Phrases that Either Open or Close His Heart

Words that make him defensive

Phrases that either open or close his heart

So far we’ve learned how to get and keep our husband’s attention. Today I share several key phrases to avoid. We don’t want to sabotage the conversation by making him feel defensive!

I also share a few key phrases to include in your communication that will help keep his heart open.

Heart-Closer #1: We need to talk

A few years ago, Greater Impact conducted a survey of the husbands of our class members. We asked the question, “When your wife uses the phrase, “We need to talk,” what is your initial thought?” Here are just a few of the responses we received that capture the general negative sentiment the men had:

  • She is going to complain about me.
  • This is going to be a one-way conversation.
  • Run!
  • She has some kind of problem with me.
  • What did I do now?
  • Usually nothing good – feels like going to the principal’s office.
  • Uh oh…
  • Here we go again…
  • I’m in trouble!

The overwhelming common response was, “What did I do now?” This is NOT a good thing! Defensive feelings set the stage for an argument, or at least conflict. Defensiveness also destroys the opportunity to connect. The last thing we want to do is make our husband feel defensive.

Heart-Closer #2: Why did you…?

Research conducted and discussed in Shaunti Feldhahn’s book The Male Factor, teaches us that men view “Why,” as a challenge word.  Saying “Why?” to your guy challenges him to justify what he did, not see things from your perspective. When we say it, we are in effect, creating defensiveness… which leads to conflict and/or arguments.

Bottom line: Avoid saying, “We need to talk,” and “Why?” to the men in your lives because it creates defensive feelings.











Heart-Opener:   I’d really like your advice about something…

Men love to feel valued and feel this way when solving problems for others. Giving him an opportunity to speak into a situation you are facing.  When he provides advice two things happen:

1) Positive interaction occurs.

2) You have the opportunity to express appreciation – which builds his esteem.

As his awareness and influence on your life-projects grow, so may his support of you.

Bottom line: Ask your husband for advice and then listen to it.  He will feel important to you and as a result, be more interested in what you are doing.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.  Proverbs 19:20

What about you?

  1. Have you found yourself using any of the heart-closing phrases? What effect has that had?
  1. How do you feel about asking your husband for advice? Does it feel threatening?
  1. Are you confident enough in who you are to listen to his ideas even if you disagree with them? Why or why not?

Have you found these ideas helpful? You might consider joining our dynamic community of wives changing their marriages through applied respect. You can find out more on our website at

Love to you,



Want to see how words threatened one woman’s marriage?










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One thought on “Phrases that Either Open or Close His Heart

  1. I like the thought of ‘I’d really like your advice…’ Today, we were working in the garden and my husband was reading how to plant veggie seeds, and the suggestion was to ‘scatter them around’. I was trying to think how to word the comment ‘it would be easier weeding if they were in a line’ and he was a bit upset but did come around to seeing the validity of it. How might I have handled it better? I was hoping he wouldn’t be hurt but, alas, he was ‘disappointed’ with the initial suggestion. Thanks for any insight you can offer.

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