25 Habits that Kill Great Communication

Stop making difficult conversations harder than they need to be.

Stop making difficult conversations harder than they need to be.

The Way to Say It  is about more than just choosing the right words.  It’s also about what NOT to say and how NOT to behave.  It’s about conversational habits we need to break and remove from our difficult conversations. 

Many of these behaviors are so habitual we don’t even realize how they block powerful communication and sabotage our very efforts. Each of these 25 habits undermines trust, creates distance and keeps us from our conversational goals.  

What’s the point of stepping into a difficult conversation only to make things worse with your attitude or tone of voice, or even passive-aggressive behavior?

Learning to master difficult conversations takes effort. Make sure your tough talks don’t include any of these bad habits. 

Here are the behaviors that need to go:      

    1. Blaming others  while believing we are guilt free
    2. Using a sarcastic tone of voice
    3. Blind siding with a surprise attack
    4. Taking a defensive stance
    5. Attacking by using “you” statements
    6. Avoiding the actual subject
    7. Dancing around the issues with implications and vagueness
    8. Pretending all is well
    9. Fighting dirty with name calling or intentionally hurtful dialog,
    10. Talking over others
    11. Being a poor listener
    12. Playing the “I’m right, you’re wrong” card
    13. Saying the right words with the wrong tone
    14. Wanting to prove your point rather than resolve issues
    15. Making the issue public
    16. Not owning your stuff, your feelings
    17. Dismissing others’ opinions
    18. Patronizing and belittling others
    19. Interrupting others’ talk
    20. Not acknowledging honest effort of others
    21. Being dishonest
    22. Withholding the truth
    23. Avoiding eye contact
    24. Multi-tasking rather than being present
    25. Making excuses for your behavior

Which of these habits are yours? Most likely some, if not many, of these habits are things you have done when conversations are challenging. We all do. Especially  when we’re angry, hurt or impatient. To really lean into tough conversations and create dynamic, clear, honest connection, we need to eliminate these behaviors.

It may not be reasonable to expect to break all your bad communication habits, after all we generally learn them from our families and these habits go back years. But that is no excuse for continuing what is counter productive. One by one, we can learn the way to say it with respect, without tone, listening and owning our part and really breaking through to resolve issues and create powerful results.                                                                                           

something newFirst, we need to raise our awareness so we realize which destructive communication habits are ours. Once we identify the communication styles that are hampering our success, then little by little we can substitute a healthy alternative  that fosters trust, builds connection, and breaks down barriers rather than creating  new ones.

It’s a new year! How about starting off by observing your communication habits and admitting which ones are killing your communications?

25 Great Responses to Graciously Receive Gifts

pile of gifts

If you read my blog post earlier this week, 5 Things Never to Say When Receiving a Gift, you may have discovered you are not the best at accepting presents or expressing genuine gratitude. Maybe you struggle with finding the right words, or feel self-conscious. Or just don’t know the way to say it and express what you feel. No worries.

Now that you’re aware of how you come across, you can respond differently and be a gracious receiver.  People will love you for it, and you will enjoy gift exchanges much more yourself. Who knows, you might even find yourself the recipient of more gifts!

To begin, let’s go review those “Five Things Never to Say…” and offer better alternatives:

  1. Instead of “Can I open this later?” how about something more positive and engaging like, “Oh thanks! I’d love to open this now!Now your gift giver knows that you’re excited to be getting a gift and don’t’ want to wait to open it. What a great feeling they get, knowing you are excited! It’s a gift giver’s dream.
  2. Instead of “Do I have to open this now?”  Say “Can I open this now?  I’m just too excited to wait.” Think about it…if they hand you the gift now, it’s because they want you to open it now. Otherwise they would have waited. Generally, people hand you their gift when they want you to open it. Don’t disappoint. Let them enjoy the giving and witness your response.
  3. Instead of saying, “Thanks. I have one of these,” simply be gracious and receive it well saying, Thanks so much! This is a great gift.”
  4. If and only if, the gift is expensive and you have it already, your response will be a little more challenging to be honest. Consider saying something like, “Wow, I love this. I can’t believe how well you know my taste! I do have this item though. Do you think we can decide together on something to exchange it for?”
  5. Time after time I hear people (mostly women) lament, apologize, and fuss over the fact that they didn’t buy a gift as well. PLEASE, if this is you, eliminate this response from your repertoire. Take a breath and slip into the role of gracious receiver. Simply say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me! What a nice surprise!”

