Friday, April 4, 2014
10 Tricky Questions Women Ask
I was doing some reading the other day and I came across this article from Men's Health
If this question is delivered over beers with your buds, you’ll gladly launch into anecdotes about home repairs, morning jogs, or workplace snafus. But if your wife or girflfriend asks? The question is suddenly fraught with implications and innuendos—whether she’s trying to send a message or not.
“In relationships, we bid for emotional connection by asking questions that range from mundane to soul-searching,” says Don Cole, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Gottman Institute in Houston. But we were socialized to communicate differently: Women make emotional connections with their girlfriends (How do you feel about it?) much different than men do with their pals (Did you see that motorcycle?). When her question strikes a nerve, it’s often because you’re perceiving a disconnect in what she really wants to say—and that can come from both sides, says Cole.
But why can her questions rile you up so easily? Your instinct to blow a gasket or storm off is biological: “Men’s bodies are hardwired to be hyper-reactive to stress and danger, but modern danger is no longer a ferocious tiger—it’s the pissed-off wife or girlfriend,” says Jamie Turndorf, Ph.D., author of Kiss Your Fights Goodbye. When she comes at you with touchy topics, your body sees danger, which involuntarily triggers your fight-or-flight response, she explains. To sail smoothly through any line of questioning, be ready with these smart responses.
1) “Do you love me?”
The reason it freaks you out: When a woman asks validation-seeking questions, it’s her biological programming hungering for reassurance that her man loves her enough to stick around for the long haul, says Turndorf. While this may seem tiresome to you—your feelings haven’t changed in the week since she asked last—it’s her way of checking on the security of your relationship.
The best response: “You’re the most generous, giving person I’ve ever met, and that makes me love you more and more every day.” Instead of complimenting her looks—which will make her nervous your feelings will change when things start to drop—focus on affirming why you love the parts that won’t change: She’s a wonderful mother, has the best sense of humor, and makes one mean pot of chili.
2) “Isn’t that the most beautiful diamond bracelet?”
The reason it freaks you out: You think she’s gunning for a—very expensive—reward. If your finances are tight, this question can threaten your ability to provide. For her, it’s not about the actual bracelet, Turndorf says: Gifts can represent your love and commitment to some women.
The best response: “That bracelet would look beautiful on you. Maybe one day when we have the cash, we’ll buy it for you.” Responding in a way that embraces her emotional needs allows you to both feel satisfied, even when you’re not on the same timeline, she says.
3) “Can you talk to our daughter about her C in math?”
The reason it freaks you out: There’s an implication that you wouldn’t think to do this yourself, which threatens your standing as a parent, says Cole. People are also very sensitive to tone of voice, and if we hear a negative intonation—as this question is often delivered from a frustrated parent—we’re likely to get defensive, he adds.
The best response: “Let’s talk about how we should handle this.” Parenting is a team sport, so instead of feeling like you’re fighting for first place, remind her you’re one unit. Plus, the more negative your relationship, the more likely you are to hear questions like this as criticism, says Cole. That means strengthening your standing as a team can encourage you to hear these requests as her tagging you in instead of pushing you in.
4) “When are we going to start having kids?”
The reason it freaks you out: Women are often ready to commit before men are, and try to unconsciously coax guys into a commitment with questions, says Turndorf.
The best response: “There’s no other woman I would ever want to have children with, but I want a little more time to enjoy just you.” Leading your response with a clear indication of your love, and saying “not now”—with an endearing reason—instead of a flat-out “no” can help keep you honest without slamming her with an emotional hammer, she advises.
5) “What are you thinking?”
The reason it freaks you out: Women often speak to men the way they want to be spoken to, and women are more comfortable with open-ended emotional questions, says Turndorf.
The best answer: “You mean about [insert topic]?” Help guide questions into versions you’re more comfortable answering by re-framing her query into a concrete topic, she suggests. This will also help narrow in on specific subjects that are on her mind, and help her feel at ease to talk without dancing around the subject.
6) “Why haven’t you taken care of this yet?”
The reason it freaks you out: Every relationship has perpetual differences—things that are in your personality and will probably never change, says Cole. Most of our fights are about these unsolvable problems, and because you’ve had this argument so many times before, the subject sends you into defensive mode quicker.
The best response: “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Can we take 30 minutes and then talk about this again?” When that primitive fight-or-flight kicks in, men become flooded with overwhelming emotion faster than women, causing them to shell up, says Cole. Most of the time, women don’t realize this and think you walking out of the room or clamming up means you don’t care. Tell her you need time to cool off or think things through, but you aren’t avoiding the issue.
7) “Do you like my new dress?”
The reason it freaks you out: There’s an implication in this question that you don’t compliment her enough, says Cole. Unfortunately, a lot of times this is true, he adds.
The best response: “The color brings out your eyes, and it hugs you in all the right places.” Remedy the oversight by giving her more than the expected response. And next time, tell her you love how she looks in the dress as soon as you head out for the evening, advises Cole. Even if you have no idea if the garment is new, she’s just asking you to take notice. One characteristic of successful couples is they regularly say more positive things to one another, which cancels the need for her to ask any validation-seeking questions, he adds.
8) “How are you feeling about us?”
The reason it freaks you out: This question feels like a test that you didn’t study for. What she’s really saying is, “I have something I want to talk about.”
The best response: “What’s on your mind?” The kicker with this question is, it would catch her off-guard if you asked it, says Cole. Most people don’t have this answer ready unless they’ve been thinking about it, so skip ahead and open the floor for her to air any concerns. Ask her how she’s feeling, but say it genuinely so she doesn’t feel like you’re avoiding expressing your feelings, says Cole.
9) “Do you think we should trade in the car for a new one?”
The reason it freaks you out: Guys have a hard time accepting influence from women, says Cole. It’s not that they think their wife’s opinion is less informed; they just instinctively feel if there was a problem, they would’ve noticed.
The best way to respond: “Why do you say that?” It’s easy to brush aside topics you don’t think need attention, but over time, she’ll feel undervalued, he says. The three smartest words men can say in a relationship: “That makes sense.” You don’t have to tell her she’s right, but making her feel heard will save you many fights down the road, he advises.
10) “Would you be mad if I went out with my girlfriends on Friday?”
The reason it freaks you out: She might be delivering a veiled accusation that you wouldn’t be okay with what she has now made to sound like a perfectly reasonable request, says Cole.
The best response: “Of course not, but it’d be easier to agree if you asked in a more positive way.” Your choices with this question are to let it slide—which encourages her to phrase things this way in the future—or to fix the problem and suffer a little tuft. And the fight is worth it: Learning how to ask for what we need has to be in our set of communication skills, says Cole. She thinks she’s easing into the question by phrasing it this way, but she’s actually making the assumption you’re going to be unreasonable, and that’s not productive for either of you, he adds.