Mind-reading: Yes, women want it. Here’s why you should try.

Have you ever tried this tack?  When your woman is upset, you immediately apologize in an effort to a) thwart presumed anger coming your
direction b) get credit for apologizing without a fuss c) get back to whatever it was that you really cared about and yet she gets even more mad because you apologized too soon?  What does that even mean?!

Sounds like you weren’t properly listening- and boy can we catch you on that one.  Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the feelings of another person, and in relationships it is often thought the better a partner is at being empathically accurate the better the relationship is for both partners.  This is probably obvious when she’s coming home to share happy news about her day- and empathizing with her makes both you and her feel good.  What about during an argument?  A very typical response is for women to express themselves and men to withdraw or tune out.  For some, the idea of knowing negative emotions is just too threatening.  While it might feel better not to understand the exact amount of negative emotion your woman is feeling, it does not speak well for the future of your relationship if you can’t make an effort.

In fact effort might be all that you need to make.  A new study out in the Journal of Family Psychology found that women who perceived their men as visibly trying to understand them (men who were high on empathic effort) during times of conflict were more satisfied in the relationship.  The key word here is effort: a woman’s satisfaction was more strongly related to her perception that her man was actually trying to understand her negative emotions than for the man’s actual accuracy in reading those emotions.  Accuracy played a bigger role in identifying positive emotions (in the obvious directions for both partners).   So, when she comes to you angry and wanting to express herself, don’t try to brush off the argument with a quick apology- overall it will be better for you both if you make an effort to understand her feelings.  Don’t worry about creating a Rembrantesque picture of her emotional canvas- going for a water color level of accuracy may be all that you need.  As long as your behavior emphasizes the intent and investment to understand you’ll be on a better path to repair and reconnection.


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