….and now twenty more choices to be a pleasant, gracious receiver this Holiday:

6.    “Thank you very much. This is something I’d never have splurged on.”

7.     “How did you know? …..I’ve been wanting a _________________.”

8.     “I love this. It’s so unique.”

9.     “What a great gift! Many thanks.”

10.   “I appreciate your kindness.”

11.   “That was very sweet!” (or kind, or generous or thoughtful)

12.   “What a fantastic gift! Thanks so much!”

13.   “I LOVE presents. Can I open this right now?”

14.   “This is really touching. Thank you.”

15.   “I’ve always wanted to have a _______________.”

16.   “I love handmade gifts. They have such meaning. Thank you.”

17.   “Thank you for thinking of me.”

18.   “Wow! You really know my taste. I love this.”

19.   “This is a perfect gift choice for me.  Thank you!”

20.   “I so appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

21.   “Thanks so very much. This is wonderful!”

22.   “I’m delighted. Thank you.”

23.   “Thank you so much. I will treasure this gift.”

24.   “How kind of you to buy me a gift.”

25.   “What a wonderful surprise! Thanks for thinking about me.”

It’s not too late to be a wonderful receiver of gifts, acts of service, or hospitality this Holiday season. Simply try these responses and allow yourself to be a bit more open.

Regardless of the way you say it this Holiday and whether you find the right words, don’t be a Grinch!  Enjoy and let the gratitude in your heart come through to those who love you enough to purchase a gift they chose especially for you.


THANK YOU for following my blog! That is a great gift to me!

Happiest of Holidays!

 See you after the New Year with more of the way to say it.

5 Things Never to Say When Receiving A Gift

(Check out my next post this week for great responses to receive gifts graciously.)

You don’t have to be a child to LOVE receiving gifts. But, when it comes down to it, kids just naturally get it! They show excitement, excited child at Christmasenthusiasm, and happiness. Their faces light up. They exude emotion as they tear off wrapping and dive into their surprise.  With children, it’s not hard to tell if they’re delighted by a gift.

With adults—not so much. While some adults do resemble children when receiving a gift, the reactions of many adults leave much to be desired.  Here’s an example. I once struggled to find a great baby gift (not my forte) for a friend. When I gave her the present, she thanked me and promptly put it in her car. I never got to see if she liked it, was happy, or what. It simply disappeared.

My all-time favorite one though is this.  My husband and I once found a beautiful black sweater we loved so much, we not only bought one for a family member, but one for him as well. When the relative opened the gift, his wife critically blurted out, “Oh, black. I don’t know if we can get used to black on him!  Really? Of all the things to say, that was their best response?find your gift

Giving a gift requires time and effort. Even the smallest of gifts requires thought, shopping and money. In spite of this, we love to give presents.  And we love it because it makes us feel good.  The old adage, “It is better to give than to receive” hits the nail on the head.  We’re take pleasure in the act. We like the feeling of satisfaction that comes from bringing joy to others. For most of us to really feel that satisfaction, however, we have to know the gift was appreciated. We want to see and feel the receiver’s reaction.

