5 Tips for Productive Arguments and Improved Relationships


Communication problems between men and women are remarkably common.  In fact, in my office, this is perhaps the #1 complaint.  I’m forever hearing comments like: He just doesn’t understand; he never says he’s sorry; he won’t share his feelings.  Or, he yells or walks out of the room.  The man has his own complaints, “She always criticizes me,” or “Nothing I ever do is enough.”

Women’s complaint lists are usually longer.  That may be because, typically, women spend more time than men thinking about their relationships and worrying about what they did to cause a problem and what they can do to make it better.  You read books, talk with friends, and think of all the ways you can make things better.  Right?

On the other hand, when a man is angry or hurt, he typically puts it away and moves on.  Like a man said in my office recently, “I suck it up.  Isn’t that what couples are supposed to do?”

Well, no.  That’s what men do; but women do just the opposite.  Men and women are governed by different rules for dealing with relationship problems.  For men, it’s a simplistic “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  They believe if you mess with something small, you risk making it worse.

For women, though, it’s just the opposite.  “If there’s a problem, even a small one, I better fix it now so it doesn’t get bigger.”

You see the problem?  So, what can you do about it?

Here are some guidelines you can use to make your during “discussions” more productive:

  1. Set an agenda.  Let him know the topic that what you want to discuss.  Agree upon a specific time to talk; don’t just bring it up randomly.
  2. Be specific in your complaint/request.  Know what you want to say and use no more than 3-5 sentences.  Men tend to get lost in women’s words.
  3. Sit on your emotion.  As Dragnet said, “Just the facts, ma’am; just the facts.” Tears and yelling scare men and distract then from hearing what you are saying.
  4. Set a goal of coming to a joint resolution (even if that means agreeing to disagree). If you both have that as a goal at the onset, you can come back to that if either of you is getting defensive or attacking.
  5. Remember you love each other; you are on the same team.

If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis

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