Men and women have been misunderstanding each other since the beginning of time. This misunderstanding is rooted in the basic differences between men and women themselves. Men seek independence and women seek intimacy. Women often do what’s asked of them while men tend to resist anyone telling them what to do. When discussing problems, men give advice while women empathize with each other. For men, talk is informational. For women, talk is interactional. As far as women are concerned, talk holds relationships together. For men, actions hold relationships together.
Why do men and women communicate differently? Some of the differences can be explained by the biological and physiological differences between men and women. However, environment is also a factor. When children are babies, they are spoken to and treated differently according to their gender. Studies have shown that females generally receive more verbal and emotional interaction which teaches them the importance of relationships. Males, on the other hand, are given more freedom and left to play with objects which encourages them to become task oriented.
As children grow up, they spend most of their early childhood playing exclusively with groups of the same gender. Boys generally play outside in large hierarchal groups with leaders. Giving orders and making people obey is what creates status in the hierarchy. Girls usually play in small groups, often just in pairs. For girls, a best friend is the center of their social life. Intimacy is crucial in these small groups. Girls engage in games in which everyone gets a turn, there are no winners or losers, and they communicate to each other through suggestions and compromise.
The following suggestions will help you to incorporate what we know about differences between men and women and strengthen your relationship through stronger and more supportive communication.
1. Recognize the differences in the way men and women communicate
If you are aware and informed about your spouse’s style of communication you will be less likely to become hurt or offended by their response. You will instead be able to see the good intentions behind their way of reaching out to you and feel appreciation instead of resentment. After all, the support and love of a partner is more important than the way in which they provide it.
2. Learn how to respond to your spouse
For example, a husband can learn that his wife just needs a listening ear rather than her problem solved and a wife can learn that her husband is showing love for her by trying to solve her problem. The end result of this might be that instead of turning to her husband for empathy, the wife learns to seek his advice when she has a problem with which she actually needs help. As a consequence, the wife receives the assistance that she needs and the husband is able to feel successful in making his wife happy.
3. Compromise and adjust
Each partner should learn to communicate in the style of their spouse. For instance, a husband could learn to empathize and tell his wife that she is right to feel angry, sad, disappointed, etc. He could listen quietly and nod as she laments her situation. A wife can learn to reassure her husband that she has confidence in his ability to solve his problem. She can say things like, “I know you will figure this out. You have dealt with worse than this before.” Or she can offer up ways that she would handle the same situation. Learning to support your spouse in the way that he or she needs to be supported is a great way to show them that you care about their needs.