First, before I get to the actual topic, I need to make a, perhaps rather harsh and blunt statement and I hope you will forgive me in the course of reading:
Men and women are not compatible!
(At least not when it comes to communication)
Considering the very promising title this may sound like a contradiction but actually it is the opposite. It is what makes this topic so exciting and looking into it a little deeper rather necessary, simply due to the fact that in thousands of years, from the first incoherent grunt to the eloquence of todays speech, we have never given up trying. That is what I would call tenacious!
So why did I decide to write about this? I must admit that I didn’t – at least not at first. I had and often still have my trouble getting men to talk or make myself understood. But I was inspired to write about this very special subject, even if I am not a skilled writer, a long ime ago by a man that was once very dear to me and whom I once called friend. He was, and I know he will forgive me for saying it here, an absolute catastrophe when it came to communicating with me, but improved quite significantly over time – at least as long as the friendship lasted. I am most certainly writing this with a twinkle in my eyes and will be using a lot of stereotypes (in which still lie a lot of truth).
So who am I writing this for? I asked myself this exact question as it is such a universal topic that shouldn’t really exclude anyone – and it doesn’t. Although that I really believe that this is suited best for the many wonderful women – single and 40+ that are utterly frustrated and many of them kid themselves that they prefer to stay alone, when deep in their hearts they long for that special someone in their lives. We all have our baggage that we carry around with us, are the sum of our experiences and it would be ridiculous to deny this – unless we haven’t lived. Women and men of this generation are struggling with the fast changes of society and with that the changing forms of relationships as well as the definition of the gender roles.
Here a little general insight. Todays generation of 40+ (men and women) are sometimes confused. They still often believe that a relationship has to look like the ones our parents have or had, where many women had no choice but to follow their partner no matter what. But I also believe that the wrong understanding of emancipation has added to this confusion on both sides. Women’s lib supporters would probably send me death threats for what I am about to say: “Men and women are not equal and probably never will be”. But I would like to explain this radical statement. Don’t get me wrong, I am an independent woman myself but there are – obviously – big differences between men and women, physical and mental, and that is actually wonderful news. Can you imagine how dull life would be if these were not there and we were actually the same? And yes, I do believe that woman should earn the same amount of money as men for the same job and have the same rights (for which so many women fought very hard). But I love being a woman, having a man hold the door for me, help me into my coat and not treating me like one of his buddies but like a queen. So instead of whining and moaning, we should celebrate and honour the differences between men and women with the best outcome being that we complete and appreciate one another. But that is my very personal perspective and absolutely understand if many women and men see it differently, and if so you will most likely have stopped reading already.
So this is, as everything I tend to write, based on mainly personal experience and endless conversations with many women and quite a few men, that face the same issues every single day with friends, family, lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives as well as work colleague etc. But I insist that this is not only for women but also and perhaps especially for men who are willing to learn a little about the very difficult to learn language called womanspeak and that can appreciate a little insight into a woman’s mind. But beware, what happens in a woman’s mind isn’t always logical, not necessarily pretty and at times we don’t even understand it ourselves. So please don’t take everything too literally but I hope it will make you think about how you communicate with the opposite sex or just in general, and perhaps it can help you to a better understanding, or it may just make you smile.
The one thing I truly believe to be universal and what women and men want alike, are three basic needs that if met, tend to make us happy (and this is one of my favorites):
- be seen
- be heard
- be recognised (professionally) and/or loved (personally)
It sounds so very simple but many relationships, whether professional or personal often fail because one or more of these needs are not met. It is not surprising that this is most often due to miscommunication or the total lack of communication.
I could probably just stop here and leave you to chew on these first few statements and perhaps they would even keep you busy for a while – they certainly keep me busy. But now that I have started I do feel the urge to take it a bit further.
I kept wondering, how to go about this and the most difficult part was getting started. As I mentioned, I do not consider myself a most skilled writer and how do you write about something that you do not consciously do? So I simply let the topic run trough my head and I tried to think about what did I do right or rather what was is it that gets men to speak. As I went along, little tidbits popped into my head and I started taking notes. But I don’t want to bore you with the process of writing but for me all of it is connected. I was also wondering why should you read what I have to say? What qualifies me?
Well, I am a woman and I speak to men. I do believe that is a good place to start. I am certainly not claiming to understand men but being 50+, I do have some vast experience and thinking about it, some things kept reoccurring and it started to almost form some kind of pattern. I was, for the past few years in a, lets call it long distance relationship, in which communication had evolved from almost non-existent to rather satisfying (at least most of the time). Also one or the other relationship with men lies behind me and looking back with what I know today I would have really appreciated some advice or insight on what is important when communicating with men. So here I am writing to share some of my personal experience, qualified or not, that is for you to decide.