Flat, indifferent responses take the joy out of giving. Don’t be an ingrate with responses like these in your gift-receiving moments:

“No-No” Responses:

  • “Can I open this later?” (meaning after you leave) – This response denies the giver all the joy of giving the gift. They don’t get to see your response and will definitely feel slighted hearing these words.
  • “Do I have to open this now?” – Seriously? Someone went to the trouble to think of, shop for and buy you a gift and you want to know if you HAVE TO open it now? This one is never a good response to generosity. It creates discomfort for everyone and most often the giver will respond politely with “No, you can wait,” but secretly inside they are disappointed.
  • “Oh, thanks, I just bought one (or got one) of these.” – Unless the gift is something you want and need two of, the “I just bought one” is unnecessary info that should be left out.
  • “Oh, my God… but I don’t have a gift for you!!”  This one is a common response among women, one that needs to be ditched. Giving a gift was the choice of the giver. If someone elected to purchase a present for you without specifically asking to exchange gifts, no apology is necessary.  They are doing what they wanted, expressing sentiment. Be a gracious receiver and let them know how surprised and pleased you are. I challenge you to say absolutely nothing about not having a gift for them.  Don’t take away from their generosity by apologizing and shifting the focus. Simply enjoy!
  • “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” – This is definitely an outdated saying. It’s from a time when people spoke more formally, less directly and more politely. How can the gift giver possibly respond but to explain and defend why they wanted to do this for you? Skip this response. 

So exactly what should you say? See our next post this week for great responses for gracious receiving and be sure to share these posts with people who want to be better receivers.

Now, tell me…what are your horror stories? What’s the worst thing ever said to you when you gave a present? I’d love to hear your experiences, too.

Three Ways to Say “No” This Holiday Season

Just say it!

Just say it!

Have you spouted out a solid “NO” yet today? How about yesterday? Last week?

It’s the Holidays and as much as we all want things perfect, in actuality, it can be a tense time.  There are long lists of errands to run. There are multiple demands on your time.  There are far too many people’s opinions to take into account for the dinner menu, the guests, the time, the gifts, and all the other details to plan a “perfect” holiday event.

Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays and whether you love or hate them, there is added stress not present the rest of the year.  It’s a stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be. Not if you open your mouth and say that two- letter word you’re screaming on the inside. Say it. Say “no.”

Say things like, “No. I’m sorry. I wish I could help you with the children’s school play this year. I’m going to have to pass.”

Or maybe you need to say, “Thanks for the invite to your Christmas party. I so appreciate being included. Unfortunately, we can’t make it this year.”

Possibly your “no” might be about setting limits on gifts and holiday purchases. Maybe what needs to be said is “I would love to exchange gifts with everyone in the family, but this year the budget just isn’t going to cover it. Let’s look at that again next year.”

It’s not critical that the actual word “no” be included in your sentence. Nor is it necessary for you to defend and explain why you can’t make the party or won’t host dinner this year. In fact the less said about why, the less likely you are to cave and be talked out of your response. Just find the simplest, nicest way of saying “no” showing appreciation to others and still protecting your own boundaries.

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be harsh and selfish. Nor does it have to be overly apologetic and guilty. The word “no” is an important element of difficult conversations and a small word with a huge impact. Neglecting to use this powerful word to set your limits and protect your time or your money or your energy will undoubtedly leave you giving too much of yourself away.

Start this holiday with a gift to yourself. Say “no” when that’s what your instincts are screaming inside. Say “no” when there is too much on your plate, or you just aren’t interested in the activity. Practice by saying “no” to one request each day, no matter how small. All totaled up, those little limits you set will leave you feeling lighter, less stressed and more in the spirit the holidays are all about.

Remember, difficult conversations mean saying, not thinking, what is true for you.




What Your Lack of Response Tells Others

ostrichMost of us think saying nothing is an acceptable and easy response to challenging situations. The ole ostrich-in-the-sand approach.  We hide out. We avoid, ignore and figure in time it will all go away. At the very least the other party will forget about things.

After doing personal coaching for 13 years, it’s clear to me this is not the case. No response, does not equal no problem. The issue doesn’t’ go away just because we aren’t facing it. In fact, more often than not, ignoring the issue leads to other problems.

We may THINK to ourselves, “I’m not saying anything. That will be safe.” But our silence communicates volumes anyway. It leaves things open to the interpretation of others, and, without our input. They decide on their own what our lack of response means. The meaning they give it is rarely what we intend.

