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It really is never about the nail

Ever since seeing this video, I find myself saying this to my husband several times a day, “It’s not about the nail’. It is the quickest and most painless method I have ever found to clue him in and remind him that I just want to be heard and understood, and more importantly, that what he thinks I am talking about often has very little to do with what I am wanting to communicate.

If you have not seen this short video, take a moment to watch it. Rarely have I seen a metaphor that so aptly explains a core and very challenging relationship issue that most of us encounter.

‘It’s Not About The Nail’

When watching this, it is really clear how completely insane women’s behavior appears to some men. To the person listening, the problem and the solution seem completely obvious. The need to simply FIX the problem (remove the nail) can be overwhelming. From the listener’s perspective, it may seem that the obvious goal of the speaker is to feel better, and the sooner the better. Why in the world would someone be talking about a problem, whining about the symptoms, complaining about things that are just side effects, when all they need to do is remove the nail? It seems clear that if the speaker just took action, they would be able to move on to something much more fun and interesting than continuing to babble on in a tedious, frustrating, and time wasting conversation about everything but the DAMN NAIL!

Many men understand, at least in theory, that women don’t want to be ‘fixed’.  But when the problem seems as obvious as a huge nail in her forehead, not only does the need to ‘talk’ about her ‘feelings’ make no sense at all, the compulsion to say something about it wins out. An even better solution would be to simply yank the nail out of her forehead so that she feels immediate relief and gets what the problem was all along. Right?

It would probably shock some people to know that at times, I am aware that there is that metaphorical nail sticking out of my forehead. Seriously. And I don’t need anyone to tell me to take it out. I will do that when I am good and ready. For me, and I know that I speak for other women when I say this, the fact that I have a nail in my head (or whatever it is) is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to connect. I want to share. I want to feel loved. I want to feel understood. And most importantly, I want you to hear and listen to what I WANT to talk about, not just the parts of the conversation that interest you!

Often, when I am talking about something that is important to me, I am wanting my husband to pay attention to the part of the conversation that I am interested in gaining clarity about. At some point, I might want some input that is directed at helping me to understand my experience better. I do not want the listener to get distracted by some word or topic in my introduction, my buildup to the real issue, or any side topics that I am using to tell the story. I do not want the other person to  jump in and cut me off,  and then start talking about some tangent that has nothing to do with what I am wanting to share. I do not what to hear closed ended questions that focus on irrelevant details. When these behaviors occur, it is clear to me that my listener has jumped to conclusions about what the topic is, well before I even clearly state what my point is.

For many women, feeling heard and understood is the primary reason we are talking. Before even entertaining the notion of having a conversation about the ‘problem’ (the nail), we are looking for relationship, connection, and respect. We may never want to talk about the ‘nail’. Ever. When the conversation is over and our needs our met, we might just pull it out, put it in a scrapbook, and say ‘thank you’ for the lessons learned.

Most of us have heard the concept that women just want to be heard and understood rather than fixed. I know that I feel loved, seen, cared about and respected when I feel truly heard in the way that I want to be. After watching this video, it got me wondering, why? Why is it so important? What is the connection between feeling seen and heard and feeling loved and valued?

I think that for many women, and in our culture, our voices have been suppressed. We have been told both verbally and nonverbally to stay small, to tone it down, and to not speak our minds. Women’s opinions just don’t seem to matter. Over the years our concerns and considerations have been viewed as not as important as those of men; we are frivolous at best, and downright stupid or idiotic at worst.

Many of these myths have been debunked with time, in theory anyways. But on a day to day basis, truly listening to what matters to us and respecting a woman’s need to have her voice, is a vital way that you are demonstrating to her that you value her as a human being who is equal to you. You are showing her that you care about her thoughts and feelings, and that you know that she is worth your time.

Women have transformed themselves. A woman on some level knows that she matters. She is not going to put up with someone who does not give her the respect that she deserves for long. When you are able to put aside your own need to focus on the ‘nail’, and when you are able to listen to what is important to her in a way that she feels deeply heard and understand, you are telling her in a very core way that you honor, respect, and value her opinions, concerns, and considerations.

When you listen to her feelings, her wants, her needs, and her ‘experience’, rather than give in to your need to talk about the nail, you are letting her know that she is valuable, that she matters to you, and that you respect her thoughts and feelings. You are communicating that you trust her ability to solve her own problems and make her own way in the world. You are telling her that you truly care about understanding her values and beliefs and that you can learn from her. When you are able to listen to the underlying rhythm of her words, you are letting her know that you truly want to get to know her on a soul level.

In the face of that, who cares about the frackin’ nail?



  1. The nail is the man.

    Yes. I am a man. When I first saw this video I laughed at her stupidity and the frustration of the man. Then I started thinking about my wife and my recent conversations with her. She would lay out her argument and emotions in the first five minutes. One hour later my wife’s voice would rise and the same arguments would be expressed. Except “but”, “and” and a few other words would be rearranged.

    The man has heard her POV. You can tell that at the beginning of the vid and and the near end when he says “fine!”. When the woman goes to kiss him she doesn’t even move her head to accommodate the nail and acts that he hurt her.

    Men, as Sam Kinison said, “We aren’t your emotional tampons.” The woman doesn’t want to get rid of the nail. She wants to get rid of him. The man pleads to stay saying he can get rid of ‘the nail.’ But her mind in already made up. She just hasn’t admitted it to herself.

  2. Amazing to me that you take all of this personally instead of realizing that we are wired differently and will never understand each other. By seeing and admitting this simple fact it is possible for all of us to go on with our lives and be with others as they are instead of how we want them to be. To wish otherwise is a waste of time….
    Its not about the nail but neither is it always about you, or his failures to see what you want him to. He can’t understand beacause he cannot ( and will never) understand. We don’t understand any betterthe ways they think……can we expect more from them than we can give?

    • Hi Pat,

      I never meant to imply that I take it personally 🙂 I totally get that this is a core difference in communication styles. I agree, not a good idea to try to change others. But I do believe that when in relationship, it is great and relationship enhancing, when we want to adjust our behavior for each others.

      Of course, both parties need to compromise, and give. I think that the starting place, however, is to shed light on the dynamics of what is happening and acknowledge that both sides have validity, and that both perspectives matter. From there, when we understand some of the core causes of the issue(s), both people can begin to compromise.

      I do believe that we actually CAN begin to understand each other, or at the very least accept that the others’ style matters to them and from there, find ways to take care of each other and communicate better.

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      ~Inspired Girl aka Barbara

  3. Wow, coming from a woman who loves to talk, I am stilled… I couldn’t quite articulate to a male friend what it was that I needed in the moment to feel validated.
    After reading this I’m realizing for me its the simple gift of


    To be heard, seen, and valued in a way that suits ME. Knowing who I am is a daily learning process. “Every day is a school day”… For me love is when a man or friend can hold a space of awareness, kindness, and honesty in spite of the tendencies and/or impulses to go into action. Allowing me the space to take a swim in my own self created wet spot until I’m ready to be done, and most of the time I’ll know when that is.

    I don’t always need someone else to process, and sometimes don’t want it. Then I can create that relationship with myself and know my own essence more intimately. However, I still crave and need the bonding that comes from sharing. And I guess therein lies the question of compatibility.. When two people need/ process/ grow towards the same sunny spot and actually enjoy the ride as they do so..

    Thanks for the space for great dialogue inspired girl!!!


  4. Hmmm.

    My question is why not see there is a nail yourself and also see that YOU put it there? Only in seeing I put it there do I have the capacity to know that I am powerful enough to take it out BY MYSELF!

    Why do we want our partners (or anyone for that matter) to listen to garbage about how we feel about a made up story of deficiency or limitation?

    What if emotional processing actually hampers the very thing we seek from our partners (or anything)?

    What if they are dead right about not wanting to listen to it? Do you want to listen to your own blah, blah, blah???

    Could it be that the partner that tries to fix it is doing so because he/she doesn’t like listening to negative thoughts any more than you do and is trying to end it as soon as possible???

    Don’t YOU want to silence the negative voices and limited dribble in your head? Why wouldn’t your partner want to as well?

    Why not quarantine ourselves to our beds and do self inquiry about the nail, until we see the stupidity and absurdity of what we’re believing?

    To me, THAT is courage. that is being a responsible woman, man, being etc…

    My relationships, be they romantic or otherwise, exist for the sole purpose of enjoyment. When that is not happening, it is time to go be by myself and take responsibility for the stories that make it seem I am separate when I am anything but.

    Yes, I am THAT powerful.

    And when the limited point of view has relaxed and I see what it is I am wanting, I go back and make a simple, kind request.

    As far as I can see, and speaking from being an ex-drama queen, giving voice to distress only strengthens it and destroys harmony in relationships.

    Why do we spend our time as infinite beings being limited???

    What a quandry?????

    • I agree that we always have a choice. And that ultimately we are unlimited beings and the source of our own experience.

      I also believe that each of us feels empowered in our own ways. Each of us feels loved in different ways. For me, and for many others that I know, the best way to avoid ‘drama’ and to feel loved, is to express myself freely and embrace what I am experiencing so that it does release. Feeling heard and loved and seen for who I am in THIS moment, is the most direct way to feel loved and connected.

      Perhaps for you emotional processing doesn’t work. The question then would be what DOES make you feel loved? Each of us experiences love differently. For me, and many others, the way that I feel the MOST loved is in feeling seen and heard. And sharing vulnerably and feeling seen just as I am in THIS moment, creates intimacy, safety, connection and relationship. I don’t consider feelings garbage. I don’t consider my thoughts, good or bad, as something to be removed. The more honest I am about all of my experience, the quicker I can transform and evolved beyond them, lessons learned.

      Yes, relationships can be quite enjoyable, and I love it when they are. However, my experience is that they also take work and effort, and tons of compromise to work through the hard and challenging times, which are not always fun. But SO worth it.

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      ~Inspired girl

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