A husband and his wife are sitting on the couch talking about their day when the wife says, “You wouldn’t believe what my boss did to me today!” She continues explaining her horrible experience, and, wanting to help, he rattles off solution after solution. He thinks that he’s hubby of the year right now, but to his surprise, she gets more upset. “You don’t get it,” she says. “Quit trying to fix things!” Sound familiar? This is a classic case of work talk vs. heart talk.

Work talk and heart talk are the two languages we as couples speak. Each is important to ensure great communication in a marriage, but therein lies the rub: which talk does your spouse need and want in that given moment?

Work talk vs. Heart talk: it’s like we are speaking two different languages!

It’s likely not a surprise to anyone reading this that men are really good at work talk while women love the heart talk. That’s not to suggest either is incapable of speaking the other’s language, but when it comes to work talk vs. heart talk, we are typically wired to lean one way or the other. Let’s talk about the differences between the two.

Work Talk sounds like this:

“Have you thought about talking to your boss about it? Next time, you should write down everything he does so that you can point it out to him.”

Work talk is:

  • Task-focused
  • “Get it done” mentality
  • Facts and opinions
  • Solutions, solutions, solutions


Meanwhile, the heart talk is defined by feelings. Rather than fix things, it’s about empathizing and listening.

Heart Talk sounds like this:

“Wow, that must have made you mad. Do you want to talk about it?”

Heart talk is all about:

  • Feelings and longings
  • Caring and understanding
  • Connection and bonding
  • Being heart-focused

Men and women are capable of switching between work talk and heart talk. He doesn’t have to feel like he needs to fix things all the time and would be okay with doing a little listening. Meanwhile, she wouldn’t mind a few solutions every so often. But since men and women are wired differently, it requires a mental reset to speak the same language.

Do you want me to fix it or feel it?

We’ve all been in that conversation where we start with work talk, but what they really want is heart talk. And there are other times where we think she wants the heart talk when she actually craves solutions. It can all be incredibly confusing, which is why I suggest that my clients ask, “What do you need from me right now, honey? Do you want to work together to find some solutions, or do you need me just to listen so you can vent?”

This is perfectly acceptable. And if they want the heart talk, be careful with that person and hear what they need. A good rule of thumb is the I.C.U. method:


Speaker: Get in touch with your emotions.

Listener: Focus on your spouse’s feelings.


Speaker: Ask for time and give your heart a voice.

Listener: Allow your heart to be impacted.


Speaker: Seek understanding and express emotion.

Listener: Demonstrate understanding.

What we are saying is that both work talk and heart talk have their place in a marriage, The trick is knowing which one your spouse needs at that moment and then making sure you speak their language. If you aren’t sure, remember that asking eliminates confusion and shows that you are present — regardless of which language you are speaking.



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Did we leave anything out? How do you balance work talk and heart talk in your relationship? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.