There are many reasons why I’m not married to a man. Probably the main reason is a man’s body is disgusting… of course, I’m glad my wife has different taste than I do (aka she has terrible taste). One of the other reasons I wouldn’t want to be married to a man is men can be stubborn, especially as they get older (speaking as a man who is getting increasingly stubborn). For instance, one of my wife’s best friends was telling her that her dad wouldn’t see the doctor even though he couldn’t get out of bed. In his defence, he had three women telling him to go. If you’re a woman reading this you might be thinking, “How is that a defence?” and if you’re a man this will probably make complete sense. Men hate being told what to do. People in general don’t like it, but men take it to the next level. Being told what to do feels like being controlled, which causes my natural rebellious side to come out. I’ve had this as long as I can remember. As a small kid my mom would say, “Just take one bag of groceries because it’s heavy.” A few minutes later, I had four bags in my arms and a giant grin on my face that said, “I proved you wrong… now praise me for how strong I am because I’m a serious momma’s boy and want to impress you.” Even though as a boy my mom was everything to me, her telling me not to do something was like a third base coach yelling, “Go! Go! Go!” My rebellious side is so bad, even though I’m an ordained pastor, if someone tells me I need Jesus my immediate reaction is “No I don’t.” In fact, I think that is a major reason I remained such a strong Christian in my teen years because the basic message was don’t bother with religion, so I made it a priority – don’t tell me what to do! Arguably the dorkiest rebel move ever made (yet beneficial).
There is an exception to this attitude and that’s if the person telling me what to do is an older man I really admire and then I’ll have this craving to impress him by doing what he wants. If I see someone as my superior (typically someone who doesn’t act like they’re my superior) I will be obedient. If I don’t see the person as my superior and it feels like they think they’re superior in some way, good luck getting me to do anything, which is a pretty typical male response and why some guys won’t do what their wives tell them to: (husband) “You’re not my boss/parent/superior, so why do talk to me like I’m less than you? I’m not less than you; I have a different opinion, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong!”
So how do you deal with someone who doesn’t want to be told what to do? The wisest wives know the importance of planting a seed. For instance, my wife has many times said, “We should do this (random terrible thing I don’t want to do),” and in my head I’ll be like “Not a frig’n chance,” yet the next day the job she wanted me to do is done and/or the place she wanted to go is booked. She just planted the seed, and then she’d leave it because she knew if she didn’t push it, the idea would eat at me. If she pushed it? My stubbornness would kick in and it wouldn’t happen. She denies doing this on purpose, but I know better. Regardless, with a man, plant the seed and back away for him to process it.
Ultimately, the best way to plant a seed is to ask a question like:
- What do you think about…
- Have you thought about…
- How much work do you think it’d be to…
- What would I have to do to convince you to…
- I’m guessing you’ll hate this idea, but what do you think about…
For the dad who refused to see a doctor, the three women even tried crying, but nothing fazed him. They just kept pushing, which made him push back harder. They needed to plant a seed rather than try to “control” him. If it was me trying to get him to go to the doctor, I would be asking something like:
- “To clarify, are you not going to the doctor because you think you’re fine or are you afraid to hear that you’re not?”
- “Just so I know, are you not going to the doctor to prove how tough you are or because you’re afraid of having someone tell you to do something like take medicine?”
- “For my understanding, are you not going to the doctor because you don’t care about how I feel or because of something else?”
- “To clarify, if medical professionals say you should be getting a check up with these symptoms are you saying you’re smarter than them or do you not want to be a bother?
- “Just so I know, is your male pride more important than your love for me?”
- “For my understanding, is going to the doctor considered weakness or is just annoying having to book an appointment and go?”
- “To clarify, are you not going because you think you’re fine or because you have a feeling that you’re in serious trouble and don’t want to confirm your feeling?”
With these questions there are always two options with one being more positive and the other being how it feels; the positive option is the key for this to work because it helps it feel less accusatory. Sometimes you will want to ask the question and then leave to give the guy space to process what was asked. Other times you’ll want to present the question as a way to engage in a conversation. If this is the case, you’ll want to have follow-up questions ready for each response, which will be the first option, the second option, both, or “It’s something else.” For instance, If I was to use the first question: “To clarify, are you not going to the doctor because you think you’re fine or are you afraid to hear that you’re not?” I would be ready with these questions:
If option one (thinks he’s fine): “So if you’re fine, what is bad enough for you to see the doctor?” (A follow up question) “At what point would you do you go because I wanted you to?”
If option two (afraid): “That’s understandable; I’d be scared too, but isn’t it worse having the mystery?” (A follow up question) “The mystery is really scaring me; at what point would you consider doing it for my sake? You can even tell the doctor it’s my fault you’re there so you don’t look weak.”
If both (thinks he’s fine AND afraid): “Why is that?” or “So are you afraid that you won’t be able to do anything even if it is figured out?”
If “There’s something else”: “Can you explain what it is?” If the person can explain it re-ask your question with, so “How do you know it’s not (two options)? Did you not understand my question or are you being difficult?” If they still won’t answer you can say, “So I should just assume you’re being difficult. I’ll try talking to you again in an hour.”
As a therapist, I’m yet to see anyone be successful telling others what to think or do with a statement (and any statement feels like you’re telling them what to do), but there’s a chance when we ask the right questions and make the person self reflect.
This week may you consider how you can better deal with stubborn people.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)