Question: It seems like my wife and I speak different languages. She argues with whatever I say. She doesn’t seem to understand my real meaning. It’s as if she purposely takes the opposite view. What is so hard about just talking or just hearing what I am saying?
Answer: That is a good question and one that is a daily battle between husbands and wives. According to Deborah Tannen, Ph.D in her book, You Just Don’t Understand, men and women are on different wavelengths or different hormonal functions.
Her research shows that this communication struggle goes beyond just the exchange of words and socialization. There are several core communication differences. These range from: eye contact, staying on tract, activities, emotions, data, body language, priorities, behavior patterns and internal processing. But in order to increase the ability to communicate, we must understand how the other gender typically communicates. It is easy to misunderstand or misinterpret what is being said because we assume their perspective would be the same as ours. The following are some tendencies on these differences:
Eye Contact and Body Language – Even from birth a baby girl will make more eye contact than a baby boy. They pay more attention to facial expressions and body language. They will notice when mom is upset long before a baby boy will notice. It is not really a women’s intuition necessarily. From the beginning women have been nurturers naturally, so they pay more attention. Because of this innate characteristic, women tend to be more empathic and deal with life more from an emotional point rather than from just data.
Staying on Tract and Activities – Men have a tendency to not remain focused as much as women do, but their versatility can be helpful in certain situations, especially in an emergency. Men also bond through activities. They can feel a connection in sports or projects, but women feel that same bond through talking. As a consequence women tend to talk a lot more than men. Women need a deep emotional connection with others and they get this through verbal communication. Men get it through activities.
Priorities and Behavior Patterns – Just by nature, women have a tendency to be the nurturer. That doesn’t mean that some people can’t have a role change. We are not all the same. These are generalizations from scientific studies. The male patterns of communication usually follow first instinct to fix everything not just talk about it, with the idea of get it fixed so you don’t have to keep bringing it up. Fix it and move on. Men also tend to make decisions quicker than women. They feel that asking for advice may be demeaning. Women can put their ego aside when communicating because they are more interested in bonding than exchanging data. For a man to communicate, he is more interested in the exchange of data and leaves out the emotion.
Internal Processing – From the beginning of time, society and hormones have dictated that the man is the protector and provider. Though this does not always play out in our society, men generally are bigger and stronger in stature. Their hormones dictate they are more aggressive. Because of their internal build, they do not need the emotional part of life to do what is required of them. It is the emotional part that would be helpful to be learned. Women, because of their hormonal make up, tend to be more emotional and service oriented. Yet they could learn from men how to remain unoffended.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could put us all in a bottle, shake it up and be more alike. Yet in reality these differences are complementary. Life is more interesting when there are differences. The best way to become our better selves is to learn and understand others. Put ourselves in their shoes. Learning to communicate with the opposite sex can be a challenge and an opportunity. Here is a free download. It is a step-by-step diagram on communicating with power. It works every time.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw