Women... I hate to say it.... but we're failing.
We're failing in the one area we spend the most time doing - communicating.
I've learned that saying a lot of words doesn't mean you're getting a point across.
So here are 3 things that women are doing wrong when communicating with men and what we can do to fix it.
1. Women expect men to communicate like we do, and because of that men avoid doing it
Many times, women mistakenly assume that men have "issues with communication" when the real issue is in our failure to understand that men communicate differently. Most men are excellent communicators. But we do them an injustice when we look for them to communicate like a woman would.
Women are very detail-oriented - we're storytellers. Men are very direct and concise - they get straight to the point with no detours. Women will go "over the meadow and through the woods" before we actually get to the point of what we're trying to say (that's if we don't transition into a completely unrelated topic in the process). What takes a woman 20 minutes to communicate can be said by a man in less than 10 words.
Instead of giving all the details up front, try communicating the point of what you're trying to say first. Then, allow him to ask questions to help him build onto the conversation with exactly what he wants to know. This will also create a give-and-take rhythm to the conversation so that you aren't doing all of the talking, giving him a chance to zone out.
2. Know your audience - Men are fixers, Women are feelers
When asked why men shut down during conversation, Stephen J. Thurston once said, "Women are spaghetti, men are waffles." He explained that women are flexible - we're able to take twists and turns and bend in every possible direction. But men are like waffles. They have boxes and compartments - they don't allow anything into their box unless they can conquer it. Because men are fixers, it threatens their very makeup and identity when they are faced with a problems that they can't solve.
Here lies the conflict: Women need to vent.
It's dangerous for us to keep our feelings bottled up. But when we vent to a man, we are essentially dumping a butt-ton of issues in front of them that they can't solve. And even if they offer us solutions to what we're venting about, we get offended because that's not what we're seeking from them - we simply want a safe space to talk about our thoughts and emotions. This causes 1 of 2 responses from a man - either they shut down or they snap out.
Option 1- Save the venting for your girlfriends, complete with every juicy detail!
Option 2- Communicate your intentions for the conversation. If you just need to vent, let him know that you aren't looking for him to solve any problems but that you just need him to be there and listen. Try to limit this to around 5 minutes, unless he asks for follow up questions.
Any longer than that and they will either zone out, making you feel like they don't care, or they will start throwing solutions at you because they just can't help it!
3. Stop rushing - "now" isn't always an option
Men need time to open up. Women, on the other hand, stay open.
It makes me think of a first date. When we first meet a guy, we have a tendency to ask all of these deeply emotional and penetrating questions. And if they shy away or have to think about the answers, we write them off as "out of touch" or "emotionally unavailable."
As women, we have to understand that a level of trust and intimacy is required to get certain answers from a man. That takes time to build. It's not fair to step on the scene, demanding answers and then rejecting them if we don't get them on our terms.
Not to mention, it takes a women seconds to determine the what & why of the emotions she's feeling at any given moment. It can take a man DAYS to identify an emotion and the source of it. Sometimes, they truly don't yet have the answers to "What's on your mind?" or "Just tell me how you feel!"
Patience! Allow him time and space to figure things out, even during real-time conversations. Stay in the present. Tackle the issue or subject at hand and fight the urge to bring up similar situations that went unresolved in the past.
If you pause and he doesn't begin speaking right away, don't begin speaking again. Allow him as long of a pause as he needs to think about what you just said, consider a response, and communicate that to you. And if he needs a short break or even a day from the conversation, allow him that. Come to an agreement on how long that break should be and commit to revisiting the conversation later. And when you do, let him have the floor first.
Women, we hold some of the most influential positions in the lives of our men. As much as we need a safe space to communicate with them, they need the same from us, if not more so! A little time, patience, and understanding can go a long way if you let it.