In this day and age it’s no secret that men and women communicate differently. Blame it on nature or nurture; the fact is in our personal lives we tend to communicate in a way we ourselves would understand. Unfortunately, we don’t enter into relationships with ourselves. At some point we must figure out a way to communicate with the opposite sex.
Relationship experts have spent the better part of the past half century trying to convince us of one thing: men and women should modify how they communicate with the opposite sex in order to reach a shared meaning. Just like we wouldn’t expect a non-English speaker to understand us in English, we should not rely solely on our own sex’s conventions on how to say something when speaking to the opposite sex.
One of the many elements of how we communicate with a significant other is the manner in which we approach a potentially sensitive topic. Although every person is different, men stereotypically tend to approach issues from a problem-solving perspective while women generally like to fully vet an issue with an emphasis on being mindful of feelings.
The key here is to remember that this is not about a right or wrong method; it’s about two different ways to reach the same place. It’s about taking an idea in one person’s head and putting in another person’s head so that they see it the same way. A general understanding of how the recipient processes information is a key factor in accomplishing this. The problem usually occurs when the sender of the information expects the recipient to process things like the sender themselves would. This is as illogical as expecting that foreigner to understand our English.
Being direct with men
Women, one of the keys to speaking your man’s language is being direct with him. When you have an issue that you need to discuss with your man, the best course of action is to start with the central point of the issue. Avoid the natural reflex to want to warm up to the issue or soften the blow. Below is an example of how this could be done:
Problem: woman feels her man has been spending too much money lately. She understands that things happen, but she wants him to be more mindful of this so they can continue to save.
“Honey, have you looked at our bank account lately?”
(Half-joking) “Babe, I’m not trying to be mean or anything but are you feeling ok this week?”
(Even tone) “Hun, I’ve noticed that you’ve been spending a lot more money lately and I’m worried about our savings.”
For some women this might prove to be a bit uncomfortable, but remember that this is about the man’s processing of information. By being direct, there are three positive things that will result from your efforts:
Reduction of Stress
One of the biggest sources of stress for men in interpersonal communication is not the problem itself but rather understanding the problem. In a “fix it” mentality, step one is always “identify the problem.” There can be no work, adjustments, or selection of tools without first understanding what we are dealing with. Using a series of leading questions and statements only prolongs the inevitable discussion. During this time, the man will most likely stress about where you’re going with your comments and possibly start to build defenses which could breakdown or end communication.
Think back to your introductory Geometry classes in high school when you learned the shortest distance between two points: a straight line. Few people enjoy dealing with uncomfortable situations. When we head straight to the issue, we can apply the bulk of our energy toward being clear and finding a resolution. For women, this requires a leap of faith that their man won’t take their complaint as a personal attack. However, you’ll find that over time most men will come to appreciate your candor and even find comfort in always knowing your mind.
Being direct with your man also aids in building trust. As women become more direct, men begin to realize that there is no hidden agenda. In healthy relationships, this honesty frequently inspires men to naturally become more trusting of their women and also reciprocate that honesty.
When it comes to dealing with men, many times it’s not about sparing his feelings; it’s about a man knowing where he stands. Your directness will tell him that you care enough to tell him exactly what is going on. He knows that you love him. He knows that he screws up a lot more than he should. Sometimes, he just needs someone who speaks the language.
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