Getting Your Man (or Men) To Do What You Asked Them To Do…
My teenage son clarified something this week that has, in the past, frequently confused me as a woman.
I shared with him how I received an email from someone organizing refreshments for a recital. The email basically said, “If you feel like you want to help, it would be greatly appreciated if you signed up to bring something.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but strep throat bacteria coursed through my body, which was the reason I felt exhausted.
The LAST thing I wanted to do was bake yet another batch of cookies, but as I relayed the email to him, he said, “You don’t have to. She didn’t ask you do to anything you don’t feel like doing.”
Now as a woman, when I say, “It would be helpful if you did…” or, “I’d appreciate it if you would do…” I am asking people to do things, and fully expect them to actually do them.
My daughter gets this and will usually do what I ask.
The boys, not so easily.
“Knowing what others need and helping them,” is a relationship strength of women in general. I mean, how many times have you handed your husband something before he’s even finished asking for it?
You know what he’s looking for, and because your uterus is a tracking device, you even know where it is.
I’ll save you the details of the somewhat long discussion my son and I had over what, at first glance, appears to be a minute point in communication behaviors, but the bottom line is this: If you want a guy to do something, ask CLEARLY. Don’t try to be super-polite, because just like they can’t just “see” and “know” that we need their help (like our girlfriends, sisters, and mothers do), they don’t “hear” these “requests.” So we need to speak differently to them. “Will you please put the dishes away while I am gone?” instead of, “It would help me a ton if you would put away the dishes while I’m gone.”
Sounds like a character flaw in them, but I don’t think it is – I think it’s more about how they process information. I think they think differently than we gals do. Not wrong, mind you, but different.
Oh, as an aside, be careful about taking their lack of action personally…it’s rarely about us! And be careful about “waiting” or “expecting” them not to do what you ask then rubbing it in…and for more on wisdom in general, check Proverbs 24. Set people around you up to succeed, instead of focusing on their failures.
Many times when I’ve asked my sons (and husband) after the fact why something didn’t happen, I will be told, “I didn’t hear you ask me to do that.”
I am also nearly 100% sure something will be done really well if I throw the word, “conquer” into a sentence that is a direct request.
“Baby, will you conquer this mountain of leaf raking this afternoon before you get your hair cut?”
They’ll even be bagged up without me asking.
And put at the curb.
This phenomena still confuses me.
But I guess I don’t have to understand the WHY of how it works to simply know that it does – I just need to speak the language they can hear if I want something done.
What’s really been interesting is that I’ve run a few social experiments on the men in my house since learning about this.
I’ve been met with cooperation when direct.
Based on that, and the fact that I just know their hearts, I do not believe these men I live with are lazy, unhelpful, stupid, or harbor ill-will.
I still don’t really understand why this little change makes such a big difference, but it does, so I encourage you to try it.
And male readers, please chime in to enlighten us if you can explain this.
Because I am the relationship architect in my home, I am working on these things. More on how women are wired to be more relationship oriented than men is available here AND here. Suffice it to say, because a woman’s strength is relational and communicative, it’s almost like we are foreigners, traveling to foreign lands. Instead of expecting the locals to pick up the language we speak, because we are gifted in languages (for the sake of analogy) and because we are more motivated for relationship than they are (gender differences again), we should be the ones learning their language.
BTW, something else we need to remember is that if they are doing something else when we ask, we should just assume they didn’t hear the request. A mumbled, “Okay,” isn’t hearing. AND, if you touch your man (or sons) and make eye-contact with him when asking, you’ll have his full attention.
And if he STILL doesn’t do it? Ask again. But nicely – as if it was the first time, just like above.
And if he STILL doesn’t do it? Ask again. Seriously. Just like above.
And if he STILL doesn’t do it? Ask again. And this time, a reason why it’s important to you (while following the above) might help.
