Does your partner talk too much (or too little)?
Have you ever thought women talk more than men? If so, you aren’t alone. This well-established myth was mainstreamed in 2006 when the book, “The Female Brain,” claimed women speak an average of 20,000 daily words, while men only speak 7,000. A critique later showed, however, the author was only citing the opinion of another self-help author, and it had no factual basis.
The truth is: on average, women and men talk nearly the same. One of the few scientific studies on the subject came out of the University of Arizona in 2007, showing women talk an average of 16,215 words per day versus 15,669 for men, a difference not statistically significant. The most interesting finding from the study showed that the difference between individuals can be as much as 45,000 words per day! The amount people speak varies widely, and this is because of individual differences, not because of your gender.
There’s a good chance you are in a relationship in which one of you speaks noticeably more, and this may be a source of tension. If you are less verbal, you may feel flooded and overwhelmed and sometimes controlled or dominated. Likewise, if you are more verbal, you may feel frustrated and disappointed your partner isn’t more expressive, engaged, and communicative. With some small but profound changes in your habits and perspective, you can shift to make the verbal differences in your relationship a strength, rather than a problem.
To begin, have a conversation with your beloved to compare your perceptions. Each of you can answer this question. First do so privately, without sharing it with each other: What percent do I talk in our relationship? What percent does my partner talk in our relationship?
For example, you may think you talk 30%, and your partner talks 70%. When answering this question, notice if you have judgments about your beloved and their level of verbosity. Next, go ahead and share with each other your guess at percentages. There’s no need to agree on the numbers, only to understand each other’s perspective. Once you’ve identified your role in the equation, it’s time to begin making changes.
Most couples will talk in disproportionate amounts. That being said, in our opinion, you want to aim to have at least a 40/60 split of who is speaking. Otherwise, the relationship can easily become imbalanced and dysfunctional. Rest assured, we have some tips to help!
First, let’s address the more vocal partner…
Your challenge: Become better at asking questions and more comfortable with having silence in between words. Although you may feel uncomfortable experiencing silent gaps in conversations (this is common for talkers), you will be required to befriend the quiet in order to create more openings for your partner to speak.
Begin this experiment by asking your beloved questions and waiting to speak again until you’re nearly sure he or she has spoken in full. Be patient. Release any ego-driven desire for a conversation paced at a higher speed. With practice and intention, you’ll discover a pace that matches your beloved’s natural rhythm, allowing him or her to unfold and verbally blossom in a way you’ve dreamed of but didn’t think was possible.
Now, for the person who talks less…
Your challenge: You’re likely in relationship with someone who externally processes emotions, whereas you may be an internal processor. We invite you to become a more active listener, engaging more fully with facial expressions and body language. Make it explicit that you’re present. Practice pushing beyond your comfort zone, and stretch yourself to speak more. It’s easy for you to sit back, listen, and observe. With practice, you’ll find your comfort level quickly adjusts to be increasingly engaged.
When your mate is speaking, offer empathy and presence using the following sentence starters: “I can see how you would feel…given…” or “I’m noticing that as you talk, I’m feeling…” or “I really appreciate how you….” Staying in the conversation and affirming your partner will bring him or her great satisfaction. You’ll likely need to coach your beloved on how to give you spaces in which to talk and to recognize when you get flooded from all his or her words. Co-create a cue (such as a holding up your hand or saying “pause”), signaling when you’ve reached your capacity for listening. At this point, simply pause and reply to what has been said before taking in more information. You may be using that signal often. Have the courage to do so as often as necessary!
Having a reasonable balance of spoken words will help you create a thriving relationship where you both actively communicate and listen, thereby setting the conditions for a greater experience of connection. If you could benefit from extra support in your communication, such as learning how to talk so your beloved will hear you or how to listen in ways that inspire your partner to talk, we are here to help!
In fact, if there is anything in your relationship that isn’t working optimally, we’d love to help you reach your dreams. It’s our true passion, and the results we see in our clients deeply warm our hearts. We offer thriving relationship coaching and counseling sessions anywhere in the world. And you can easily sign up here for a free 20-minute consultation to determine if this is a good match for what you’d love to transform.
Also, be sure to check out our next Thrive in Love couples retreat!
Have a wonderful day, and remember to take the time to try some of these suggestions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what happens!
Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret