What to say

For men only

Seven ways to talk to a woman
when you don’t know what to say

It is often said that the average woman speaks far more words in a day than the average man. Probably nearly twice as many, although personally I’ve never bothered counting. Women do a lot of this with other women, and they can manage to have an intense and rapid conversation while doing pretty well anything else at the same time. If you are a man you know what I mean.

All of this puts the average man at an instant disadvantage. Not only does he tend to speak less (although we all know men who are exceptions to this rule) but he also has a hard time hearing all of the words that are coming at him. It’s not that he can’t speak and do something else at the same time, he usually can’t listen and do something else at the same time!

Many times we men find ourselves at a loss as to what to say. There we are, going somewhere with our wife in the car, and if she stops talking we have a period of silence. We don’t like silence too much. Yes, even men don’t always like silence. It’s OK if they are somewhere on their own or doing something so they are occupied, but plain sitting down with someone in silence is usually pretty uncomfortable. So what can you say?

In fact there are a few things you can do to remedy this situation. None of them are without some effort, but with a bit of practice the effort is a lot less than we might think.

  1. Actually listen to what your wife was talking about. This takes a bit of regular concentration, but if you really do pick up on a few of the words or ideas that are being expressed then you can use these to give feedback. Imagine, she is explaining how the neighbour stopped her just as she was late coming in to prepare supper and bent her ear for a whole ten minutes. So you pick up on this, and say “I wonder if she realised that you had something you needed to be doing?” You have reformulated the phrase, and added a simple question. You can be absolutely sure that your wife will not answer with with a simple “no”, but elaborate on the idea. Of course, if you do this then you do have to keep listening to the answers.
  2. Remember a couple of subjects that she finds interesting. That odd period of silence has just hit, but you know that your wife is really quite a keen tennis fan. You don’t keep up on it so much, so you ask “what did happen in the end in that last tennis tournament?”. Or you know that she is keen on pottering around in the garden so you say “do you have plans for any new plants that we don’t yet have?” Hitting her area of interest will enable her to talk this out, and you can be sure that she will have something to say. Who knows, you may even learn something useful!
  3. Remember the names of a couple of her friends. “Whatever happened to Peggy last week?”. You can be pretty sure that something did happen to Peggy, and it’s pretty likely that your wife knows something about it. Of course, this is a much better strategy if you were listening during the week and realised that at some point your wife had mentioned Peggy.
  4. If you have children, take advantage of this! It is true that parents talk about their children. So much so than when the children go, this is the time when couples realise that they don’t have anything to talk about. However, bearing in mind the long term risk, if you have children then bringing up something about one of them with re-ignite your conversation.
  5. Try to work out what she really thinks about a subject. Curiously men, who tend to speak less, can become very verbose when they plug into a subject that they have an opinion about. It’s just that much of the time those subjects do not necessarily line up between men and women, so couples can’t easily take advantage of common ground. You can be sure that your wife has done some pretty serious thinking about some subjects, and that in all probability you don’t know the half of it. Asking some questions can be very revealing!
  6. Think of something that she did, and say thank you. This is likely to be a big surprise! Much of the time, men take what their wives do for granted. Even if you think you are one of those exceptional men who says thank you often, your wife could probably draw up a long list of things she does that you hardly notice! Of course, this requires a bit of observation, and some memory. When you don’t know what to say, bring up a something she did and say thank you. Tell her that you noticed and that you really appreciated it. If you haven’t done this before, she may well wonder what this is all about, so be careful. But if you do it from time to time, with no strings attached, then this will become a superb relationship skill that will pay dividends.
  7. Admit that you don’t know what to say. And why not? A little honesty never hurt anyone, and this is a great time to admit that you really are stuck. Not something you can use more than once in a while, but as a reserve card it’s really useful. To a women, especially some women, this idea is totally foreign. They have so many words in their head that usually a day is not enough to get them all spoken, so the concept of having nothing to say it outside their existential experience. Even so, realising perhaps you really are quiet because you don’t know what to say will ring a note of truthful possibility.

It’s pretty hard to predict exactly what reaction you will get to these different strategies. One size does not fit all. Maybe one or two things you know already will not work well, but wait. Perhaps the idea needs just a little modification to become useful.

Paul Marsh

There we are, going somewhere with our wife in the car, and if she stops talking we have a period of silence.
“Whatever happened to Peggy last week?”. You can be pretty sure that something did happen to Peggy
Admit that you don’t know what to say. And why not? A little honesty never hurt anyone