15 Tips to Keep the Men You Love Happy

It continues to amaze me how often I’m asked by females how they can unlock the potential in their men. I hear it all the time, “I’m married to a good guy who just can’t seem to make it happen” or “I’m dating this wonderful man with tons of potential, but something is missing.” Now, I don’t claim to be a therapist or a licensed counselor. However, I am a dedicated student of life, and as you well know, I always have an opinion. Recently, a female friend asked if I’d host a “Whining with Simon” session at a local wine bar for all her girlfriends to vent and seek advice about their men. I declined that particular offer out of respect for my wife of twenty-one years, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt compelled to share with you my thoughts on the many ways women can keep the men they love happy. Don’t worry, I will do a follow-up for men can do to keep a woman happy.

The suggestions below are a reflection of my discussions with more than 800 men over the last ten years. If you’re a woman, use these insights to help the men in your life – including your husband, significant other, sons, brothers, friends and co-workers. Unlock their potential. Trust me, every man needs encouragement!

Some of the insights suggest that you ask questions of the men in your life. You don’t need me to tell you that men don’t like to talk about what they think and how they feel. That’s why it’s crucial to build a solid relationship and authentic rapport first. When a man trusts that you genuinely have his best interests at heart and that you’re not going to nag at him, he’ll begin to open up to you and share his thoughts and feelings. (Practice, patience…it may take a while to get to that point.) In asking him questions, be very selective about how and when you do it. Don’t overwhelm him with a barrage of questions all at once. Drop a question or observation here and there. And be mindful of your choice of words and tone of voice – it’s a conversation, not an interrogation.

If you’re a man reading this, there’s no shame in forwarding this particular Brilliant Carat to your wife or significant other! Although it may not always seem like it, the women in your life genuinely want to encourage and support you – they simply often don’t realize the best way to go about doing it.

With all that said, here are my beliefs about how women can help men release their brilliance:

  1. Affirm him every day. Authentically tell him that you believe in him. Let him know that you are proud of who he is and who he is becoming. Men want to know that you celebrate them.
  2. Men have their own opinions. It’s fine if your opinion clashes with his, but don’t degrade him or beat him down just to try and prove that you’re right.
  3. Give him space to do what he likes to do. Men need the time and the freedom to ponder, mull ideas over and get in touch with their thoughts and feelings.
  4. Men like happy surprises…just don’t embarrass them. Find out what he likes and support it. Some men would enjoy a pedicure and a manicure; others might appreciate some well-chosen cigars; still others would be excited about tickets to a sporting event or concert. When all else fails, invest in a gift certificate from a store like Sharper Image where he can buy the latest and greatest gadgets.
  5. Forgive him for the “forgivable” mistakes and move on. Release the need to constantly talk about what he did or didn’t do five or ten years ago! It’s water under the bridge. The more you talk about it, the more it highlights the mistake and pushes him away. Remember – it’s difficult to release your brilliance when someone is constantly reminding you of past missteps.
  6. Encourage him to continue to develop himself. Support him in taking additional college or professional courses or learning a foreign language. Challenge him to read more or suggest a book that you can read together. Reading books together makes for insightful conversations and enhanced learning. Plus, you have a built-in Accountability Partner.
  7. Ask him questions such as, “When you are doing what you love, what’s going on in your mind? How do you feel? Why is that activity so special to you?” Watch as he lights up like a Christmas tree and listen as his language becomes animated.
  8. Encourage introspection. Ask him about his long-term dreams and aspirations – what he envisions for himself in three, five and ten years. Find out what plays on the movie screen of his mind when he thinks about the future.
  9. Ask him to allow you to be a part of his world. If he’s willing, then ask him, “What’s your plan?” with respect to accomplishing a specific goal or his long-term vision. Men typically think things out even if they don’t share their plans with you. Find out if he’s open to feedback or thinking about the situation from a fresh perspective. If so, offer alternative options, considerations or thought processes, but whatever you do, don’t shoot down his plan!
  10. Meet and spend time with his buddies. You can tell a lot about where a man is headed by the company that he keeps. If his friends are not positive role models or the type to uplift him, then gently and appropriately encourage him to meet some new people. Find ways to introduce him to, and have him spend time with, other men who will stretch him, mentor him and raise him up.
  11. Leave him handwritten notes in his sock drawer, inside his laptop or in his suit coat pocket. Little gestures that remind him how you really feel can make all the difference.
  12. Know when to back off. Resist the temptation to always give him your two cents. Put your feelings aside and use your incredible gift of women’s intuition to objectively assess the situation. Honestly, sometimes the best thing is to just say nothing.
  13. Acknowledge and celebrate his accomplishments, both big and small.
  14. Be mindful of your “constructive criticism” or “feedback.” Ask yourself, “Will this information truly be helpful to him in the future, or do I just feel the need to point out his mistakes?” Be honest! If you decide the information is necessary, always give positive feedback first. Point out all the things he did well. Then, share the constructive feedback in a neutral, non-judgmental manner such as, “Next time, you may want to consider….”
  15. Finally, speak positively about him to family, friends and co-workers, even when he’s not present. If you must, choose one or two close friends to whom you can turn for advice. For everyone else, keep any negative thoughts, circumstances or situations to yourself. Remember that everyone goes through phases and stages in life. When you vent your (perhaps temporary) frustrations about him to others, you affect the way they view him. You may feel better after getting things off your chest, but those you unloaded on are left with lasting negative perceptions about him, making it even more difficult for him to release his brilliance. Furthermore, you can’t constantly whine about him to others and still be authentically encouraging and supportive of him in person – it just doesn’t work that way.