Like most husbands, I like to connect with my wife at the end of the day. I hear about her daily adventures, listen to her work through decisions, and all the while, I’m thinking about how to solve all her conundrums. I am a Mr. Fix It.
My “Mr. Fix It” approach has improved over the years. I’m learning (present tense) to set aside my instinct to solve everything and be a better listener. I’ve found that with my wife, friends, and others, they simply want to put words to their feelings, not necessarily have me looking for missing puzzle pieces.
If you’re like me, a Mr. Fix-It, don’t be a tool. Instead, reach for these tools in your relationship toolbox and put them to good use.
1) ASK QUESTIONS
Mr. Fix-It’s are prone to answer quickly, but a better strategy is to ask questions.
Even if we think we know the answer, we need to allow others to journey there too. Providing quick answers to someone’s dilemma is like blindfolding them on the journey to their destination. Instead, allow them to see the road, the markers, the turns, the landmarks along the way from their problem to the solution.
2) ADMIT SHORTCOMINGS
No one likes a know-it-all. Mainly, because they think they know-it-all (honestly, who does?). Regardless of your intentions, Mr. Fix It’s can come across like arrogant jerks. So how do you help your mate without coming across wrong?
Listen, you’re not perfect, and your spouse knows that more than anyone. And by sharing your struggles, mistakes, or frustrations, you come across as more human. This makes you more relatable and invites others to open up more with you. Your words hold more meaning because they aren’t coming from up-on-high, but from beside. Which is where we’re supposed to be anyway.
3) WATCH YOUR TONE
Mr. Fix It’s are pro’s at providing information, but communication is much more than that. It’s about influencing thoughts, actions, and emotions. This rule is this: It’s not about what you say, it’s about what she hears.
I was reminded of this in a recent discussion with my wife. It went something like this:
Her: “What pillow case color do you think would better accent our comforter?”
Preoccupied with something else, I said: “Whatever you think looks best.”
What she heard: “Whatever, I’ve got more important things to do.”
What I meant: “Your eye for design is so much better than mine. Left to myself, I’d throw an old Philadelphia Eagles comforter on a pull-out sofa and would be lucky to even consider a pillow case. You make our bedroom comfortable, warm, and inviting. Because of this I have absolute trust in your taste.”
Looking back, I can see why she would feel the way she did. I didn’t say anything wrong, but my disinterest in the topic at hand made it seem like I had a disinterest in her. That’s not what I intended, but later she told me that’s how it came across.
You may be quite good at choosing the right words, but what you communicate could be something else entirely. In relationships, communication is a crucial survival skill that we continually need to sharpen.
4) FOCUS ON HER
She matters more than anything to you, right? Then you need to make her feel like she does. When visiting with your mate, remove all distractions and zero in on her. Put away your phone, reading material, and all electronic devices. Look at her in the eyes and repeat what she is saying in your own words.
Why does all this matter? Because she matters. Prove it with your actions.
If she’s in a boat of joy, sadness, confusion, frustration, whatever…Get in the boat with her!
If you want to offer a solution (if there is one), you need to earn the right. You do this by letting her know you really understand her and what she’s going through.
Remember, relationships are more art than science. There’s no magic formula, but if you put forth the effort to do these things, it will only help make your relationship even better.
At least that’s what I’m learning.