Learning to Communicate Literally

Learning to communicate literally is a skill that most women don’t have and every woman needs to know!

When I surveyed the men who read the Getting Inside a Woman blog, one of the most overwhelming responses I got from them was how frustrated they are because it seems like women want them to be mind-readers.

One guy expressed, “Please don’t force us to just figure everything out. And please don’t cry, asking ‘don’t you care?’ and then [run away] just as fast as you can, because I care about you…”

Have you ever thought that a man “must not care about you or he would (fill in the blank)”? Most of us women–even if we are highly skilled communicators–tend to fall to into the trap of making a man be a mind-reader.

Even if you don’t expect a man to be a mind-reader, most of us still WISH our man was a mind-reader.

Sometimes this happens because we buy into the fantasy that the right man (or a smart, mature man) will “just know.”

Other times, it’s because we either don’t know what we want or we are either too proud or too ashamed to ask for it. Or, maybe we think it won’t be romantic if we have to ask for it.

And, worst of all, sometimes it’s because we are testing a man to see what he will do, and so we don’t tell him what we want because that would be like giving him the answers to the test, rendering the test irrelevant.  

Whatever it is, if there is something that you want from your man that you’re not currently getting, then there’s a good chance that you need to communicate what you want more literally.

Men are usually very literal creatures. They don’t tend to layer in hidden meanings and subtle, inferential clues into what they say the way a lot of women do.

But more importantly, your man does care deeply about making you happy! If it doesn’t seem like that to you, then it’s likely that he doesn’t know what to do to show you.

A lot of men have complained to me that “most women don’t know what they want” or that “they won’t tell me even if they did.” There are even male “dating experts” out there who teach their male students not to listen to women because “we don’t know what we want.”

This used to make me angry, but then I started doing some casual “research” by asking my female friends about what they wanted from men–and most of them gave me vague, useless answers! I found myself actually agreeing with the men that most women don’t know what they want, or won’t tell you…

But I don’t think that’s true. I think we are keenly aware of what we want and perfectly capable of expressing it! It’s just a matter of being willing to communicate more literally.

When you learn to communicate this way, your man will be much more likely to listen to you and you will exponentially increase your chances of having him actually fulfill your deepest desires!

Think of it like this: most women are starving (for attention, affection, appreciation, passion, love–you name it!). What most women don’t realize is that the men are in the kitchen whipping up every dish they can think of, hoping to find one that their woman will like.

If a man has “stopped trying,” it’s not because he’s stopped caring; it’s because he got tired of his woman yelling at him that she’s starving but rejecting every bowl of food that he’s put in front of her.

Most women don’t tell their man what kind of food to make; they just get angry, hurt, and “empty” for not having it.

Learning to communicate literally is like learning to go to your man and say, “I want chocolate ice cream.” Now that he knows what you want, he can give it to you–without all the frustration and drama of trying to figure you out.

Learning to literally communicate your desires happens in two parts:

1. Communicating Literally with Yourself

You won’t be able to tell a man what you need until you are crystal clear on what it is for yourself. So this step is about learning how to get in touch with your own unconscious desires.

Resist the urge to “co-process” with your man; make sure to do this step on your own. This is especially true if you are feeling emotional about your unmet needs.

This step is where you go inside and ask yourself what your desires are. When you do this, keep asking until you get specific “do-ables.”

For example, you might first realize you have the desire for “more affection.” This is a great start, but it’s not specific enough.

You need to elicit a “do-able.” In other words, you need to discover for yourself exactly what you want your man to do.

So, if it’s more affection that you want, then a specific do-able might be, “I want him to hold my hand whenever we walk down the street together.”

This is the difference between telling your man that you are “starving” and telling him what kind of nourishment you need.

The ability to learn about yourself to this level of detail is a wonderful process of self-discovery!

If you’re not used to figuring out what you want with this kind of specificity, then this might feel a little weird at first. Keep going–like anything else, this process gets easier and quicker with practice.

2. Communicating Literally with Your Man

This is where you tell your man the “do-ables.”

Remember, men really want to make us happy! They just don’t know what to do. The fact that you’ve taken the time to get clear on what the do-ables are will make this conversation go smoothly, and your man will be super happy to have the kind of woman who can clearly and concisely tell him what you want.

Do your best to ask without judgement. Really keep it in your mind that he didn’t know what to do before, and that’s why he didn’t do it. This is not something he *should just know.* There is no way he would know, because you haven’t told him yet!

Ask with the mindset that this is some different, unique, quirky preference of yours. Even if it’s something that just about every woman under the sun would want, pretend that it’s something weird that only you would want. This will help keep your request free of judgement.

For example, “You know, I’d really like it if, when we walk down the street, you hold my hand.”

It’s important to get in the habit of communicating what you actually want as much as possible. Start to become aware of all the times you are tempted to mask what you want.

For example, if you really want to go out to dinner, do you say, “It’s ok, we can stay in”?

If you’re angry, do you storm out screaming for him to leave you alone, when what you really want is for him to hold you?

If you want him to buy you flowers every once and awhile, do you casually mention that you think roses are pretty? This is not literal enough. He might get the hint, but he might not. I know this from experience. For the first few months of my relationship, I constantly talked about how much I love flowers. And yet, I got no bouquets.

Finally I sat him down and said, “It would make me really happy if you brought me flowers sometimes.” Then he started bringing me flowers sometimes, but it wasn’t as often as I wanted.

So I got even more specific and said that I would like to get flowers from him about every 4-6 weeks, and they would be especially meaningful on special occasions and after big fights.

Don’t underestimate how literal or specific you’ll need to be to help him understand what you want!

Also, don’t worry about sounding demanding or controlling. As long as you ask in a nice way that is free of judgement and expectation, your man will be grateful for the level of the detail that you provide.

If you want to inspire his desire, tell him how to inspire yours! Men deeply desire you to be happy. Men also like to win. When he knows what to do to make you happy–minus all the crazy guesswork–he will be more and more inspired to keep doing all the things you want him to do, because he will feel like he is constantly winning.

In other words, learn to communicate literally and you will never go “hungry” again.


  1. Good lord, this is one of the healthiest, most solution-oriented things I’ve ever read.

    I don’t know about “men everywhere”, but I certainly thank you deeply.

    You rock, Liz, keep it up!

  2. Liz, this really hit home with me… I think you are right on that most men really want to make their women happy, but have difficulty figuring out exactly how to do it sometimes. I love the direct approach … it teaches us what our women want and with practice we learn to do these as well as pick up on other desires she has because we are laying a foundation of clear communication. There is nothing like a strong bond between a man & a woman … and to me, nothing is sexier in a woman than one who makes the effort to communicate lovingly and deeply with me … to share everything.

  3. Excellent article , this is a major reason why a growing number of men have simply given up on women & choose to be female free , I am married & relate totally to this & have become more & more detached from my wife due to this ( the other problem is that she is lazy & does nothing around the house ) If I was not married i would stay single forever to avoid this silly , petty drama , we men are far easier to please & are far less complicated creatures , so ladies take note & just say ( LITERALLY ) what you mean !!

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