By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
It’s an age-old discussion we’ve all heard, time and time again: men and women find one another difficult to understand. We have heard countless stories from married couples who regularly (and habitually) confuse one another through their differing communication styles. Those differences can create a true disconnect in our relationships with one another.
The good news is that even though we might be puzzled by our spouses from time to time, we truly can work together to develop a greater understanding of where they’re coming from. Solving the mystery of the “gender gap” isn’t impossible; we’ll show you why.
MEN ARE ANALYZERS; WOMEN ARE SYMPATHIZERS
No, we don’t come from different planets; our motivations and goals through communication are just vastly different. And that can throw a wrench in an otherwise benign conversation, because our approach to communicating informs how we respond to one another.
Generally speaking, men tend to be highly analytical. They’re concerned with the cold, hard facts and laser-focused on problem-solving. Men also tend to be task-oriented and straight-to-the-point.
Conversely, women (in general) approach communication in a more sympathetic way. They’re intuitive and attuned to the emotional connections between themselves and the people they’re communicating with, and they tend to be more concerned with feelings before facts. (That’s not to say that facts don’t matter; but sometimes, it’s more important to women to process emotional realities first so that they can then tackle the facts).
WHERE’S THE DISCONNECT?
Communication between husbands and wives tends to break down when we try to impose our thinking pattern on one another. It’s easy to forget how differently we are wired, especially if we’re in the midst of conflict. The thing is, we don’t even have to be in the middle of a conflict to run across these issues.
For example, let’s say a wife approaches her husband to pour out her feelings…only to become frustrated that her husband tries to “fix” the problem. After all, she was probably looking for empathy and commiseration. She may have only wanted a listening ear so she could process her feelings verbally before deciding how to act next.
Naturally, her husband’s offer of a solution is frustrating because it’s not what she was looking for in the moment. And, to be expected, her husband is equally miffed because now, he thinks she doesn’t value his advice and problem-solving ability.
Does this conversation sound familiar?
Husband: “Don’t come to me if you don’t want help!”
Wife: “I wasn’t asking you to fix the problem. I just wanted to talk about it.”
Husband: “What good is talking about it if you’re not going to fix it?”
Wife: “I needed to process things, but this is why I can’t talk to you about anything! You never listen to me!”
Women often decode their husbands’ quick jump to a solution as impatience. They might assume their husbands don’t really care about what they have to say, when in reality the husband might have felt good about the solution he offered…only to come away feeling like his solution was brushed aside and devalued.
See how the cycle perpetuates itself?
TIPS FOR BRIDGING THE GENDER-COMMUNICATION GAP
Our Love Talk curriculum delves deep into communication dynamics between husbands and wives, plus gives you the tools you need to decode one another and build a greater sense of understanding in your marriage. For now, though, we’ll leave you with a few quick tips.
For women (from Leslie):
- Men don’t tend to identify their emotions as quickly as we do, so we can’t expect them to
- We tend to focus more on experiences, fears, and feelings, while men focus on theories, concepts, and ideas
- Don’t expect your man to communicate like your girlfriends do; they just aren’t wired that way
For men (from Les):
- Women tend to focus on the present and how they feel about it, while we like to think toward the future
- We want the report; they want the rapport
- Don’t expect your wife to detail “the plan” with all the steps if you’re not taking the time to connect with her emotionally.
Keep in mind, these are general guidelines. While men tend to want results, goals, and efficiency and women want harmony and sharing, sometimes, the dynamics can be flipped. Maybe you’re an analytical woman who’s married to an emotionally-driven man. Or perhaps you’re a sympathetically-driven man who has a more solution-oriented wife. Whatever the case, rest assured the two of you can decode your communication styles for more effective communication–and a more harmonious life together.
If you would like help with your communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.