What you need to know:
- Problem-solvers often offer solutions that make them feel good, rather than ones that work for their partner.
- Unsolicited advice often just adds another layer of stress.
What should you do when your partner’s upset?
Mostly, we start troubleshooting before we fully understand the problem. You mean well, but your suggestions only make matters worse, therefore be more like a coach.
Accept your partner’s story and try to understand what they want, even when they don’t know themselves. Learn to be a good listener, and try to see things from their point of view.
A good starting point is the question: ‘Do you want to be hugged, helped, or heard?’
Each option can comfort and calm.
Being hugged increases bonding. Thoughtful advice, when it’s specifically requested, can be very helpful.
But an empathetic ear is the real game changer because your spouse needs to feel heard. Being heard also reduces defensiveness, but that entirely depends on how well you listen.
So set your phone aside and look at each other.
Stay quiet so your partner can speak. Wait for them to complete each thought before contributing your ideas.
Listen so actively it’s like a workout. Continually make encouraging affirmations, like “aha”s and “yes”s. Signal your genuine interest with strong eye contact, an alert posture, and active facial expressions. People quickly detect non-genuine listeners, and don’t respond well to them.
Your spouse is probably not being as clear as they think they are, so paraphrase what you believe you’re hearing to correct any misunderstandings. Your partner won’t go into enough detail, so ask clarifying questions. Encourage them to drive the conversation, and resist concluding too soon or being judgmental.
You won’t agree with everything you hear, but your spouse may have a perfectly valid viewpoint. Just that it’s different from yours.
And listening has its limits. It won’t work with someone angry, so cope with their anger first, and start listening later.
Listening on its own won’t change deep-seated attitudes or differences of opinion, but it can create enough space for you to start exploring one another’s viewpoints and begin problem-solving together.
Listening is a particularly important skill for a man to learn because women value being listened to more than men.
Women also pay more attention to their partner’s behaviour than men, and it’s critical to their happiness, therefore, men who consciously minimise negative interactions with their wives find that they quarrel less and feel closer to one another.
Problem-solvers often offer solutions that make them feel good, rather than ones that work for their partner. Unsolicited advice often just adds another layer of stress. Your preferred approach may not be the same as your partner’s, so don’t assume that your way of fixing things is the same as theirs.
Maybe your spouse just wants to vent. Or you try to move in for a hug, only to discover they’re not in the mood to be touched.
That’s why you should ask that question. Finding out whether your loved one wants to be hugged, helped or heard is asking, ‘How can I meet your needs?’