As Matchmakers, we know that many a relationship is lost not because of a poor match, but because of misunderstandings which occur due to the different ways in which men and women communicate. Complaints such as ‘he didn’t understand me’ and ‘she was impossible to deal with’ are often cited as reasons for relationships ending, yet are often entirely avoidable. People focus on the content of conversation without really understanding the differences in communication – which can lead to misinterpretation.
The tragedy is, if people don’t understand communicative styles and their own role in the breakdown of communication, they take these problems into the next relationship and create exactly the same circumstances. This is why people frequently split up with numerous partners for essentially the same reasons. Understanding differences in how people communicate will enhance your dating success by helping you avoid pit-falls and instead foster closeness and understanding.
In this series of three blogs, we will look at the differences between how men and women communicate with tips on managing these differences. Although we will explore generalities in men and women’s communication styles, these differences are not set in stone and may apply equally the other way round and within same-sex relationships. The important point is to recognise and adapt our responses so that we truly create a meaningful connection. This helps us to avoid George Bernard Shaw’s caution that, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
Men and women approach communication differently
Men and women often have different goals and needs in communication. If we are unaware of this we can become hurt, offended or even exasperated when our partners response is not in accordance with our expectations. For example, studies indicate that communication styles differ in a crisis. Men often tend to offer a solution in an attempt to solve the problem as quickly as possible and reduce upset, whereas women also want to empathise and seek mutual understanding. If these underlying motivations are not understood, men may feel frustrated about the time it is taking to discuss a problem, whereas women could think that the gentleman is being dismissive. This creates an unnecessary rift. Recognition of communicative styles and an understanding of where they come from means we can adapt our responses to create a real connection and exciting relationship. This is worthy of consideration as we tend to underestimate how much relationships can be enhanced by talking – as the saying goes, ‘Romeo and Juliet are another example of why communication within a relationship is so crucial’.
You are and your partner are not the same person
This is the starting point for great communication, yet this seemingly obvious observation is actually the least remembered in relationships. Frustration occurs when we expect our partners to view the world, process information and communicate in exactly the same way as we do. On an intellectual level we would of course argue that we understand how background, experience and physiological differences combine to make each person view and interact with the world in their own unique way. However, as Professor Krycka (2015) explains, on an experiential level we often default to thinking our partner is just like us and should be expected to think and communicate in the same way. This is especially true if the conversation is emotive! So keep in mind that if your date or partner is responding in a way you find challenging, this does not make them wrong. Attempting to take on their perspective and ‘walk in their shoes’ is an instant de-fuser and gives insight into how to communicate and connect with that person.
In the next blog of this series, we will focus on the particular differences in communication styles, with tips on how to manage these with a view to building a close and rewarding relationship.
Aries, E., Shaver, P., Hendrick, C. (1987). Sex and gender. Review of personality and social psychology, Vol. 7, (pp. 149-176). Sage Publications, US.
Krycka, K. (2015). Psychotherapy for the other. Duquesne University Press, US.
Tannen, D. (2002). You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. Virago Press, London.