In part one of this series our Matchmakers explored the idea that communication can differ between men and women, and how this can lead to misunderstanding. Following on from this, the Relationship Experts look at some specific areas of communication in which differences can be observed, with tips on how to manage them.
The single biggest complaint women and men have about how the other party communicates
Let’s start with the top two complaints. Research shows that the single biggest complaint women have about men is that men interrupt them, and that they often talk faster to get their point in before they’re interrupted. On the other hand, many men express frustration when women speak at elaborately and at length, but take a long time to make their point, especially in an emotive conversational exchange. So perhaps there is a case here for women to be concise and clear in order to have their points understood, and for men to wary of interrupting. On a related note, any gentleman out there who find it hard to decipher a woman’s needs, take comfort from the words of Freud who once stated, “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'
In social conversation, while both sexes discuss a range of topics, for women this often includes references to relationships, development and experiences, whereas men tend to focus on information sharing and are often more concrete rather than abstract. Men are also more concise in their points and economical with their words in communication.
Our Matchmaker’s tip for the gentleman - a bit of elaboration in romantic relationships will be music to the ears of your date. For example rather than just telling your partner she is beautiful, tell her in what way.
Mind reading and hint dropping
Men often complain that women expect them to be mind-readers rather than being explicit in communicating what they want. This sets up a cycle of women hoping men will understand an issue they’re not even aware of and the women subsequently becoming resentful that the issue hasn’t been addressed. This same problem occurs with hints – men generally find it difficult to pick up on hints, and if they do catch on may well feel resentful that the point has not been addressed with them directly. This makes the case for both parties ensuring they raise issues promptly and clearly.
It might be time to let go of Darcy, Heathcliff, Rochester…
While many of us love the passionate declarations made by romantic heroes in classic fiction, setting this as an expectation in our own relationships may lead to frustration (see our Matchmaker, Zoe’s blog on ‘Role models: http://www.seventy-thirty.com/blog/2015/10/role-models-in-relationships-adjustable-adaptable-advisable). Women are particularly susceptible to this, although this applies to both sexes as we all absorb stereotypes and ideals from the media. While it is healthy to set standards and establish preferences, we need to temper this with a focus on the real world, and an appreciation of our partner or date as a human being who is fallible with his or her own vulnerabilities.
On affection and emotion…
There are differences in the way men and women express affection in their friendships and relationships. Men often tease and are sometimes sarcastic when expressing endearment whereas women are often direct in communicating affection and tactile in expressing it. Many a budding relationship may never get started if the lady interpret teasing as dislike rather than admiration. Additionally, men frequently have a more difficult time understanding emotions that are not explicitly verbalised, whereas women pick up quite easily on emotional cues. Just understanding these difference can go a long way to understanding our partners and preventing misinterpretation.
The last blog in this series will focus on how differences in communication styles can lead to conflict with tips on preventing this.
Goddard, A. & Patterson, L. M. (2000). Language and Gender. Routledge, London.
Tannen, D. (1994). Gender and Discourse. Oxford University Press, London.