We are all more or less (women often more) equipped with empathy. It usually begins in our childhood that we know and feel when something is wrong with someone close to us, usually a sibling or parent. What happens most of the time when we ask what is going on or what is wrong and we get the nerve wracking reply: “Nothing” or “you wouldn’t understand”, we tend to assume we are at fault. This makes us feel uncomfortable, sometimes sad and very insecure. At times we even try to make up for something that is not even in our range of influence causing even more discomfort and frustration. There is such a simple solution for this even if we do not want to speak about the real problem at hand. One thing that the person asking you really needs is reassurance. The reassurance that there is indeed something wrong and that it has nothing to do with you (unless of course it does).
How about an example?
She: “Darling you look so stressed and seem to be in a bad mood. Is something wrong, what happened?”
He: “Nothing, I’m fine.”
She: “But I can see you are upset about something. Why don’t you tell me?
This can start an endless discussion about trust, love etc. that can end in a real fight leaving both in a foul spirit – your day or evening is probably ruined.
How about trying this dear men:
She: “Darling you look so stressed and seem to be in a bad mood. Is something wrong, what happened?”
He: “I had a stressful day today and my head is too full. I just need a little time to process and wind down. But thank you for asking and caring and be assured it has nothing to do with you.”
Of course this works both ways so dear women, you could and should also consider a different approach:
When you see your man in a bad mood, stressed or think he is upset how about just giving him some space?
She: “Darling you look so stressed and seem to be in a bad mood. Is there something I can do to cheer you up or help? Or do you just need a little time to wind down?”
So for both, if you tweak your way to communicate just a little your lives can be so much easier.
I know this is a very simplified example, but you understand that it really doesn’t take all that much.
For now lets look into the very different ways men and women tend to communicate. I may exaggerate just a tiny little bit to make my point.
In my experience men find it easier to say clearly what they mean and what they want. When they ask: “What should I wear to this years Christmas dinner at your parents house?”, they are, in most cases really asking for your advice or honest opinion.
When a woman asks the same question it is quite possible that it is a trap from which you have absolutely no chance to wiggle free. It is a bit like the question: “ Does my bottom look fat in these jeans?” Gentlemen, you simply cannot win this one… at least most of the time.
There are, very unfortunately, reasons why men are at times confused and take a no for a yes or feel encouraged to simply try harder. One of the reasons is certainly due to the changing roles of women but I do not want to elaborate on that any further. Another reason is that women expect a man to guess or simply know what they mean. I would like to substantiate this with another example that most, if not all of you have encountered in one way or the other. It is a very typical example for womenspeak:
A woman is carrying a heavy bag and you can see she is struggling with it. When you ask her politely if she needs help, she may almost rudely throw a NO at you. Most likely as a man you are annoyed or even insulted as you were just trying to be helpful and kind. Now, here is what most women would have wanted you to do and actually phrase the sentence in their heads: “Why does that idiot even have to ask, can’t he see how heavy my bloody bag is, can’t he just offer to take it and get it done instead of having to ask – IT’S SO DAMNED OBVIOUS!” This happens in a fraction of a second. So what the woman really wants gentlemen, she wants you to be her knight in shining armor that comes to her rescue. So instead of asking if she needs help (something women don’t really like to admit) just say: “Please let me help you with that”.
If she really doesn’t want your help she will say so – don’t be disappointed as some women really don’t want that knight.
Hurray to womenspeak!
My general advice to all men though (and I have mentioned this in other posts): Take a no as a no (especially with everything connected to intimacy) and not as a yes, a maybe or even as an invitation to try harder. In doubt it will save you a hell of a lot of trouble.
And to all my fellow women out there, try to be a little more specific, only very few men can read a woman’s mind and even then we still leave too much space for misinterpretation. And I am the first to admit that I have a very long way to go to practice this myself as I am really really good at womenspeak and also at being deeply disappointed and even sad when I am not understood – yes, I am working on it on a daily basis and yes, it is soooo hard.
Having said all of this, and obviously drifting off, I believe we can now go to the fun part. So how do we get men to talk and what do we want men to talk about? I would like to quote from a very funny film I have quite recently seen and that had me in fits of laughter. But even if very much exaggerated, it had a lot of truth to it.
“The ugly Truth” actually… “MEN ARE SIMPLE! “ Most men speak a very clear and simple language and usually manage (if they speak at all) to articulate what they want. Whereas women quite easily get offended by this very direct form of communication. So, back to my first statement: not compatible… Or perhaps there is a way!
I want to make it very clear that it is not about tricking or deceiving a man to make him talk, on the contrary…
What will follow are just a few simple ideas on what is beneficial when communicating with the opposite sex (mainly from the view of a woman, but not exclusively).
So what does it take?
TO BE CONTINUED…
But I leave you with a great song for this specific topic: