You may have found that, by nature, women tend to be more talkative than men. In fact, women on average speak twice as many words per day than their male counterparts. Wow! This isn’t right or wrong, it’s just a difference that exists between us and note, I am speaking “on average”, not all men or all women. 🙂 Men, on the other hand, tend to rely more heavily on action over discussion. They also tend to place more meaning on the words they hear, and say. Even the most well intentioned question, or one simply asked to spark a conversation, can have the complete opposite effect. In this post, we’re going to talk about the top five questions that make men cringe and, more importantly, why it happens.
When it comes to this question, timing is truly everything. If your guy comes home from work mid-day and is visibly upset, then of course you would ask what’s going on and try to help. If he’s enjoying a little quiet time or doesn’t feel like going out to dinner with a big group of friends, then asking him a question that implies his behaviour isn’t normal can be agitating and can come across as confrontational.
If you’ve noticed a pattern of behaviour that’s outside the norm for your guy, then have a conversation. Let him know that you’re curious if he is doing okay and you want him to know that you’re there if he needs you, but the key is, don’t press him on it. It could be the case that he had a stressful week or perhaps didn’t even realize he’s been sending you these vibes. As women, we are programmed to take everything personally and want to fix people who are feeling down. Sometimes, it’s not needed, he is just processing but knows you are there if he needs to talk.
“Where’s this going?”
This one’s a real doozy. The question, while so short and simple, can mean an incredible number of different things to different people. At the beginning of a relationship, it most often means, “Are we exclusive?” Later on it might evolve to mean, “When will we move in together?” or even “When will we get married?” or “Are we going to have kids?”
When dealing with loaded topics such as these, it’s important to engage in the right setting and with clear, honest language. Leave ambiguity out of the equation and put what’s on your mind on the table, but in a way that’s not confrontational. Confrontation rarely leads to conversation as everyone is on guard. This will help keep the conversation from seeming intimidating or overwhelming and is much more likely to get you a clear answer in return. If you are asking “where’s this going?”, don’t keep it opened ended, it is way more productive to be specific “we’ve been together for 6 months and I think it would be good for us to chat about what our future looks like….”
“Who is she?”
I’ve spoken before about how jealousy is one of the top traits that turn men off, so it’s no surprise this question makes the list of topics that make men cringe. Whether you’re asking about a woman he’s mentioned from work or someone who passes you on the street and gives a friendly hello, letting the little green monster take hold of you is sure to end in an argument. Similar to the first two questions, there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach the subject. Even with the “right” way, it’s incredibly important to avoid coming across as accusatory or confrontational because, friend, it can backfire.
If you notice that your guy seems to be spending more time with a female co-worker than before, even though you’ve never met her, it’s only natural to want to know more – and it’s completely OK to ask. To keep things open, you can say something like, “Tracey seems interesting, what sort of work did she do before joining your company?” Showing him that you’re genuinely interested in all aspects of his life, including his co-workers and friends, will allow the conversation to run smoothly as opposed to coming across as an accusation. The fact is, both of you are going to have attractive, single people come into each of your work lives and so coming from a place of curiousity is going to go way further in having both of you share openly and building a trusting relationship.
“Why’d you break up?”
Exes and past relationships are one of those topics that a lot of men and women find uncomfortable. Asking a man to sum up the reason for a past relationship’s demise in a single response? That’s another story entirely. As with most breakups, it’s hard to narrow down why it didn’t work out to a single reason. Even when there is a clear reason, such as infidelity on either partner’s part, it can be very raw and uncomfortable – and, understandably, the last thing a guy’s going to want to dive into discussing (especially on a first date!).
When it does come time to discussing past relationships, it’s important to do so in a safe and private environment – such as one of your homes or when you are out for a walk as opposed to a loud coffee shop. Consider asking questions like, “What did you learn from your last relationship?” and “What do you want to get out of your next relationship?” as opposed to focusing only on the negative, more gossipy stuff. From working with clients for many years, I have found that one of the most important things to process before heading into a new relationship is why the last one didn’t work. Also, figuring out a way you can speak about it respectfully rather than begrudgingly is important. Don’t bring the past into the future with things like, “well he was just a total prick who cheated on me”. That will instantly close doors. As tough as it can be, have a more mature approach in the beginning, “things didn’t work out between us, we had really different values and I learned a lot about myself” Then, as your new relationship progresses, you can aim to get into more details down the road. It’s important to create space to get to know each other without the past cluttering things up.
“Are you listening?”
Women often show that they’re listening with gestures and speech. I’m sure you notice that when you speak to friends, co-workers and family. Understandably, it can be difficult to sometimes tell if men are truly listening and easy to assume they’re not. What you need to understand, friend, is that men truly listen differently.
Men tend to focus in on key pieces of information – specifically if there are pieces of information they can put into action. They don’t always demonstrate that they’re listening in the same way that women do. It’s best to save, “Are you listening?” only for when it’s super obvious his mind has wandered or he can’t hear you. Instead, ask questions like, “What would you do in my situation?” or “Can I get your point of view on this?” to engage him and avoid the question coming across as accusatory which will immediately shut down the conversation. I’m sure you can think of times in your life where a man has said to you “yes, I AM listening!”. This tends to come up with couples a lot. Just take notice that you both listen differently and neither is right or wrong. Communicate with each other on the physical or verbal cues you may need in order to know the other person is listening. Keep it simple and keep it light.
Want to learn more about men’s listening styles? I highly recommend checking out my 6-part audio series – “Inside the Male Brain.”
Like what you are reading and want to know more about working one on one with me? Contact me for a free 20-minute coaching call.
To your authenticity,