if she wants to receive it. Don’t be pushy. She’s hurting and needs a few minutes in your presence to realize your sincerity.
The Bottom Line: Remember, she needs to know you’re listening
… and that she matters to you.
You do not have to do what she says. Nor do you need to give her your plan. Just let her know that you value her input and will give what she says some serious thought.
Then let me know how it goes. Because I’m here to help.