And how is the above not nagging? 🙂 Nagging usually comes with a “I’ve asked you five times to do this – why are you ignoring me?” and a “you idiot” tone of voice. Reminding someone that they’ve failed isn’t necessary and is never helpful or respectful.
Saying, “I know you have a plan for getting Nick’s bike fixed, his friend wants him to ride 40 miles with him this weekend – do you think you’ll have it done by Friday?” communicates respect. It also helps you plan, and gets the job done.
I remember about 15 years ago, I asked my own husband, “When I ask you to do something about 5 times and you don’t do it, what should I do?” His response was interesting. He told me, “I struggle with structuring my off-work time because I’m so busy during the day. If you really need something done, please schedule it and just let me know when it’s time to do it. And if that doesn’t work, just take care of it by hiring someone, or asking someone else. But let me know you’ll need to do that, because I want to be the one to take care of you and the kids.”
Hmmm… so respectful plus helpful and patient.
Last time I checked, I was far from perfect, so grace extension is a great thing to learn! 🙂
Dare you to let God teach you perseverance, grace, forgiveness, and patience through the interactions with the men in your life. J
Remember that you (and I) are sinners who married sinners. J
Dare you today to be kind, but direct in what you want. Dare you also not to have expectations that can’t possibly be met by people who don’t even know you are asking for something! J
Want to learn more about these things? It’s my life’s mission and one of the purposes of our ministry to help wives figuring out these communication and relationship skills at an even higher level – dare you to pray about whether or not you should join us for a very special Daughters of Sarah® class… the information meetings are December 11 and 18th (come to one) at Faith Church in Milford, Ohio, (5910 Price Road), from 9:15am-10:30am in the Life Center Multi-Purpose Room. This is the class that makes it available to churches everywhere… we’re so excited about what God is doing. Please join us. The actual class is in January – but you need to know what you are getting into, so please come to an info meeting.
We’re also doing a taping session for the teaching segments on January 5th at Horizon’s church in Newtown, Ohio. It’s for wives, it’s a full day of marriage info – we need an audience, and it will help you in your marriage – so please come! J
There’s more information on our Facebook link here.
Double dog dare you to bring friends…Triple dog dare you to share with others and help them grow in their marriages as well, via email or on your Facebook® J.
Thanks so much for being on the journey with us!
Love to you,
NIna thank you for your awesome insite to understanding males. Not only do you have great ideas but i love the attitude you encourage us women to have with our husbands and children.
I have to echo redbeardofoz– I have to say that my family prides itself on playing the literal game. The women hate it, my dad takes it to the extreme, but I think it’s just that we’re very literal.
As far as in requests, I think it partially is a matter of conditioning. What I mean is that some people really have trouble saying “no” to requests that are made of them. So, when something is phrased in such a way that it seems optional, we take the option not to do it unless we want to.
I think this also gets combined with analysis of the situation. I believe that men have a list of priorities that often differ with their wives/sisters/mothers, and therefore need a request to be presented in a way that stresses the need. For example, the fact that a woman wants a clean house, and sees something as dirty– well, a man might not see it as needing cleaning until it is more dirty– or something’s in his way. Therefore, when he hears what he thinks is an optional request, coupled with a lower sense of priority… you get the picture.
I’ve noticed that it’s a big area in my life where I need growth, and I’ve attempted to make it a priority in my kids lives– to see things that need to be done and do it, and do it cheerfully– but it’s not an easy thing to master.
“Therefore, when he hears what he thinks is an optional request, coupled with a lower sense of priority… you get the picture”
Good point. House-cleaning is right down at the bottom of my priorities list. As in, if I don’t vacuum the house this Sunday, well, all the dust will still be there for me to vacuum next Sunday, right?
So, if someone (let’s face it, most likely a female) says “If you can get around to it, can you vacuum the house today?”, well then it’s most likely that I wouldn’t get around to it. Not because I am disrespecting her, but because the task holds little intrinsic value for me.
As MInTheGap says, there is a “lower sense of priority” for some things, which is relevant here. It’s like if someone gave me an optional task of dusting the grass on the lawn; I’m not going to do it, because I can see little point in doing so. That’s probably an extreme example and a poor paralell, but I hope you can see what I am saying.
Back to the “can you vacuum the house today?” request, since it is phrased as an option, an earlier me would have chosen not to take the option – by the way, this would not have been game-playing or word-playing, I truly would have regarded it as an optional task.
Hopefully today, now that I know a bit more about the female mind, I would realise it was more of an “order” or “firm request”, but it’s odds on that I might forget to run it through my “female translator” (seriously, men are used to thinking one particular way; it is actually quite abnormal to be constantly turning off the “literal” switch in our heads).
That different sense of priorities can be a big dividing line. How can you force someone else to see things (your priorities) the way you see them? You probably can’t (?), but I guess the best way is to tell them that the task is important to you.
Maybe use “This is important to me, it may not seem important to you, but I will be unhappy if this is not done, because I like to have things at a certain standard” carries within it 1) your sense of priority, 2) a hint of consequences if it is not done (more than a hint and it would be more likely for some to dig their heels in and not do it), and 3) a “logic” ticket (re. standards; that can be important because standards, even if we don’t share them, can be logically recognised – and quantifiable logic is an important part of the male mind).
Anyway, hope that helps.
Just thinking out loud here.
Yup, I remember my mother and my brother having a very similar conversation when we were teenagers. I thought he was being ridiculous. I thought “Clearly she is asking him to do the dishes” but for him it was a suggestion and not a real request.
I know, right?! Interesting – thanks for the comment, Genieve.
Generally speaking, us men are more literal than women.
For instance, during a domestic argument, a woman might say “You never help me clean up around the house”.
From what I have come to understand, what she is saying is that not enough support is being given to her on the domestic front in general.
But we men hear the specific sentence “You never help me clean up around the house”.
So then we’re thinking/saying “Well, yes I do. Yesterday I did ABC, the day before I did XYZ … and so on”.
So the man is thinking “What? Is she stupid? I’ve just listed all these things I do. So, I do help around the house. What is she on about?”
While the woman is thinking “What? Is he stupid? I’ve just told him I need more help, and he’s just going on about these minor things he’s done. What is he on about?”
We are coming from two different angles. In effect, we are speaking two different (cultural) languages. No wonder there are communications breakdowns all the time.
I read two books on male/female psychological differences some years ago; it was a real eye-opener as to what the other gender was thinking. It stayed in my brain for at least a few months before I forgot all the lessons I learned.
Seriously, it’s hard to learn a new “language” when you never actually speak it yourself. To be attuned to where women are coming from, I would probably need to read some study notes on those two books every six months or so.
We don’t do it deliberately. Our style of thinking is often very different to yours. And visa versa.
(And we’ve only touched on just one difference here).
Thank you so much for this insight! 🙂 It is wonderful that you choose to continue growing!
So tell me how asking again, and again, and again, and again, AND again different from nagging?
And your site is great. I need all the help I can get.
EXCELLENT question! I responded within the post, because I thought others might have the same question, and these get hidden at some point. You are wise in not wanting to nag – and every man defines that differently. From what we’ve seen, nagging is nagging when it comes with a “condescending attitude that communicates failure.” Most men will tell us that they need to be reminded once or twice to do something. Others will say the only way that they have of “getting even” with their wives who don’t respect them is to resist their requests (original sin of Adam – passivity, which has morphed into passive aggressive behavior now). Thanks so much for pointing this out!
Oh, and any good you see is from God – just like “The Respect Dare” book, this blog is His deal! 🙂
Glad to be on the journey with you!
Love this practical advice. Shared on facebook. All my women friends need to know this!
Thanks, Rosalyn! I know it saved me a lot of headaches in our marriage! 🙂
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