By Dr. Nussbaum
How many of you women have said this to a man in your life circle? How many of you men have heard this said about you by a woman in your life? The correct answer should be most of us. As a matter of fact, it is probably a normal response to a normal pattern of behavior. You probably never thought a normal behavior could be so frustrating!
This simple and frequently occurring interaction between men and women actually can lead to serious problems such as a company losing money because of poor communication between employees. Marriages also break up because of a lack of communication. There is, therefore, a reason to learn about this male-female communication thing.
Most men tend to rely primarily on their dominant brain hemisphere to process the world around them. This means that most (not all) men will be task oriented, problem solving, detailed, and literal animals in their daily lives. Most women (not all) will utilize their dominant brain hemisphere similar to men, but women also rely on their non-dominant hemisphere to process the world. Women will be better at process than men, will empathize and recognize emotion in others better than men, will be more social and interactive than men, and will “read between the lines” better than men.
The latter point is what underscores part of the communication breakdown between men and women. A woman may say something to a man and he will process the literal words and meaning of the words. He may even declare out loud that he can repeat the words just spoken by the woman with 100% accuracy. This may be true. However, the woman will declare, “you don’t listen to me”! How can this be?
The female is communicating meaning that goes beyond the literal words, perhaps in tone, body language, or even pace and inflection of speech. The man is not going to process this easily, at least not most of us men. This leads to frustration for men and women, as both believe they are communicating clearly.
The good news is that men and women can enhance their communication by working at it together. A woman can tell a man “I would have felt listened to if you would have said this… A man can check in with his female friend or partner and ask if what he said made “you feel like I was listening to you?” The key word there is “feel.”
I hope this brief and basic explanation helps to explain the normal pattern of communication between many men and women. Perhaps our understanding of our behavior can lead to practical steps to enhance our communication.