If you wrote to a Mama Kat prompt last week, you may remember that one of the options was, “Dear Man, (an open letter…offer a word of advice, an issue you’d like to address, or a solution to a problem for the opposite sex).” Her response can be found here. This week, she turned the tables with the following prompt: “Last week I opened the opportunity to write an open letter to men with a word of advice, an issue you’d like to address, or a solution to a problem. This week? Hand over the reins and let your husband write his OWN open letter to women.”
Here’s the thing. I didn’t figure my husband would be really hip on this idea. Undaunted, I asked a bunch of men I know and crowdsourced tonight’s blog. Their were dogged in their determination to help me out (thanks, guys).
First of all, J.C.W. offered the following take on Kat’s opinion that men should get a lot more adept at saying, “I’m sorry”:
I think that this gal is trying to pin this on anatomy is pure bullcrap. I’ve seen this same type of thing happen in M/M, F/F and even M/M/F relationships. It’s called being inconsiderate and not communicating properly. Nothing more, nothing less and very little to do with penises and vaginas.
And then we have C.S., who in the spirit of our recent presidential campaign has a three-point plan to share with women:
How’s it going? I hope you’ve been well. I know sometimes y’all get frustrated with us. We can tell. We usually become aware of your emotional state when you say “I am frustrated with you”. Up until that point, however, we may have not picked up on the clues that you have been sending us. Sure, some of us sense something is vaguely amiss when your usually eloquent diction has been replaced by monosyllabic one-word sentences accompanied by the vigorous movement of common household objects. But for most of us, that is beyond our sensory perception. I would like to offer some advice that may benefit both of us. If you are frustrated with us, tell us. But as you already know, we are masters of defense. Any reason for your frustration can be met with quick and retaliatory counter-arguments. But if we are doing something that’s bothering you, it’s important to tell us. But it’s also important how you tell us. Specifically, you need to slip past the defenses. May I provide a three-step strategy?
1) Get our attention. And please make sure we are paying attention when you are ready to talk. As you know, your frustration will only double if you start to say something important, and we are only half listening. Say something direct like “I would like to talk to you about something. Can you put down your smartphone/remote/newspaper/ penis and listen?”. See what happened in those sentences? You expressed a need AND you provided some helpful action steps we can follow. We like action steps.
2) Disarm us, by either saying something nice or by assuring us that we are not going to be having a BIG DISCUSSION. Remember, you have just announced that you wanted to talk. Years of experience has taught us that when you want “to talk” it’s not to say “I think you’re simply wonderful”. The mere request to talk already has us at yellow alert. Starting by saying something nice, or assuring us that this isn’t something big (assuming that it is not) will lessen the likelihood that we will either send troops to the walls to guard the castle or pull up the drawbridge.
3) Phrase your frustration in how it makes you feel. So instead of saying “You forgot to take the garbage out again for the third week in a row and I had to rush it out to the street this morning and while I did it I was attacked by a pack of wild dogs”, you could phrase it like, “Sometimes when you forget to take out the trash, it makes me feel a bit sad. I feels like you’re not thinking about me or that other things are more important than our shared responsibilities around our house. Maybe you could work harder to remember? Or put a reminder in your smartphone? Then I wouldn’t have to go to the emergency room to get rabies shots, which kinda hurt”. See the first sentence? It’s an accusation. It’s certainly accurate, but it’s an accusation – and it will increase the likelihood of a counter-response, such as an excuse, or a counter-accusation. The second set of sentences focuses the discussion on your feelings. Trust us, we don’t want you to be sad! We don’t want to be the source of this sadness! You also give us an “out” in this exchange. We can easily say “I’m sorry. I’ll work harder at remembering”. Action steps are also nice at this point as well.
So, to summarize (which is always good when talking to us). Get our Attention. Disarm us. Phrase in feelings. Have you ever heard of Hanlin’s Razor? Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. This really applies when dealing with us. If the choice is between “He’s being a dick” and “He’s just not thinking”, I urge you to go with the latter. Our ability to not think is one of our greatest skills – but it can get us into trouble at times. Get our attention, keep our defenses down, and express yourself. It will all work out. And if it doesn’t, you now know the location of a pack of wild dogs in your neighborhood. You can nickname them “Plan B”.
And lastly, I have to thank my 13 year old for being more responsive than my husband (hey, I just call it like I see it) with this gem, born (no doubt) out of the current relationship situation at his favorite hangout, Skate World:
I have written before about my strong belief in the importance of male/female friendships. I guess my son didn’t have a whole lot of choice but I thank J.C.W. and C.S. for their perspective and taking the time to humor me and write for my blog. Also for setting the record (2) for number of time “penis” has been written in one of my blog posts. What a distinction!
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.