There are many differences between genders, not just physical, but mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally. It may be surprising to learn that men and women communicate differently.
Before proceeding, I feel it is important to say that not every male or female communicates in precisely the way I will be discussing. People are individuals, and I am not trying to put anyone into one particular box. However, the differences between males and females have been researched extensively by many, so I feel confident in acknowledging their existence.
I first became interested in this topic when I was in my first semester of graduate school at the University of Baltimore. One of my classes assigned a book that dedicated a chapter to gender differences and communication, and it fascinated me because I didn’t realize that these disparities were a documented observation. It helped me to understand how communication can easily break down in a relationship just because of these variations.
I want to clarify when I say, “communication” I don’t just mean speaking to one another, and the back and forth exchange in a conversation; I also mean, listening and body language as they too are essential elements of communication.
What are these differences?
Women often view communication as a way to vent or bond or put her thoughts in order. Women listen to understand and show empathy. Men communicate with a clear goal in mind and are often listening for the problem that needs to be solved.
Women tend to speak using more words. Many times just voicing her feelings or describing a situation to another can be therapeutic. In some cases, when a woman is explaining a situation she is merely looking for someone to hear what she is saying and get how she feels. Men tend to be more task-driven and therefore, communicate only the key points. Men like to provide guidance to tackle problems which is why they tend to advise after hearing a story. When a man needs to work through a problem rather than talking about it the way a woman would, he will become more introverted so that he can process and solve the issue on his own.
Where women seek out advice and consult others before making a decision, men prefer to make decisions independently. Women will ask questions to gain a better understanding; men typically see what they are being told as the bottom-line and do not make as many inquiries.
Women and men also use different body language when communicating with one another. Women make eye contact and like to sit facing one another when conversing; they also nod their head to show understanding. Men do not make as much eye-contact and can sit side-by-side with whom they are speaking and not have any issue. Men will often lean back and shift their bodies more and will nod their head to show agreement.
How do these differences in communication affect a relationship?
“I don’t feel like he cares about my feelings.”
“He doesn’t listen to me.”
“He shuts down when I am speaking to him when he is upset.”
“I am just trying to help, and she/ he doesn’t seem to want my advice.”
“She just goes on and on, and so I have to cut her off to get to her bottom line.”
“I thought she was agreeing with what I was saying, but turns out she wasn’t.”
“He completely missed the point of what I was trying to say.”
Do any of the above sentences sound familiar? These are real-life examples of what people have said about their significant others. Also, I know Bernard, and I have said most of them at one point to one another. The most prominent effects these differences can have are misunderstanding and a breakdown in communication which can lead to a whole array of issues in a relationship.
How can the knowledge of these differences affect your relationship?
Just being mindful of these discrepancies can have an impact. I have learned to back off when Bernard is upset and not bombard him with questions. Bernard has learned to nod his head and “mhmm” when I am speaking to him to let me know he is listening. It took us years to learn how to communicate better with one another so that our individual needs in our exchanges were met. The truth is, we are still learning and improving our communication skills with one another daily.
While I can’t promise or guarantee knowing these variations will change how you communicate with your significant other, it could help to build understanding which can only make your relationship stronger.