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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