There is probably no phrase that a woman can utter that strikes terror in the heart of a man more than:
“We need to talk!”
Guys hearing this may start to feel their heart rate climb, their blood pressure escalate, and the anxiety and fear level skyrocket. Calm down guys, I will interpret this for you.
What you hear is: “You’re in trouble, mister!” (And so you brace yourself for the danger ahead.)
What she most likely means is: “I have an unmet expectation that I want to discuss.” (And she is afraid that what is important to her is going to be discounted.)
I want to emphasize that the expectation may or may not be realistic. At this point it is inconsequential. Again, calm yourself down, put on your listening ears and make some time for her. This will de-escalate her emotions, even if it doesn’t seem like it to you at the moment. She may hold an expectation that you can actually meet that will not be as painful as you fear.
Single ladies (in particular): a word of caution. Be very careful when using the phrase (We need to talk about) “The Relationship”. These days those are hot button words. You don’t want a guy to go defensive on you. “The Relationship” is really you and him. It does not exist outside as a separate entity. There seems to be a lot of anxiety around DTR (determining the relationship), but it doesn’t need to be that way. Having a non-anxious conversation might be as easy as choosing a better way to initiate a discussion.
So what might be a better conversation starter?
How about: “I have some thoughts. Would you be willing to listen to them?” or “I’ve been thinking about you (us) lately and would like to process some things.”
He (or she) may still be skeptical, but will be less likely to throw up the deflector shield. A sure way to steer the conversation in a good direction is to lead with an affirmation. It could be anything. “I know you’ve been working hard” or “I know you never intend to hurt my feelings…” Any phrase like that is likely to reduces defenses and pave the way to a better discussion.
I have written this before, and I will state it again. Before you bring up a volatile or touchy subject, be sure to check your anger at the door. If you need to emote, do it where it won’t be heard by the one you are upset with. Process with a trusted same sex friend if need be. Then bring the “sanitized”, less toxic version to the other person.
You’ll thank me later.