Does someone complain to you about something and then, when you give them ideas and solutions, do they shoot you down? Today I’m going to tell you why that happens and the simple but super effective tool to make it stop.

Today’s Ask Dr. Abby question comes from Roger K. from the Central Valley of CA:

“My wife complains to me about this woman at work, but when I give her ideas for making the situation better, she just shoots them down, every time. I told her I don’t want to hear her complain anymore if she doesn’t want to change it and now she’s mad at me and says I don’t listen! What the hell?”

When we’re upset, our brain has been hijacked by the fear-based part of our brain. When this part of the brain is activated, the rational, problem-solving part of our brain can’t turn on! What you’ve got to do is get the other person from the fear side to the rational side and this is the simple and effective tool to get there!

Say “Yes” First

  • Empathize with whatever they’re feeling (say “yes” first) – “Darn, that sucks”
  • Match emotion, not tone
  • Be Curious! Seek to really listen to their side of things
  • Ask questions
  • It doesn’t mean you agree with what they’re saying, but you want them to know that you can understand that they feel a certain way, even if you don’t understand why. From there, the door is open to many conversations and deepening your relationship.

Resources and Links:

How to Stop Stress from Hurting Your Relationship

Why Your Lizard Brain is Keeping You Stuck and Specific Tools to Start Connecting

Bad Questions Are Ruining Your Relationship


Not sure what questions to ask to move the conversation from defensive to collaborative? Enter your name and email below to download this list of Collaborative Questions to get you started!

 Ready to find out what goes on inside that crazy mind of Abby’s? 

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