Men vs. Women: Differences Between Our Communication Skills

Category: Men vs. Women Series, Weekly Columns

 Communication skills

The first article in this new series of differences between men and women took on how we handle money. This one is about how we communicate. As with every article in this ongoing series, I continue to believe that men and women are inherently different, due to our genetics, biology, and to some degree our environment and/or upbringing. However, I don’t believe the latter plays a big factor except when it’s horrific, like in the case of child abuse, severe disabilities, and/or illness.

Most of the time, and I emphasize “most,” it is simply that our make-up, our approach, our reality is simply different. I am not attaching a quantitative judgment to this statement. Again, as I will likely state in every one of these columns, I am making stereotypical generalizations and fully recognize there are exceptions to all of them. But, stereotypes and generalizations exist and shouldn’t be dismissed simply because there are exceptions. Some things affect the majority of us and in our gender differences, I think they’re relatively clear and true, however subjective one may judge my assertions.

With communication, as with money, men and women approach it so differently. I will begin with the basic idea that men communicate in a more direct manner, tend to pay less attention to body language, and can be simpletons when it comes to communicating with women, including “their” woman. Women, on the other hand, have genuine intuitive advantages over men but sometimes allow their emotions to rule their actions in communication, relationships, and perhaps in business.

So, I know I’ve already offended half of you. Not saying which half. Now, I’ll be more specific. Some of what I’m suggesting comes from being married – for the second time now – and having had a number of relationships prior to marriage. I also have lived through a sea change in the workplace in an industry – showbiz – that embraced women and where women had more opportunities sooner than in other fields. All informs these ideas.

Again, this list is in no particular order nor am I looking to fulfill a specific number. I hope, as with the first in this series, that you’ll weigh in with your additions, rejections, outright denials, and other “worthy” comments:

1. Women want their men to read their minds

I know I said there was no order to this list, but I’d have to say this came to mind first because I find it so pervasive. I’ve never really understood why women think we men should be able to read their minds, but in my unscientific study – my life – it’s always been the case.

My wife and I have attended marital therapy and our therapist has repeatedly suggested to her, when this issue came up, that it would be so much simpler and effective if she just expressed what was on her mind. My wife agreed and promptly forgot about it.

A simple example is when it’s gift time. I would really prefer to give my wife something she wants, so I do the evidently incredibly unromantic thing of asking her what she’d like. You’d think I confessed I’d had an affair given the reaction that usually elicits. “Don’t you know?” is the exasperated response I often get.

The upshot of this reality, at least in my life, is I actually do try to understand what my wife is thinking even, for the life of me, if it doesn’t make any sense (to me).

2. Men prefer short, terse answers to long-winded explanations and responses

Now, I’m beginning to feel a bit like Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” when he sings “Why Can’t a Woman be Like a Man.” It would be so much easier if women would communicate like we do: grunts, a Yes or a No, a nod, etc. It’s not complicated. Food? Yes. Sex? Yes. Spend money. No. Talk? Nah – would rather watch TV.

I have one male friend who literally takes pride in his short email answers. I rarely receive more than a short sentence response to any email I send him. Frankly, I do communicate more like the average female and enjoy extended writing, discussions about emotional issues, family dynamics, and talking about relationships of every kind.

Heck, I even prefer some chick flicks to violent action/horror movies. That said, I prefer a straightforward answer. I like to fix a problem rather than belabor it.

3. Women prefer to talk, to meet in person

I think the only time a woman would prefer not to meet in person is to break up with a guy. Then, preferring to avoid conflict, she might take the chicken route and send an email or text. Of course, guys do the same so this is a gender-neutral example of relationship cowardice.

But, in most all other matters, women prefer to talk, to meet, to discuss, and perhaps – from a man’s viewpoint – beat the subject to death. Again, it comes down to a general stylistic difference in our communication preferences. I’m not expressing favoritism over one or the other.

However, in most situations women will get together and hash it out whether it’s a personal problem, a family situation, business, etc. Men might get together, but they prefer to quickly finish whatever the issue is and then have a beer.

4. Men communicate about the Macro with their friends, while women lean towards the Micro

In some ways, this is an elaboration of #2. Men generally avoid discussing intimate stuff with their male friends while women generally enjoy discussing personal issues with their female friends. Men would rather talk about the “Big” issues of the day whether it is serious like politics and world issues or really important ones, like sports.

Women, on the other hand, while they certainly care about politics and the world, will choose to go into greater detail about personal issues regarding family, their health, diet, dress, marriage, etc.

Men would prefer water boarding to having to discuss some of those topics.

The comments that the first column in this series generated were quite interesting. In many ways, they reflected exactly the sex differences I’ve begun to expose in this series. In other ways, I was pleasantly surprised at the agreement expressed by many of the comments from the women. I hope the dialogue will continue. Next up in this series: the differences in how we choose our partners/spouses.

Please read and/or comment on any of the other columns in the Men vs. Women series.

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  • Greta

    Generally correct, although I do think a lot of this is talking about ‘typical’. Not all women work in groups. And I have to tell you, male politicians could out-verbiage just about anybody. Including female politicians. Maybe it’s their feminine side shining through?

