Many arguments between couples stem from simple misunderstandings based on different communication styles. For example, women often want to vent, and a man will often misinterpret this by thinking he's meant to find a solution. Likewise, women sometimes misinterpret what it means when a man says nothing at all. Often, men need to work through a problem in silence, and women can misread his actions to mean he simply does not want to talk to her. Are Gender Differences A Myth?
A better understanding of how men and women think and speak can help us have higher-functioning relationships. Here we've asked three YourTango Experts to sound in on some of the most common misunderstandings between men and women, and what we really hear when the opposite sex talks.
1. Men Ask, Women Hint
Men are socialized to make direct requests, while women are socialized to put others' needs above their own. How does this play out in relationships? Women often expect men to read their minds and know what they want without actually telling them. If women can ease into asking for what they want instead of leaving their guy to guess, they'll get much more of it with no mind-reading necessary.
2. For Women, It's In The Details
When she says, "Do you remember that sweater I wore on our second date?"
He hears her say, "If you cared, you'd remember!"
Women have an amazing memory for details, and they're more sentimental than men. Women should keep in mind that men don't remember details as well because of differences in how they process information, not because they don't care.
3. Problems: Listening Vs. Solving
When a woman has a problem, a man offers solutions. Often, she's simply looking for understanding and validation. And a woman tends to give men what she'd want: a shoulder to cry on, which is often the last thing he wants. As a rule of thumb: men should offer women compassion first and then help, and women should offer men help first and then compassion.
4. Men Compartmentalize, Women think "big picture"
Women and men don't think the same way—maybe you've noticed. Men compartmentalize, mentally and emotionally separating work, relationships, etc. Women think "big picture," connecting all the aspects of their lives.
For women, when he seamlessly switches gears from your serious conversation to the football game, it's not that he doesn't care about the conversation. For men, it's good to remember that her brooding over things and bringing up the past doesn't mean she's trying to nag. It's just the way her mind works—connecting one event to another.
—Dr. Amy Johnson, Psychologist/Coach
5. She Says Too Much; He Says Too Little
When a woman feels stressed, she wants and needs to vent. In fact, she often will verbally recall every single horrific detail about her job, her overwhelming schedule and her family. She often uses dramatic words or phrases like "He always…!", "We never…!", "How could you/she/they…!". When a woman reacts like this, it's best to remember that it's just like a valve on the pressure cooker.
MEN: Now's not the time to get defensive, but to help her release that steam a little bit at a time, by responding with empathy and questions that further encourage her to talk it out. Once she feels her emotions have been heard and understood, then she immediately starts to feel better.
However, when a man is feeling stressed, he often stops talking altogether for a period of time. He just wants to chill out with the TV or computer or hang out alone in the garage/basement/man cave to forget his problems. A woman's natural instinct is to ask him probing questions to find out what she did wrong or why he doesn't want to spend time with her.
WOMEN: Now's not the time to feel rejected, but to give him the space he needs to relax on his own. It's best to focus on things you can do to make yourself feel good in the meantime, so when he does ascend back into the light, you'll be feeling happy and excited to spend time with him. Which Love Language Do You Speak?
—Dr. John Gray, Psychologist
6. Women Like Reminders
He thinks, "I'm committed to her, she knows I love her."
She thinks, "What has he done to show me he loves me today?"
It is not necessary to reassure her that he loves her every hour, but he shouldn't assume that a gesture of love last month is fresh in her mind today. He should continue to do the nice little things he did while he was pursuing her.
7. Men Are Emotional, Too
She thinks men are not emotional.
The truth is that most men are very sensitive and have deep emotions; they are just not always comfortable showing them. A woman should never assume that her man doesn't feel things like hurt or rejection. He feels more than you know. But don't assume you know how he feels. The best practice is to ASK HIM. But avoid overly emotive phrases like, "Did that hurt your feelings?" Instead try, "Did it bother you when that happened?"
8. "Are You Even Listening?"
She says, "You never listen to me."
He thinks, "She talks all the time, and all I do is listen."
All he really has to do is give some verbal cues to indicate he is paying attention such as, "Really, I didn't realize that." He can also ask questions about the content of what she is saying to let her know he is listening. It's also OK to tell her when he is focused on something else, "Honey, I really want to hear what you are saying, can this wait until I finish this page?"
9. Couch Night Can Be Date Night!
He says, "I'm wiped out, let's just stay in and relax."
She thinks, "He'd rather stare at the TV than be with with me."
It's helpful for women to remember that sometimes their man just wants to be with them and relax and they don't have to do anything or even interact a lot. It's okay to JUST BE. A woman who is comfortable just BEING (and not always doing) is very attractive to her man.
10. I'm Independent, But I Still Need Your Help
She says, "I'm capable of doing that myself."
He hears, "She doesn't want my help."
This can be confusing but most women, no matter how strong and capable, still love to be "taken care of" by their men, in one way or another. Women are taking care of others all the time. Tell her that you know she can do it herself but that you love to do things for her so she can take it easy. America's Most Chivalrous Cities
—Ellen Hartson , Life/Relationship Coach
We don't mean blurting something out after you've had too much merlot, but the desire to tell him intimate details about your life means you trust him—a major component of successful long-term love.
More juicy Content From YourTango:
- Say What?: Effective Communication For Your Love Life
- The Key To Effective Communication
- Get His Attention: 12 Conversation Starters For Women