10 Keys to Talking to a Man (or a Boy)

The following are some keys to successfully communicating with males of all ages. A woman, with her superior communication skills, can be a big help to the males in her life by helping and guiding them to learn to communicate better instead of being agitated by his lack of skills in this area. Men communicate differently than women. If you try to talk with your man like you do your girlfriend’s you will both probably be disappointed and frustrated. However, if you remember these ten tips you will be cherished and appreciated by the males in your life.

Key #1
GIVE HIM SPACE–One strategy that works well with men is to tell them something you want their feedback on and then ask them to think about it for a day before answering. It takes men longer than women to process information—especially emotions.

Key #2
SIMPLIFY–Learn to simplify the conversation. If you talk to your man like you do your girlfriends he will just stop listening. A male’s mind is wired to seek out and solve problems.  Men have about a 30 second attention span. If you don’t get to the point by then their mind will start looking for other problems to solve.  I tell moms to talk to their sons using “sound bite sized” sentences.  For longer conversations see Key #7.

Key #3
ONE TOPIC AT A TIME PLEASE–Stick to one topic at a time and let a man know when you’re changing topics. Letting a man know when you are changing topics allows him to shut off that problem solving mode and be open to the new topic.  The greatest gift my wife gave me and our son was to let us know when she was changing topics during a discussion. Now she says, “New topic!” whenever she changes subjects.  It is a huge relief.

Key #4
BE CONSISTENT–Consistency is very important when communicating with men. Men generally cannot process more than one thing at a time.  Men cannot read minds and they do poorly at reading between the lines.  If you hint around hoping he’ll “get” it, you’re in for disappointment.  Asking if he “Notices anything different about me,” after getting your hair done is like asking a baboon what day of the week it is.  Better to say, “How do you like my new hairstyle?”  We know how to answer that.

Key #5
LEARN HIS LANGUAGE–Men are much more literal in their conversations than women. When he asks you what is wrong and you say, “Nothing” he will likely take you at your word.  Also, the word “Fine” used in a conversation generally has a different meaning to a man than a woman.

Key #6
GIVE HIM A PROBLEM TO SOLVE–Men love to problem-solve. Rather than nagging him about an issue that’s troubling you, say something like, “Honey, I have a problem that I’d really like to get your help with.”  Then let him do it his way.  Just because a man does something differently than a woman would does not make it wrong.

Key #7
GET PHYSICAL–Since men are action-oriented, go for a walk or hiking, play a round of golf, or even drive on a deserted highway together (so he’s not distracted by traffic) when you want to talk with your man.  Physical activity allows his brain to process information and emotions easier.

Key #8
TIMING IS EVERYTHING–If you bombard him with complaints the minute he walks in the door from work, he’s not likely to be willing to listen. Oftentimes, giving him a half-hour to change clothes and decompress will do the trick.  Then see Key #6.

Key #9
FIGHT FAIR–Men and women argue differently. You cannot take to heart much of what a man verbalizes when he is upset. He doesn’t think about what comes out of his mouth, especially in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately for men, women do.  That’s why men are always apologizing.

Key #10
SPEAK PLAINLY–Remind him often that you just need to be heard, you are not looking for a solution. Tell him that at the beginning of the discussion so that he can switch off his “problem-solving” mode. This may need to be repeated frequently during each discussion for years on end.  His desire is to show his love for you by solving your problems.  He doesn’t know that women process information, emotions, and draw intimacy through verbal communication (in fact it sounds silly to me even writing it).  Hence he doesn’t understand that by just listening, he is solving your problems and showing he loves you.


Excerpted from Rick’s book, The Man Whisperer: Speaking Your Man’s Language to Bring Out His Best

Find out more at www.betterdads.net


  • Karen

    Why is it her job to accommodate him? Why don’t you lecture men on things like doing housework correctly and promptly without being nagged instead of adding to the wife’s burden of maintaining the relationship? Scold men occasionally, will ya?

    • Agkcrbs

      (Hm, let’s see if it works…)
      Karen, you have been heard. I offer no solutions.

    • http://www.betterdads.net Rick Johnson

      Obviously Karen you’ve never read any of my books.

  • beth

    Excellent article. I am the only female in a home with 3 boys (including one teenager) and my husband and this made a lot of sense to me. I better get your book!

    • http://www.betterdads.net rickjohnson

      Thanks Beth. I think you’ll enjoy it–it’s a fun book.

  • Jacqueline

    Honestly, men need to just grow up. There is no sense in an adult man having a short (30 second) attention span (Key #2 above). Seriously, women do more than enough as it is….enough for both men and women together when it comes to their ability in the head (thinking skills). No wonder we feel we have another child when we are raising the ones we created. Let them think about making babies and they can think quite clearly, and for quite a span of time….brains are in the wrong head!!

  • http://www.betterdads.net rickjohnson

    Perhaps you could share some strategies you’ve found that work when communicating with the opposite sex Jacqueline?