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      We agree, Greta!

  • ginavalley

    I tend to agree with  most of your generalizations. I tend to be more along the “man” attitude with communication,  I so often am thinking while I listen to someone prattle on needlessly endlessly,”What is your point?!?!?”
    I’ve never expected mind reading.  I think anyone that does is just not using their mind. If you don’t say what you want, how does anyone know what you want?
    On the other hand, anyone, male or female, that knows so little about their partner as to  be unable to pick out a gift that is even somewhat within their tastes is coping out and not pulling his/her share of the emotional relationship.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Ha ha, Gina…I’m not coping out by wanting to know what my wife wants as a gift…I just don’t want to spend the money on THAT ridiculously expensive handbag or yet another piece of jewelry!

      • ginavalley

        I wasn’t referring to you at all.  I think asking is a great idea.  It shows you want to get it right. Honestly, I was thinking of my own ex’s excuses for not gifting at all or for giving me what he wanted for himself.  

        I have often heard others, men and women, say they have no idea what to get their mate.  Even if we don’t know the exact item, surely we must have some idea we can have them narrow down for us.  Sometimes knowing that there is something that only they can reveal to us shows as much insight as knowing what they want on our own.  Sounds like you are smartly in the previous category and asking is a great idea, IMHO.  I’ve often opened things and thought I wish  he’d asked me instead of throwing money at it.

        Of course, a topic for another day is why are they requiring a particular gift in the first place.  Shouldn’t a gift be happily received simply because it is a token of esteem, or, I suppose, lack of esteem, as the case may be, rather than the item the giftee “wanted”? :-)

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Thx for the clarification Gina. What a bad feeling it is when you open a gift from someone close and you instantly look at it, knowing they “got it all wrong,” but they’re looking at you with such excitement thinking they go it just right. You’re stuck. What good does that do? Why not just ask to be sure…oh well, I’m just a guy, what do I know?

  • http://twitter.com/profkrg Kenna Griffin

    No. 2 and No. 3 sound nothing like me. My communication is generally short and I hate talking things out in person. I would much rather just send a short message. And the telephone? Ugh. I would rather do just about anything but talk on the phone. 

    However, No. 1 probably is a lot like me. Fortunately, Jeff and I have been together so long that he’s pretty damn good at reading my mind.

    Interesting, stereotypical post.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx Professor…Good for Jeff that he’s gotten adept at reading your mind. Actually, I can read your mind, too – whenever I make one of my stereotypical comments about journalism…I KNOW what you’ll think/say! Xoxo

  • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

    As usual, the cartoons throughout are absolute classics. I loved the brain maps!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx, BV…I noticed you didn’t wade into the waters…LOL!

  • Daisymcgarr

    I must admit that I fit most of these examples, with exception of mind reading. While it would be nice sometimes, having my mind read could be problematic most of the time, and completely unreasonable to expect. My son and I had a conversation about this very thing last night. Like a typical guy, he wanted to solve my problem, but I just wanted him to listen.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Voila! THAT is exactly how we interact!

  • http://twitter.com/RT_Promotions Richard Mack

    Very good – now, if only I could remember all this stuff and apply it…..

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      LOL…I can’t remember much these days either…

  • http://daniel-dinnie.wozaonline.co.za/ Daniel Alexander Dinnie

    Of course men and women are different. The quicker that society can accept that and accept the fact that different doesn’t mean worse, the better.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Daniel, you say “Of course” like that is what our kids are taught in college or what is being taught in “Women’s Studies” departments…MANY believe our only difference lies between our legs – rather than between our ears!

      • http://daniel-dinnie.wozaonline.co.za/ Daniel Alexander Dinnie

        You make a good point Bruce. I used my brain to come to a conclusion, and often I assume others do the same. Sadly though, most people only believe what they read or are taught. The differences between the sexes is something that I’ve written about in my next book. I assume from your comment that you don’t approve of the message taught in “women’s studies.” I don’t know enough about what they do teach, but what I do know, I don’t agree with. Men and women are different. However, different doesn’t mean bad. Women are awesome in some ways, and in other ways men are great. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s only when we embrace that, that we’ll be able to live in harmony :)

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          I completely agree Daniel. I’d actually like to hear from a “Women’s Studies” professor – or student – as to their views on this subject!?

          • http://daniel-dinnie.wozaonline.co.za/ Daniel Alexander Dinnie

            That’s a great idea.
            Maybe i should interview someone who studies gender issues, or whatever it’s called here (South Africa).
            I’ll send out a tweet.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            Can’t WAIT for a Women’s or Gender Studies professor or student to weigh in! #DadChat

          • Guest

            Don’t hold your breath.  The strange world of Women’s Studies (see Professing Feminism) in known for shutting down heretics like you.  It’s enraging that our tax dollars fund bigoted ‘disciplines’ like this one but that’s probably because most male professors in the Ivory Tower today need some serious testicular reclamation…at least according to no less than Christina (Who Stole Feminism) Hoff Sommers.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            I see why you commented as “Guest” – but I largely agree!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sarea.clark Sarea Clark

    I tend to think more like a guy, and my girlfriends have picked up on that!  When they start telling me about something going on in their life, they preempt it by saying “I just want you to listen, not fix it.”, or “I am open to your suggestions.” I try to tell them that men would LOVE that kind of information as well!  ;-)

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx Sarea…I keep on expecting more blowback and instead I’m finding more general agreement…makes me happy but blowback brings more people! LOL…

      • http://www.facebook.com/sarea.clark Sarea Clark

        I can bring bring blowback if you want it (you just have to communicate that to me)…LOL  Sincerely, Devils Advocate

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          That’s okay @facebook-557865606:disqus - wait until the next one – on the differences between how men and women choose their partners!