Here are some of the conclusions that are often drawn by our silence:

  1. “You don’t care.”  –  If you did care, you would speak up and express your feelings.  Or at the least you would deal with the situation. Most of us interpret silence as indifference.
  2. “I’m not important.”  –   Someone waiting to hear your response might conclude, “I’m not important to you.” After all, in the midst of a misunderstanding or conflict, it would seem if I were important, you would do or say something.
  3. “Things are fine the way they are.” –  Sometimes when no response comes, we decide it means things are fine as is. Nothing needs to be done.
  4. “Do what you want.”  –  This is a convenient conclusion to draw. It allows us to do exactly what we want. After all, we haven’t heard from the other party (you), so obviously it doesn’t matter.  Without your input, we are free to decide what to do next. And considering there is a conflict, we love giving ourselves permission to do what we want.
  5. “It’s over.” –  Depending on the actual situation, sometimes we interpret silence to mean the relationship, friendship, or connection is over. That conclusion sets an entirely new set of circumstances in motion.
  6. “You don’t want to talk to me (or about it).” –  In either case, drawing this conclusion makes the other party completely reluctant to initiate a conversation. The gap widens. The silence continues.

Just because nothing is said, doesn’t mean no conclusions are drawn. Silence in the midst of an issue, argument, misunderstanding or crucial conversation only leads to more resentment and a greater distance to bridge for resolution.

breaking the silence

Are you an avoider? In the midst of a difficult conversation do you simply shut down and stop talking? Do you leave an issue hanging, never sharing your thoughts and questions? If so, remind yourself others will draw their own conclusions and most likely they will not be what you intend.

Want to resolve the issue? Want to affect the outcome? Speak up using The Way to Say It and allow yourself and the other party to talk it through and move on, whether that moving on means resolution, understanding, or just letting go. In any case, the wondering ends and there is clarity.

Want to learn more possibilities about what your silence is saying? Check out these links:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2013/02/silence-speaks-what-you-say-when-you-say-nothing-at-all/


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The Way to Say It: 10 Reasons It Pays to Speak Up First

Someone's got to go first!

Don’t be a scaredy cat! Speak up.

As children we couldn’t wait to be first. First to raise our hands. Answer the teacher’s question. First to get in line. Somewhere along the line that all changed.

We began hesitating. Holding back. Suddenly we waited for someone else to go first.  We watched to see what THEY did, or what THEY said.

As adults, we avoid being the one to speak up first, especially when it means being open and vulnerable.  We think to ourselves…“Not me! Let someone else go first!”

But we miss out on so much by waiting! We stuff our true feelings. Awkwardness increases. What we want to say gets more and more difficult, the longer we wait. We get stuck in our heads.

I observed this pattern when I was 16 while vacationing with my family. In situation after situation, I noticed adults afraid to speak their minds and share their feelings, especially when they had to lead off, or break a long silence.  It struck me as particularly odd that even when it was a compliment or praise to share, most people STILL held back! No one wanted to go first!

I decided “not me.” I began taking the lead in honest, direct conversations.  I shared compliments with strangers. I asked probing questions. I shared my feelings openly. And I made some startling observations.  When I expressed my feelings, the benefits far outweighed the risks. Every time I paved the way, others followed my lead. They opened up to me, and fast!

People willingly dropped their guard, as long as they didn’t have to go to bat first. It made such an impression on me, I committed to GO FIRST.  It’s a choice I have stayed with.

children raising hands happy

Remember being like this?

We don’t have to hesitate.

We don’t have to wait for others to speak up.

We can express ourselves authentically.

Like the children we used to be, we can once again “go first.”  Here’s what we gain by being the initiator: 

  1. Awkwardness fades.  Everyone feels the same inside…anxious and awkward at the thought of these conversations.  Going first ends the discomfort. 
  2. Time is savedBreaking the ice ends the pattern of everyone waiting for SOMEONE else to lead. Someone really has to go first…why not you?
  3. Grace is givenWhat words you choose or how eloquent you are is less important than opening up the dialogue. No one worries cares if it was worded perfectly.    
  4. Respect grows. Speaking up earns you respect. You’ll be perceived as confident and brave.
  5. Trust builds.  Your honesty builds trust with others because you’re opening up.   
  6. Doors open. Others will be more responsive and open, following your lead. Be prepared!
  7. Speaking up gets easier. Over time it becomes natural, easy and comfortable to speak up.  
  8. Visibility expandsYou become the go-to person known for getting things started, for speaking the truth.   
  9. New behavior is modeled for others. Your example becomes a model for to follow.
  10. Connections develop. Starting conversations opens doors to develop connection and  understanding.

