We Need to Talk

There are four words that most men dread – “We need to talk.” These words strike at the very core fabric of a man. They are words that might alter his destiny or at a minimum, stop his immediate plans regardless of how important. They are words that hit his gut with the most uncomfortable feeling of failure.

The negative response that men experience when they hear those four words is significant enough to change his approach to the one speaking, or even drive him to avoid them. Unfortunately, that visceral response is not healthy for the relationship. Then again, neither are the four words.

It doesn’t matter if the one sharing those words is a boss or a spouse, in either case the knee jerk reaction will not be conducive for bettering or furthering the relationship. So, why do people use those words?

I’ve noticed that the vast majority of the time when a person speaks out, “We need to talk,” they are doing so after pondering an unresolved issue for an extended period of time. They were either stewing on the situation or building up the courage to face their partner about their role in the issue at hand.

This drummed up energy used in expressing the issue, does nothing more than undermine the person they desire help or change from. In other words, it’s like cutting down the person before asking them for a favor. But, how else can a person share the same sentiment without kicking the other person in the gut?

Rarely do we desire to purposely hurt the person that we need to talk to about an important issue. What we actually want to do is share our hurt feelings about the situation, which should kick off the conversation with us saying, “I need you to understand how I feel.”

This variation is critically important, as it takes the focus off of the one who disrupted our harmony and places it on the one who is hurting. This shift would make the core of the conversation about a hurt person, not a bad person. And, if the conversation is about a hurt person, it would be reasonable to expect some level of empathy from a caring partner or friend. However, if the conversation is about a bad person, expecting any level of empathy would be foolish.

By taking responsibility for how we communicate, we can understand why we are heard or not heard. When we know a person is not listening to us, instead of writing them off, we can try to find out how we communicated the very thing that pushed them away like the words, “We need to talk.”

Some say that phrase is made up of just words and it’s the person’s unhealthy background that causes their internal nightmare. As a result, some would suggest that they shouldn’t have to change their approach. To a degree, that’s true. However, consider the fact that you may have turned the person off from hearing your heart. Is that what you want? That is not to say that some just won’t listen no matter what you do, but managing our word choice will increase the odds that he or she will hear us.

Please keep in mind that society changes the connotation of words over time like the word gay, which once meant a lively mood. Frankly, I’ve found it easier to speak the common vernacular than it is to wait for a person to learn how to get past the emotionally charged words in order to listen to me.

It’s your choice. Do you want to be heard and understood today or in a dozen years?

In working with hurting people over the past seven years, I can tell you that their goal is not to take down the one who angered them, but to be understood. I’ve noticed that when one person shares their hurt feelings, the other many times steps up to change their behavior so it never happens again. I’ve also noticed that when a person tells another what is wrong with them, they become defensive and seldom change.

If we share our feelings, it’s up to the other person to be an adult and change their behavior to protect us, although some won’t. However, if we cut them down or put them in their place, their visceral response is likely to be defensive, which I’ve never seen lead to change.

We have the choice. We can either drop the nasty four words from our vocabulary, share our feelings openly, and watch changed behaviors develop, or, we can use emotionally charged words to get that terrible built up feeling off our chest and watch our partner defend themselves – Locking into their negative behavior more permanently.

I’m looking for a relationship where I can share my honest and open feelings without rejection or emotional attacks. And, I’ve learned it starts with my approach and the avoidance of the words, “We need to talk.”

Copyright © 2011 By CJ Powers
Photo © Eric Simard – Fotolia.com
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One thought on “We Need to Talk

  1. Nice angle on this! “We need to talk” is definitely a scary phrase, no matter who says it, male or female. Even if I need to hear what they have to say, those words immediately make me feel like the bottom has dropped out and I’m free falling. I pledge to never use the phrase again myself!

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