The Different Ways Men and Women Communicate
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The Different Ways Men and Women Communicate
by Stephen Martin and Victoria Costello
Although not uniformly present in all couples, gender differences in communication style and content preferences are common enough to wreak havoc in many marriages. It’s important to remember that these differences can make communication in marriage more difficult, but on their own they do not cause marital breakdowns. They can also lead to joy and delight if you recognize the differences and appreciate each other for them.
The Way Women Communicate
Research is now proving beyond a shadow of a doubt what you’ve probably known since you entered adolescence and began paying serious attention to the opposite sex: Men and women tend to talk for different reasons, and the two sexes process information differently.
Scientists have discovered that women really do hear more than men. Just think about the running debates that go on between spouses about the preferred volume of a TV or stereo. Then apply this principle to the tone used by a man and a woman in an argument. Which spouse is more likely to be impacted by a raised voice?
According to noted marriage researcher John Gottman, PhD, women are the ones who most often bring up difficult topics for discussion with their spouses, in fact 80 percent of the time. Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, notes that this communication dynamic is dominant in the “good” as well as the “bad” marriages he observes in controlled laboratory settings.
Neurologists also say that men see and perceive visual stimuli more clearly than women do. Think about maps and directions as an example. Then apply this principle to your facial expression during a difficult discussion with your husband. What is more likely to create distance: a calm, sympathetic expression or a scowl? An easier example might be how difficult it is for most men to not ogle a shapely female who happens to be walking by.
The implications of biological and neurological differences between men and women in marriage are many and various. Women are more verbally oriented, while men operate and make decisions based more on what they see.
In the realm of couple communication, women are more prone to talk things out, while men typically mull things over – alone.
Women talk as a way of connecting and to relieve anxiety.
A woman also prefers to think out loud, without necessarily looking for an immediate solution to a problem.
Because women are more inclined to communicate when they are upset, a woman’s silence often means more than the same behavior from a man. It may signal her alienation, particularly if previous attempts to be heard and understood by a partner have not been satisfying.
The Way Men Communicate
Men talk in order to exchange information, to solve problems, or, if they’re with other men, to engage in friendly verbal competition.
When anxious or angry, men will often seek solitude rather than talk, at least as an immediate response.
Of course, each person is a unique combination of what is defined here. Your husband may be more of a talker than your girlfriend’s more taciturn spouse. It’s possible that you may be the more circumspect one in your marriage.
From the fascinating observations of married couples done by John Gottman, PhD, in a laboratory setting it’s been shown that women bring up most of the tricky issues for discussion in a marriage.
The same research, which includes the monitoring of physical body changes, also shows that a man takes longer to recover from verbal conflict than his wife.
What do all these data say about men and women in communication? Primarily, that on top of the possible personality differences that exist between any two people, a husband and wife must also take into account probable gender differences.
When Emotional Needs Differ
Different people have different emotional needs and preferred levels of intimacy in a marital relationship. These needs range from a measure of personal privacy within the relationship to a fairly constant state of emotional and physical connectedness between spouses. This can become a problem if you are married to someone who has very different needs from yours. For example, the person who wants to experience deep connectedness most evenings can become frustrated if her partner does not want to have as many deep conversations about the nature and meaning of their relationship.
Often, the one seeking more emotional intimacy will judge the partner who prefers less frequency and depth of contact as being shallow or less caring about the relationship. This creates tension within the relationship, leaving both partners unsatisfied.
In marriage therapy, the one wanting emotional intimacy often complains that her partner does not love her, which is usually not accurate. What is true is that each has a preference for a different style of relating. Sometimes it comes down to one partner wanting always to communicate her feelings of appreciation and love in words, while the other prefers to do it through his actions. Both are expressing love; it is just done in different ways.
The choice of pronouns in this section is not a coincidence.Typically, the woman wants more emotional communication with words, while the man prefers fewer words. The male often prefers to express his feelings in sexual expression, while the female wants verbal interaction and heart connectedness first, and then sexual expression.
However, it is not always the female who complains about a partner being emotionally distant. Many men have the same complaint about women. On balance though, the male usually prefers less emotional intimacy through conversation, and more emotional intimacy through sexuality.
The issue for couples already married and in a committed relationship is what to do when your emotional needs are different. The first step is to cease making the other wrong for his difference, and stop judging this difference between the two of you as evidence of dysfunction.
Less verbal communication is not necessarily bad, unhealthy, or wrong; it is merely less verbal communication.