Helping and supporting has a different meaning to men and women
An unemployed engineer complained to me that he wished his girlfriend would support him. His girlfriend, on the other hand, told me she supported him, but he refused to co-operate. I realised here was a communication problem. She told me she supported him in the following manner: “When I get home at night after a long day’s work, I tell him, come sit by me and I will update your CV on the computer. Then he just gives me a look and resumes watching television. Also, I bought all the engineering magazines and cut out all the ads looking for engineers and I told him to follow them up.” Usually, when I read this verbatim quote to men, they cringe.
She is telling him what to do, she is doing it for him. That is not helping or supporting him. That is a vote of no confidence. I asked the man how he would like her to support him. He answered: “She can just tell me she believes in me. She can tell me I am only going through a bad patch, but things will pick up and I am the best engineer in the world. That will inspire me.” Women talk, men do. Generally, if women tell men how great they are, then they inspire the men into action.
One man explained: “Men do not want to be seen as failures. Being unemployed is a major failure. If she can just assure him that she is there, that she will not leave him and that he is not alone in that mess, then she is supportive.”
Men want to resolve women’s problems. When she tells him about something, he feels obliged to fix it for her. He wants to be the hero and help her. For example, she tells him about some problem she had at work with a co-worker. He interrupts and wants to know what the outcome was. He needs to determine how he can fix it. Often he is surprised that she has already fixed it. “Then why tell me about it?” he asks. Because she wants to TELL you about it. Women talk, get it! A man will never tell another man: “I had a flat tyre today and I changed it.” A woman will.
One of my clients has the following agreement with his wife. When she wants to tell him about something he asks: “Is this an issue you want me to do something about, or can I just sit and scratch my butt while listening?” So determine if it is a problem or just a butt scratcher. If it is only a butt scratcher, the man just needs to sit and listen and make the appropriate noises. “And what are the appropriate noises?” ask the men. Just say: “And what did you say… and what did she say… and what did you say…” and pay attention to her. You would want her to pay attention to you when you tell her something.