Use these other ways to start a conversation instead of ‘we need to talk’ to avoid an emotional reaction and to grow as a couple
We need to talk. Those four words bring bone-chilling fear into even the manliest man. I would venture 99.9% of men would rather hear “you need a vasectomy” over “we need to talk.”
There are two problems here for men. First, it’s obviously something bad. At minimum it’s going to be a long discussion about what he did and probably means he’s going to have to change something.
Change isn’t always bad but it’s always a bummer.
The second reason guys don’t want to hear the ‘we need to talk’ speech is because it’s often followed by the ‘I need my keys back’ talk. Not only does he have to sit through a long discussion of what he did but it’s going to be over anyway. The phrase is one of the most common lines to dump someone and everyone knows it.
So instead of saying ‘we need to talk’ which is basically going to just shut him down and set the conversation up for an argument, there’s another way to handle it that can become a real solution.
We Need to Talk: What Men Hear
When my girlfriend comes to me and tells me that we need to talk, my heart literally skips a beat. These four words means one of two things to me:
- I f@cked up
- She wants to talk about feelings for a more intimate relationship (which to a man, even if this talk only lasts five minutes it is the equivalent to decades.)
So, when I hear “we need to talk” I do one of two things. I either emotionally roll my eyes and go on the defensive or I get ready for a long conversation where I pretend to listen but I’m actually thinking about what’s left in the fridge.
Sorry, that’s just how it is for guys.
If I’m going on the defensive, I’m thinking back on everything over the past week. I think about everything I did that might be used against me and everything she did that I can use as ammunition.
Will she talk about how I said I would clean the litter boxes but forget? Will she bring up some other event that I can’t think about right now because I am too busy wiping sweat off my forehead?
If it’s the feelings conversation…sorry, most guys just weren’t raised to talk about their feelings. We may not be the John Wayne generation of our fathers but we were raised by them. Sure, we’ve learned to open up a little especially through the longer relationships, but we’re still not all the way there yet to expressing ourselves.
One of the best books I ever read about relationships and opening up is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s an excellent guide for nearly every type of person for keeping a relationship strong through conversation and intimacy. It helped me to understand that what my wife (then girlfriend) was saying wasn’t what I was hearing and to find the middle ground.
We Need to Talk: What Women Mean
When a woman tells her man that “we need to talk” it means one of three things:
- You f@cked up and we need to talk
- I want to talk about feelings
- I just want to talk with you
If your “we need to talk” talk involves either of the first two scenarios, whatever you do, do not give us a heads up that day that tonight “we need to talk”. The poor guy will worry the rest of the day and most likely end up with an ulcer.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to fix a broken relationship, just don’t start it with a phrase that has so much emotional baggage attached. Just bring it up when you actually want to talk. And then, don’t start the conversation with “we need to talk” because if you do, our defense mechanism will go into over-drive. Just bring up what you want to talk about.
If I screwed up by forgetting to clean the litter boxes, just say “hey, I was upset when you didn’t clean the litter boxes when you said you would. Could you make a note next time so you don’t forget?” Game. Set. Match. Everyone is happy.
If your “we need to talk” talk is about feelings, know going in that the man is going to try to “fix” things. That is what we do. When a man approaches another man with a problem, he wants a solution. He doesn’t go to vent. This is why when you talk to us about feelings, we feel pressure because we are trying to figure out how to fix things. You might just want your feelings heard, but as a man, we will be trying to “fix” things.
Finally, if your “we need to talk” talk is about just wanting to talk, then never, ever start it off by saying “we need to talk”. Instead, start off by saying, “nothing is wrong, but I just need to vent to someone.” No eleven words have ever sounded sweeter to a man.
Instead of starting with ‘we need to talk’, try getting the conversation going in other ways. Another great resource I found, also by Gary Chapman (the guy knows guys), is 101 Conversation Starters for Couples. It’s 101 questions you can use to open up the conversation, learn more about each other and grow as a couple. I guarantee, whatever you want to talk about will have a question in there that will get things going and in a much less stressful way.
The ‘we need to talk’ conversation isn’t about the words but what he hears when you say them. There is so much implied and inferred in the words that you really never know how he will react. The best possible solution is a confrontation where nobody wins. Instead, look for ways to start the conversation in other ways and grow as a couple.