My choice to “go first” still serves me well.  I’ve gained the trust of others. People have shared their feelings more easily because they already knew mine. Going first has opened doors and hearts to me and made it well worth the sometimes risky business of leading off.   Occasionally I’ve taken some “shots” for opening up dialogues others wanted to avoid, but those experiences brought great lessons with them.

What about you? Do you go first?  Instead of pointing fingers at people in your life wondering why they aren’t open with you, ask yourself this:

“Am I making it easy for them to open up? Or do I just sit back and wait?”

Take an honest look at yourself today. Then give it a shot. Go first. I’m looking forward to hearing your experiences.

The Friend Break-Up

friend breakupEnding a friendship certainly qualifies as a difficult conversation. The problem is:  rarely does anyone actually have a conversation to end a friendship. It’s not like a “break-up” between couples. Most friendship ending are one-sided. Phone calls go unanswered. Emails aren’t returned. Invites vanish. The friend is left to figure it out on their own.

There’s no conversation. No explanation. Nothing. The terminator simply cuts the cord of the relationship without expressing what was bothering them. They never express their true feelings and their friend never receives an explanation of what changed, what went wrong.

Funny that people who liked and enjoyed each other so much just go their separate ways without any farewell. No well wishes. It’s just OVER.

Known for hitting on common life experiences, Seinfeld devoted an entire episode to the friend breakup.   Speaking of a friend from youth, Jerry turns to George and says, “What can I do breakup with him? Tell him we aren’t right for each other? At least with a woman there’s a precedent…you end it.  As a guy, I don’t know how I can break up with another guy…there is nothing I can do. I’ll have to wait for one of us to die.”

Just because no protocol for ending a friendship exists, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t step into that difficult conversation and speak the truth.

How?  By choosing the simplest, truest few lines to tell a friend face to face,or at least by phone, how we feel.

It could sound like this,

You know, Sally, we’ve been drifting apart for awhile and though I have thoroughly enjoyed our friendship, for me, it would be better to just wish each other well and move on.” 

End Friendship

Or if the relationship was a struggle, it might sound like,

“After the misunderstanding we had recently, it would be better for me let go of our relationship. I was much too hurt by what happened to continue. I realize we both played a part in the misunderstanding; I’m just not willing to give it more time. I hope you understand.”

Although delivering these messages is definitely a stretch, and not comfortable, don’t we owe our one-time-friends the decency of an explanation? At the very least, a short truthful conversation sure beats the current practice of leaving things unsaid.

What’s your experience been with ending friendships? Did you speak up? Have you been left wondering? Tell me what you think.

And remember this, should you choose to part ways in the future, please tell me, as best you can, the reason you moved on. I promise to do the same.

Danger: Difficult Conversations and Email Don’t Mix

Send Button for EmailsI LOVE email. I am a fast typist (thanks to long ago secretarial school.) I love to write. And I like immediacy. Email ticks all the boxes.


Many people hide behind email, rather than bravely having conversations they need to have. They become The Wizard of Oz hiding behind the curtain. Only difference is their curtain is email.

If the communication you need to deliver, makes you feel like running the other direction, email is not the way to handle it.

If the topic you need to talk about is emotionally charged, like a break up, or a performance issue at work, email is not the right choice.

If the subject matter is touchy, involves parties who are already upset and taking sides, email is not going to clear the air.

If you know (and I know you do) when your email is likely to cause hurt feelings, disappointment, possible misunderstandings and yes, drama, email is not the solution to minimize all of the above.

