What Do Men And Sandwiches Have In Common?


How to get to the "meat" of the matter and be heard at the same time.

During conversations, does he respond too quickly with suggestions/solutions and you're sick of it?

I hear this complaint often from my coaching clients who are women. And it all comes down to how differently men and women view communication.

Over time, my clients and I have found using a particular image helps brings about positive changes. The metaphor involves (believe it or not!) building a sandwich.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First a little background on how this communication problem comes up.

From the woman's point of view. She wants the man to listen to what she's saying until she's done talking and then if she wants to hear his opinion she'll ask. Here's what is considered "very normal woman" behavior:

  • We talk to people to feel connected to them.
  • We feel cared about when we know they're listening.
  • We know they're listening when they don't interrupt and when they validate that we know what we're talking about.

Other women automatically know how to do this with you because it's what they want, too.

From the man's point of view. When men talk it's usually to do one of the following:

  • Share information—the news, accomplishments, scores, etc.
  • They have a problem they've already tried to solve on their own and now they need a solution. When they ask someone for a solution they expect an answer right away.

Other men automatically know how to do this because it's what they want as well.

It's frustrating when a man tells you how to do something differently. You probably feel like he's saying you don't know how to do it yourself (and I'm sure you're very capable of doing it yourself). And when this happens, you end up feeling disrespected and uncared for by him.

Something to think about—what if his intention of offering you a solution was to show you how much he cares? How would that make you feel? Differently?

Here's the scoop. When you tell him about something that sounds like you have a problem to solve, he says to himself, "I hear her problem and I'm going to come up with a great solution so she'll know how much I care. The solution will make her happy and she'll think I'm wonderful for helping."

Then, when everything backfires (and you get mad) he doesn't understand why.

So, this is what I tell my clients. Create a conversation sandwich the next time you want to "just tell him something," and don't need or want his input.

First slice of bread. Tell him that you appreciate his solutions. Tell him about solutions that have been helpful in the past (I can imagine there have been a few.) It's good to come up with these ahead of time so you don't have to think of them on the fly.

The sandwich insides. Tell him, "I want to tell you about _________ (name the topic) and it would make me so happy if you would sit and listen while I tell you. I don't need a solution. I just want to tell you about it." This is going to be a foreign concept for him (remember when he talks he expects to be offered a solution) so be patient if he forgets you've asked him to just listen. If he starts to interrupt then patiently say, "Thanks for offering me a solution. It would make me feel cared about if you would listen until I'm done." See? New behavior for each of you. Important note: Use this technique initially for things that don't have to do with him or the relationship (those topics require additional preparation).

Second slice of bread. Tell him, "Thank you so much for listening. It made me so happy."

A bonus (not necessary if you don't need it)—when you're done talking and you do want to hear a solution tell him, "I'd really like to hear what you think." After he tells you his solution, respond with, "Thank you, that was really helpful."

If you practice this technique each time you talk to him, you'll find your conversations feel much better. You'll both be happier.