  • Guest

    One male communicator who I really enjoy is Daddy Justice: http://daddyjustice.com/wp/  Wish there were some Dad’s like him here in SB to clean house.

  • David Weber

    My lady friend and I recently threw a successful  sixtieth birthday party for me. About fifty friends and acquaintances attended.  The day after, I called my mother and gave her a brief (approx. 3-4 min.) report on the party.  The following day my lady friend called my mother (they get along very well) and spent almost an HOUR on the phone telling her what happened almost minute-by-minute at the party, what people were wearing, who attended, what songs the band played and more.   Same party, two reports that differed in scope and detail.  I had issued merely headlines to my mother;  my friend produced for her  “the rest of the story.”  In comments posted earlier in response to this column, I encountered the following argument (which I’ve stitched together from the interchange between Bruce and Daniel, one of the commentators): >>>> Many “Women’s Studies” professors teach our kids that our only difference lies between our legs  rather than between our ears! The quicker that society can accept that men and women are different, and the fact that different doesn’t mean worse, the better.<<<<   Many times in his writings, Bruce has suggested  that women’s studies professors teach that men and women are not different.  I routinely post a comment expressing my disagreement with that suggestion. Our  point-counterpoint has probably begun to sound like the dialogue from the 1954 movie, Marty:  “What do you wanna do tonight, Marty?” “I dunno, Ange, what do you want to do?”   I have a horse in this race, though. As a college professor, I consider every inaccurate portrayal of the academic world as something that could further erode  whatever respect  that endeavor may still have—which is to say, darn little.  So today, when I read that same suggestion below in the dialogue between Bruce and Daniel, I walked down the corridor to ask the faculty member in my department (Communication) who teaches women’s studies courses   what he thought of the claim that people in his field are teaching that men and women are not different.   My colleague explained that in the early 1970s, when the first women’s studies programs emerged in colleges and universities, a few women’s studies courses did contain lessons built around the proposal that men and women were not different.  At the time, making that proposal was known as strategic essentialism.  That is, if and when the idea of “no difference” was ever taught, it was done in order to quickly  gain attention—and in so doing, procure resources—for programming in women’s studies.   So, promoting the idea of “there’s no difference” was less a serious attempt to build a credible theory and more an approach to gaining visibility, even notoriety, in the sclerotic academic world of the day.   Many academic professionals crave visibility and resources, and notoriety is one good way to acquire them!  The claim of “there’s no difference”  has long since disappeared from women’s studies curricula, however—and rightly so, since it was never taken seriously by most of the few people who voiced it!   To say that our college students are being taught “there’s no difference”  is to be  F*O*U*R   D*E*C*A*D*E*S  behind the times; and even back in the day, the proposal  was, as a learning point in women’s studies, neither widespread nor common.Finally…if you can recommend as a technique for testicular reclamation (see the comment below by Guest), I want to know it, as almost all my fellow sixty-year-old men surely would!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      So, WHAT do they teach now in “Women’s Studies” courses, Professor? And, more importantly, how does such a degree give the graduate ANY job prospects except for teaching in “Women’s Studies?” 

      BTW, to paragraph a comment, you just have to add a line…hit return a couple of times.

      Am I to gather that it was “okay” to essentially promote a lie simply to get funding? So, those students in those classes back then were LIED TO so attention could be drawn to the department? Is that what you’re saying?

      • Guest

        I’d like to ask the esteemed professor whether the Women’s Studies coven in his esteemed academic institution brings Undressing Feminism, Professing Feminism, and/or Who Stole Feminism into course work today? 

  • David Weber

    Daggone it!  The paragraphing function (in the comment I just posted)…what happened to it?  Sorry, readers.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      BTW, David, I really liked your relating how you and your “woman friend” described your birthday party to your mom…THAT is exactly the points I was making in the column. Loved that!

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  • Mark

    I really only believe that this is true to some extent and only applies to certain males(and females). A lot of what you talk about is what the media tells men to be and men then conform to this. Men are TAUGHT not to share there feelings with other men. Most of my friends who are what you would call very masculine talk openly about there feelings once they realise I’m not your typical male football loving, beer swilling, sex mad goon, which is how you portray men here. It’s more likely that you have been influenced by a rigidly male stereotype portrayed through the media and you DESIRE to fit that ‘masculine’ constructed structure because it then makes you feel more secure that you are oh so male! Articles like yours are very damaging to how men perceive themselves.Esp younger men.