6 Ways to Improve Your Conversations With Your Guy
- by Oprah.com, on Tue Nov 1, 2011 2:04pm PDT
By Corrie Pikul
It’s not as if you always need to know how your husband feels about you or his childhood or his purpose here on earth. And it’s not as if you want to spend hours on the phone with your dad, uncle, brothers or old college friends. Sometimes you just want one of them to weigh the merits of salad spinners. To help open the lines of communication between you and the men you love, we interviewed three experts to find the most effective ways to get them talking.
RELATED: Dr. Phil’s Best Marriage Advice
Approach him from the side.
Walking straight up to a man and sitting down directly across from him can trigger his competitive instincts, says executive coach Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, who counsels business leaders on nonverbal communication. She says that while women prefer talking to each other in a “squared up” position (i.e., across from each other), two men talking casually are more likely to angle their bodies away from each other. You’ll have a better chance of getting your dad to talk about his golf game by doing dishes with him at the sink or plopping down next to him on the couch.
Go for a walk, or play a game of tennis.
Women are usually more comfortable than men with the idea that spending time together will involve talking, says Diane Gehart, PhD, professor of marriage and family therapy at California State University, Northridge. A lot of that has to do with how we spent time with other kids when we were young. “Many men learned to develop connections through shared activities,” says Gehart. As boys, they bonded while engaging in sports, playing video games or skateboarding; girls took part in sleepover gossip-a-thons. For evidence that these roles have carried over to adulthood, count the groups of women versus men the next time you go for brunch (an event that revolves around eggs, coffee and face-to-face chatter). Another reason that talking while walking—or hiking or driving—can be easier for you both is that it provides ready-made conversation fodder. For example, “Did you see that deer?” or “Did you see that Prius?”
RELATED: Fall Travel Guide
Wait until you can actually hear each other before starting the conversation.
Yes, we just said to do activities together. And we’re not advising you to stay away from sports bars or rock concerts. (Your instincts to meet him on his home turf are right on: That’s where he hangs out with his friends.) But most men don’t do much catching up at these places, at least until the game or the show is over, so you can’t really expect to engage him until then either.
RELATED: Sex Advice from Dr. Berman
Sprawl when he sprawls.
“Mirroring” is the term used to describe the technique of subtly copying another person’s postures to build rapport. “When I was a therapist, I often used mirroring to help make clients more comfortable talking to me,” says Goman. You’re not trying to mimic all his movements. If he has one arm slung across the back of the couch, you might uncross your arms and legs. The idea is to show empathy through body language. This should put you both at ease, allowing conversation to flow more naturally.
RELATED: Can We Live Without Wanting
Smile often—but don’t expect him to smile back.
Good moods and enthusiasm are contagious. Ronald F. Levant, EdD, a professor of psychology at the University of Akron in Ohio who specializes in getting men to open up, says that his clients often tell him how much they enjoy it when women smile at them. “It makes them feel liked, keeps them engaged and builds their confidence,” he says—and it puts them in a chatty mood. But unlike women, who usually react to a smile by beaming back, Levant says that you should be aware that men are far less likely to reciprocate.
RELATED: 35 Little Acts of Kindness
If you want an answer, ask a question.
When working with male and female executives, Goman has noticed that men are less animated than women in conversations; they don’t nod as often or make as many affirmative sounds, like “mm-hmm.” (Studies on gender differences in nonverbal communication back her up.) Some men, especially those who were raised in an earlier era with more traditional ideas about masculinity, think that listening means quietly giving your full attention to the speaker, says Gehart. This lack of feedback makes some women think men aren’t really listening. Gehart suggests soliciting his opinions with direct questions (“Did you finish that Swedish crime novel, Dad? What did you like about it?”) instead of with open-ended statements (“Oh, you’re reading that Dragon Tattoo book too”).