When we chicken out and use email to handle situations like this, we can’t really wonder why things go sideways. Why drama escalates. Why nothing is resolved. It’s obvious.

Too much is missing and/or open to interpretation with email in a tough conversation. And it’s what’s missing that creates the problems. Like tone of voice. Like the ability to stop and redirect the conversation. Or the ability to clarify issues that are being misinterpreted….immediately! Once the reaction is there, once the feelings are hurt, it’s much harder to backtrack and resolve.

With email the entire conversation is delivered like a one-sided monologue. The reader has no opportunity to ask for clarification, to interpret facial expressions and tone, to stop a communication that is headed down the wrong path.

When you speak, whether face to face or by phone, at each moment you have the chance to shift gears, explain, listen, redirect, and ask questions and often, salvage a conversation that was beginning to go south.

ALL of that is missing when you put your thoughts in an email. You quickly bang out the email, throw out your thoughts, often with little or no editing. Then before you can foresee possible issues, or just think ahead a moment, it’s’ too late. The email is gone.

How many times have we all wished there was a “recall” button on personal emails?

Instead of going down this path, a better solution is learning and committing to NOT using email for any conversation that is touchy, drama-filled, sensitive, emotional, potentially upsetting or hurtful, easily open to interpretation, or complicated.

What recent email of yours turned into an issue that could have been avoided?  Suppose instead of emailing, you had picked up the old-fashioned telephone instead? Imagine the different possible outcomes with an authentic conversation?

Remember, email is great but it’s not right for every situation. Tune into your intuition. If you have the slightest inkling it could get sticky, DON’T send your email. Have a conversation instead. THAT’S the way to say it!

For some specifics on when and when not to email, check out this article.

5 Great Responses to Inappropriate Questions

Being a lover of cats I couldn’t resist opening the post from Dan at Leadership Freak today. It was titled, The Pussy Cat Problem.  I couldn’t imagine the content, but Dan is known for his short and sweet, extremely powerful words of wisdom. Today was no exception. All ten points in the post were spot on in helping leaders be more approachable and connected, but I especially love this recommendation:

Learn how to handle inappropriate topics,” such as saying, “Thanks for bringing that up but I can’t deal with that in public.”

 As a leader, your “charges” will sometimes bring you inappropriate information, or ask totally awkward questions in a public setting.

They see you as the person in the know, the person with the solution. And that is not something you want to discourage. Your success is related to how accessible and connected you are with your team.

You WANT to know what’s on their minds. You WANT them to feel they can ask you anything or bring you information.  The wrong response, or worse yet, no response, to their question will simply shut them down.

Knowing some appropriate responses before a situation arises makes it easier to respond on the spot.

Knowing some appropriate responses before a situation arises makes it easier to respond on the spot.

The worst responses to an inappropriate question are these:

  1. No response at all. That leaves the person who spoke up confused. With no response they have no idea what to think and they will be sure to discuss your lack of response with their circles. Doesn’t add to your leadership presence.
  2. A flippant response. I hope I don’t really need to state that this is not the answer either. A flippant or sarcastic answer from a leader is heightened in intensity by the power and status of that leader. You can bet this person who stepped out on a limb and asked what was on their mind, will not do that again anytime soon.
  3. An on the spot response that is also inappropriate. If their question or info was truly inappropriate, than discussion of this topic in public only makes a bad situation worse.

A powerful confident leader can handle the inappropriate. It goes with the territory. As Dan’s response suggests, the ideal comment to a public conversation on a “behind-closed-doors-topic” hits these benchmarks:

  1. It’s free of tone, judgment or sarcasm
  2. It spares damage to the initiator’s pride
  3. It is neutral, direct and clear
  4. It confirms to the speaker they have been heard
  5. It lets them know their request will be addressed, but not here and not now

Having some ideas of the way to say it in advance help in being prepared. Here are some The Way to Say It Tips to use in these situations include:

  • “That’s a topic for an off-line conversation. Let’s set another time to talk about this.”
  •  “Now that is a most unusual request. Let me have my assistant meet with you on that.”
  • “Wow, I need to think about that one. Let me get back to you.”
  • “You know, I think we can do better speaking about that in a quieter environment.”

