Sunday, April 5, 2015

Monthly Topic #27: How To Talk To A Man

Stop worrying about the difficulties of sending signals from Venus to Mars - Here is a solution to better communication in your relationship.

~Image Source: The Telegraph~

You've heard it a million times - the secret to a good relationship is communication. And it's totally true; without it a relationship can quickly wither. So how come we haven't learned to be better at it? Put simply, it's because men and women communicate in such different ways that we may appear to be speaking foreighn languages sometimes. Tell me everything I don't know, I hear you cry. Well, let's get specific about the most common communication problems between the sexes and how to deal with them.

The "thing" Thing

Problem: The most significant of these differences is that women primarily focus on people, whereas men make objects their No. 1 priority. This trait is evident from early childhood and manifests itself in the way men prefer to discuss business, sports, gadgets and how things work. Or, as Dr Ken Druck, author of The Secrets Men Keep, says, "Men are adept at talking about things, rather than their feelings about the things." Women, on the other hand, communicate mostly about people and their responses, problems, reactions, failings and foibles. Even at work, women are far more likely to e sensitive to how individuals work together, tensions within a work group, or how best to create a smooth workin environment. The shared experience of a conversation is crucial to women, who will often ask questions to maintain the momentum of the interaction, whereas men simply regard questions - and often conversations - as an efficient manner of exchanging information. This is further complicated by the fact that, linguistically speaking, men live in a world of competition where every exchange has a winner and a loser - whereas women collaborate.

Solution: Try to talk about the things he loves, stuff like football and Ferraris. Although it may seem to have the emotional nourishment of a Matt Le Blanc movie, he will feel closer to you for having shared something that he is passionate about. And he should return the favour. Point out that it's through talking about people and their experiences that you form the strongest bond with them. While "thing" talk is fine, explain that you find it almost impersonal and distancing - as if he's feeling afraid to reveal his innermost self.

Jekyll And Hide

Problem: You're at a party and he's hoggin' the floor, telling joke after joke. But you get into the car to go home and it's as if he's metamorphosed into an mute chauffeur. Not a word. This behaviour relates back to the "things" versus "people" conversation mentality. More specifically, the intimate circumstances of home life or even a car ride are better suited to women's style of communication. "While women sometimes express to express," explains relationships Joe Tannenbaum, :men almost always express to resolve. These respective traits cause most damage in times of relationship strife, as many women feel 'the relationship' is working as long as we can talk about it.' Men, on the other hand, are usually more inclined to take the view that 'the relationship is not working if we have to talk about it'."

Solution:When you're alone together, be mindful of engulfing him in conversations about subjects - such as people, emotions and people's emotions - with which he's not comfortable. This is not to say these conversations should not take place. After all, you deserve emotional sustenance and he needs training. Try to make sure he understands that you like to talk for the sake of talking because suich an emotional exchange makes you feel closer to him.

A Paler Shade of Grey

Problem: Men live in a world that's black and white, whereas women inhabit one that's coloured by a million different shades of grey. Men are on a mission to make a point, they assume that women have the same agenda and become frustrated with what they see as pointless tangents. A case in point: my friend's colleague has a shocking taste in men. It's one loser after another. Recently, we met the latest instalment in this cavalcade of mediocrity and I muttered "yet another beauty". My friend, on the other hand, the head of the Freud squad, was interested in why her colleague kept selecting below-par suitors. Did it make her feel superior? Did it give her an easy out when the heady romance wore off? Was this the kind of man her father was? While I feel this approach does have its merits, these theories - whether prove or unproven - do nothing to alter the reality of the situation. Yet men's penchant for sticking to facts have dangerous consequences. Especially when communicating with women who read between the lines. "What men find worth telling are facts about such topics as history, sports, politics are how things work," wrote Deborah Tannen in You Just Don't Understand. "Women often perceive the telling of facts as lecturing, which not only does NOT carry a meta-message of rapport, but carries instead of a meta-message of condescension: I am the teacher, you are the student. I'm knowledgeable, you're ignorant."

Solution: Say what you mean to him and try not to over-analyse what he says to you. Nine times out of 10, he's being straight down the line, I swear. He, in turn, has to develop patience with your right to analyse what others say and do, as it is your way of understanding the world around you. (Plus, it's probably far more sophisticated than his blinkered approach). Let him understand that by sharing your analytical revelations with him, you feel more intimate as a couple.

Laying Down The Law

Problem: Historically speaking, men have had the power, the money and the patriarchy to back them up when making demands. Women, however, have had to be more circusmpect and diplomatic about attaning their goals and have been rather unjustly accused of being sneaky and manipulative. But the reverse is true in the private domain: "When trying to negotiate mutual preferences and decisions, women are often more indirect than men," explains Deborah Tannen. "But when it comes to talking about their personal relationships and feelings, it's the men who are indirect."

Solution: Quit saying things like "What would you think if we were to..." or "I'm not sure if this is right but..." or "If it's ok with you." If you want to do something, tell him. If you want to say something, say it.

The Word Race

Problem: How many times have you been chatting with a man when you begin to suspect that instead of listening, he's simply waiting for you to pause for breath so that he can jump in with his point of view? Plenty, I'll bet. Women tend to be better listeners than men, who often perceive the role of listener as inferior. As a result, they'll often challenge the speaker, or more specifically, their facts. "Since women tend to build rapport, they're inclined to play down their expertise rather than display it," notes Tannen. Women tend to view the roles of talker and listener as equal in the quest to enhance understanding and intimacy. Facts, figures and power plays rarely figures in these talks. Listening is one of the greatest communication challenge within a relationship. Many couples feel that because they've been together so long, each knows how the other thinks and feels, without having to listen or ask. "This becomes particularly apparent when they argue," says Dr Bob Montgomery in Living & Loving Together. "Both are so busy preparing the next verbal salvo inside their heads that neither has the time to listen to what the other has actually said."

Solution: Since your listening skills are probably more than adequate and his are probably practically non-existent, it would be wiser not to live in hope of re-wiring his brain. Instead of pleading for him to not only listen to you but also indicate that he's actually comprehending what you're saying, become proactive and make him hear you. Hone your speaking skills, don't be afraid to challenge him and it worst comes to worst, give him a taste of his own reticence by cutting down the amount of verbal and non-verbal feedback you gave while he's spouting forth.

To The Rescue

Problem: The final major communication battleground between the sexes is that of crisis. When women go to their mate with an emotional problem, they seek empathy and understanding. Unfortunately, what they receive are solutions: a plan of action to resolve and therefore negate the dilemma. Not so fast, Einsten. Men fail to understand that women have cottoned only the true healing power of empathy and they like giving it as much as they need to receive it. Most guys also don't realise that women like to talk a problem out, elaborating details and experiencing an emotional catharsis, which is as important as any conclusion they might reach.

Solution: Point out to your man that although his ready-made problem-solvers to your every emotional problem are appreciated, you'd be far better supported through such crisis if he were aware of the following three responses from Chris Evatt's He & She:

» She is upset, wants empathy now and advice some other time - maybe even never.

» She is upset, wants empathy now and solutions only after she expresses her feelings.

» She is not upset and wants to discuss a solution to the problem.


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