WHAT Did You Just Say? Communication Differences of Men and Women

off-the-mark-on-men-vs_-women“He should just KNOW what I want if he loves me,” she exclaims.

“I TRY to solve her problems, but she gets mad when she’s upset and I give her advice,” he declares.

And both of them think they are right. And both of them have a right to see it that way.

And both of them would be wise to learn to see it from another point of view.

Individuality notwithstanding, the stereotypes are somewhat borne out by research: men are generally problem solvers and women generally want intuitive, compassionate responses. To put it another way, when we approach our partner with a problem, we expect them to react the way our best (same sex) friends do.

Or to put it another way: Men “fix” and women “feel.”

“And here’s what you SHOULD do, wife…”

Men most often communicate in order to solve a problem, and they feel a sense of responsibility and love when their partner is upset. What he doesn’t realize is that she is not generally asking for advice, unless she comes out and says so. Instead, she would like to be listened to and valued while she processes her problem verbally. It tends to go something like this:

She: “I got so mad at my boss today.”

He: “Well, you should just quit that job and look for another. Here’s the employment listings.”

When he jumps directly to his solution for her life, she feels belittled, as if he feels she is not capable of adult decisions. She really just wanted him to listen, not solve!

So let’s look at a better way:

She: “I got so mad at my boss today.”

He: “You seem really upset. Tell me more.”

“If you LOVED me you would just KNOW, husband…”

listeningwellA mistake that women often make when communicating with the opposite sex is called “mind reading:” that is, expecting to just hint, sigh, glare, or otherwise get him to pick up on what she wants. This conversation might go:

She: (sarcastically) “That trash really smells, doesn’t it?”

He: “Sure does.”

Of course, she wanted him to take the trash out, not agree with her! She winds up frustrated and furious that he didn’t bow to the control, hint, guilt and manipulation barely hidden in that remark.

A better way would be:

She: “Would you please take the trash out sometime in the next hour?”

He: “Sure, it’s my turn anyway.”

Women are socialized to be tactful, accommodating, and indirect, but this does not serve them well in the real world. Instead, women (and indeed, men as well) should be DIRECT, BRIEF, and SPECIFIC when asking for what they need. This could save a lot of resentment; we all appreciate honest, courteous, and upfront communication.

So it goes like this: men, you get in a lot of trouble when you offer solutions instead of focused, eye-to-eye, undivided attention and a listening ear when she is sharing her problems with you.

And women, you shut down any hope of getting what you need when you hint, sigh, use sarcasm, or otherwise expect him to read your mind. Instead, be direct (“the trash”), specific (“within the next hour”) and courteous (“please”).

Communication is a skill that must be learned, but the basic principles listed here can go a long way toward each person getting what they want- a “win-win” for all parties.

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