Generally, as long as the spokesperson has been heard and gotten a response that sets expectations, they are satisfied and refrain from continuing the conversation on the spot creating an even more awkward situation.

Your strength as a leader comes from being able to handle all types of challenges and situations. That should include tough conversations and inappropriate remarks.

Four Words Guaranteed to Send Men Running

This conversation starter doesn't create the mood we intend.

This conversation starter doesn’t create the mood we intend.

Ladies, it’s true. We grew up hearing adult women say to their men, “We need to talk,” but I’m here to say don’t do it! Popular belief was that these words would be a good introduction to talk through an issue, handle a concern, or establish more connection.

No matter how many times you’ve heard this phrase, or how easy it would be to say, or that some people actually recommend saying, “We need to talk,” to initiate a tough conversation, I’m saying ABSOLUTELY NOT! Not today, not in the future, not ever. No. No. No.

Unequivocally, saying “We need to talk” will send men running—the other direction.

If your mind keeps telling you to say these words, promise me you won’t let them across your lips to be spoken out loud.

I get that you might not believe me. And I will admit, I once used them, too. But over time, I learned these words inspire dread in the hearts of men of all ages. These words are a sounding alarm.

And here’s what that alarm signifies for men:                     We-need-to-talk

  • Be on guard. Bad news is on the way
  • Get ready for tears and emotions
  • This is not going to be pretty
  • You’re going to hear what you did wrong or didn’t do at all
  • This conversation will definitely last longer than you hope
  • You probably will have to talk about things you’d prefer not to discuss

A study at the University of Missouri found that boys have different feelings about time spent discussing problems than girls do. For boys “talking about problems makes them feel “weird” and feels like they are “wasting time.” It should come as no surprise this belief carries over into adulthood for guys.


Constructive conversation has no chance now.

According to Good Men Know the Real Meaning of We Need to Talk  

“…when we hear those dreaded words, we “shut down” because we feel like the student in the class who hears his teacher say, “I need to see you after class.” When the teacher says that, we KNOW we are in trouble. And when you say, “We need to talk,” we know there is an issue you want to scold us about.

Rather than fall back on this familiar, but oh-so-wrong way to start a conversation with a man, try these guidelines instead:

  • If your intention is not resolution and understanding, don’t begin the talk
  • Don’t initiate “the conversation” if you aren’t ready to talk right then!
  • Check any “tone and attitude” at the door, or wait till you are attitude-free
  • Remember, serious, meaningful conversation doesn’t require drama and heaviness
  • Cut what you want to say in half
  • Listen more than you speak
  • Commit to yourself that you will identify some part of the issue as yours and own it…
  • Be prepared to move on when the conversation is done

When you’re set with all of the above, select a more neutral way to start your conversation than saying “WE NEED TO TALK!”

Instead, casually say things like:

  •     “Let’s talk about this”
  •     “Let’s talk this through real quick”
  •     “What are your thoughts on this?”
  •     “Really briefly, I want you to know how I feel about….,
  •     “Can you clarify something for me?
  •     “Unlike how I’ve been in the past, I just want to discuss this briefly.”
  •     “Real quick…I  think ___________. What about you?”


For a really powerful change, DON’T use an opener at all. Just say what you need to say. No long detailed, set-the-stage windup, no long dramatic lead in, just talk. Say it as succinctly, with as few sentences as possible and the least amount of detail to say what NEEDS to be said, getting right to the point. It’s called “boy talk.” If you get no response and the conversation calls for one, ask what his reaction is. Otherwise, say what needs to be said. Thank him for listening and be done.

Instead of having the conversation or your relationship blow up, you’ll blow your man’s mind because you were able to talk without making it into a movie melodrama or mini-series.

Stay tuned for more about “boy talk” and what that looks like. And as always, through a post or private message, let me know what you experience with this approach.

And, repeat after me, “I promise to never initiate a conversation with a man in my life with the words WE NEED TO TALK.”