Here’s what I know for certain. 85% of all couples who come to see me struggle with communication. Here’s why. Men and women are, DIFFERENT! We learned this from my earlier blogs, so if you’re only joining us now, it would be helpful to go back and get up to speed. We’ll be right here when you get back. Done? Okay, let’s move on. The differences between men and women are vast, but for today, we’re going to focus our effort on communication.
Let’s start with how women communicate. Women use words towards building relationships. We find connection in words. Which is why women can spend hours upon hours talking on the phone, discussing absolutely nothing. “Tell me what happened. Well, what did you say? How did you say it? What did he say? What do you think he meant when he said it? What was his tone? What was he wearing when he said it? What were you wearing? What did you think about what he said?” Need I go on? Of course there are outliers to this. But we cannot deny that a pattern exists in which women use words to connect. This is also the reason why women love letters, emails and text messages.
Men, on the other hand, generally use words as words. Men connect through experiences. They shoot hoops. They play hockey. They play tennis – a game that requires you to be far enough away from your opponent that causes conversation to be nonexistent. As oppose to the conversation above between two women, a typical conversation between men looks something like this, “Yo dude. Wanna play ball? What time? Where? See you there.” End scene. Of course I’m half joking. Only half, because I’ve interviewed enough men to confirm this is the preferred extent of communication; though I have met many men who could talk endlessly for hours.
One complaint I often hear from men is that women never seem to get to the point. They seem to go around the point, and around the point. Men, on the other hand, prefer to get to the point. Here’s the problem. Women go around the point and around the point because – that IS the point! She’s trying to connect to you. Once she feels that connection, only then will she get to the point. I will give you the specific tools for connecting in those moments. But let’s get the basics down for the moment.
Women, you have to realize that your husband/partner is a man with a limited capacity for details. So please try and get to the point faster.
Men, you need to open up more and realize that your wife/partner needs the details to connect with you.
About a year ago, my father came over to spend some quality time together. He sat across from me at my kitchen table and said, “How come you always share what’s going with your mother but not me? I want to know what’s happening in your life too.”
“Okay” I said. And preceded to fill him in on the latest events. Unfortunately, within five minutes I saw his eyes start to gloss over, and it appeared as though he was not exactly making eye contact with me anymore. I say ‘not exactly’ because it seemed as though he was looking just slightly to my left and three inches above my eyes. When I turned around behind me to see what he was looking at, I fell upon the bright blue flashing light of the microwave clock. Hurmph! Needless to say, I was annoyed. Why did he tell me that he wanted me to share and then act as if he really didn’t care at all? When I called him out on it, here’s what he said.
“Jaime, I love you. What you have to say is really important to me. You are incredibly important to me. But I am all full up (of details). I’m starting to tune out and I don’t want to. I am wondering if it would be possible to take a break and then start again in twenty minutes, or would you be able to get to the point faster?”
This disarmed me immediately, because when he visibly tuned out, the message I received from him was that what I had to say was not of value to him. More so, that I was not important to him, which hurt. Once he clarified that was not the case, and that the capacity issue belonged to him, I did not take it personally. We took a break, and when we returned to the conversation, I certainly made an effort to get to the point faster. Since that initial conversation, our communication has changed drastically. He knows that sitting with me, assuming the position, and allowing me to exchange words with him is the way I can connect with him. And I understand that when his eyes start to gloss over, it’s time to get to the point.
Have a great week folks.
Lots of love!
Jaime Saibil, Psychotherapist