(This is our final spotlight on student writing from the January/February term. Jiwon Kim from South Korea examines the research on how men and women communicate. Go back and check out other featured work from levels 1, 2, and 3, level 4, and level 5 students. Read more student writing from the January/February term in the latest issue of The Globe.)
Have you ever seen or experienced an argument between men and women? I witnessed it three years ago. I’ve known that there have been arguments between my mom and dad. However, this was the first time I saw the beginning of an argument. The cause of the argument was not serious. We went to a restaurant to eat dinner, and my mom complained to my dad about her friends while we were waiting for our food. Her complaints continued even after the food was served. My dad told her that she should talk to her friends directly. Also, he added, “the situation won’t change even if you tell us about that.” At that time, my mom was annoyed and suddenly retorted, “You never listen to me!” My dad was irritated, too. Eventually, they paused the supper and fought in the parking lot. At that time, I was very confused. ‘What did they do?’, ‘Why are they fighting like that?’ I guess you might have also had experiences like this, either your own or others. Why do they argue over trivial things? Is there a big difference in their brains? Whether it is true or not, it is certain that men and women have gone through difficulties in communicating forever. It’s because they think differently, so they might misunderstand the meaning of the other’s words. Therefore, they should recognize the other gender’s psychological basis in order to help them understand each other.
Different Psychologic Basis
Before I start, I’d like to stress that these characteristics are generally based on gender, so it may not apply to all types of people. Then, let us know why men and women think differently. First, men and women put values in different areas. Men usually focus on objects and things rather than people or their feelings. They think that competency, efficiency, and achievement are valuable things, and those things can demonstrate their ability. In addition, men don’t want to talk about their problem to others except in the case when they truly need help from a specialist because they regard asking for help in spite of being able to solve their problem by themselves is a sign of weakness. As a result, if someone offers them help, men will try to give a hand to solve the issue efficiently and usefully. On the other hand, women are interested in relationships, love, and communication. They put values on sharing personal feelings and relating to others harmoniously rather than achieving their goals or good results. Also, women are concerned with helping others, healing others, and caring for others. They think that they are considerate when they help others without being asked, and they are proud of themselves after giving advice to others (Gray).
We learned the psychology of men and women. Therefore, we should examine how it works in conversations between men and women. How do they communicate differently? In general, the verbal language women often use has poetic expressions such as superlatives, metaphors, and generalizations. However, men understand these expressions by using the literal meaning. As a result, men get stressed when women use their poetic language, and it leads to conflicts. For instance, the number one complaint women have is “I don’t feel heard.” When she says that, she feels like that the man doesn’t try to understand her situation and doesn’t care about how she feels. Meanwhile, the man thinks that, “I have heard you until now!” Like this example, there are some situations which create trouble between men and women. I will address three cases to describe this and track the process of how the communication style causes misunderstandings between men and women.
All people have problems. It can be a very small one such as deciding a breakfast menu, and it can be a big one such as making about resigning from a company. Even, the same problem can be regarded on a different level depending on the person. Likewise, men and women use different ways to solve their problems. Based on the psychology of each gender, a man who has problem will do his best to solve it by himself before he asks for an expert’s advice. This is because it is an opportunity to show his competency. On the other hand, a woman who has a problem might share it with the people around her, and she will want them to feel empathetic. This is because she thinks it is a chance to make a deeper relationship with people. In conversations among those of the same gender, there are only a few troubles, but the situation will change in the talk between men and women. If a woman realizes a man has a problem, she will concentrate on his feelings first and talk about more than potential solutions. In contrast, if a woman tells a man about her problem, he will advise only the most effective solution. Eventually, the woman will think that their connection was weakened because he doesn’t appear interested in her feelings, and he will feel uncomfortable and think she tells too many details (Bradley).
In the Workplace
In the workplace, their communication styles are different, too. When they give an order, men speak directly because they always seek the most effective way. However, women tend to ask more softly than men such as “If you don’t mind…”, “Could you…?” because they worry that they will hurt the other’s feelings. In addition, women ask more questions than men. The common reason for questioning is acquiring new information. Nevertheless, women sometimes ask people about information which they may already know because they want to show an interest in order to develop intimacy. Another purpose is that women ask people questions. Consequently, men tend to talk briefly, and women speak more and longer. As a result of this inclination, when men speak to women in a direct way, women can misinterpret that, “He doesn’t like me,” “He is a rude person,” or “he upsets me even though I don’t know why.” (Thiederman).
Next, there are representative three gestures of body languages which are interpreted differently depending on gender. The first one is about one’s approach. In approaching someone, women prefer to be approached from the front rather than from the side because she can recognize the person and feel safe when people are in front of her. In contrast, men like to be approached from the side or at an angle because they feel approaching the front is too aggressive. Applying it to a real situation, when a man approaches a woman from the back and touches her shoulder, he doesn’t intend to make her feel horrified. Nevertheless, she will feel scared and be irritated despite his consideration. The second thing is nodding. Usually, men tend to nod only when they agree with another’s opinion. However, women nod to show that they are listening and encourage the speaker to continue. Thus, they often misunderstand each other. For example, while a man was talking about his parasailing experience, a woman was nodding continuously as a sign of listening. At that time, he misunderstood that it was a signal of agreement and asked her, “Did you try that, too? How was it?” On the other hand, if a man doesn’t nod while his girlfriend is talking to him, she will think that he isn’t listening to her and might be upset. Lastly, the third one is about touch. Men use touch as a sign of power. Among men, patting someone on the back or placing his hand on another’s shoulder can mean dominance, superiority, and control. Meanwhile, women enjoy a touch as a means of building a connection. Even if women pat men’s shoulder as a sign of intimacy, some men can understand that as signals of ascendancy (Edwards).
As you read above, the way of thinking by men and women is very different. Despite that, can we communicate well? How do we communicate well? There is some advice to follow.
Advice for Smooth Communication
The first thing is to know your partner. If you are a man, your partner would be concerned with understanding someone’s feelings and developing a relationship. Therefore, when she tells a story or talks about her problem, you should listen carefully and pretend to focus on her feelings by nodding or using expressions like, “Oh, you might have been upset,” “It’s not your fault.” even though you really don’t feel like that. Also, when you have problems, you should share them with your partner as much as possible. Of course it is hard for men to share their problems because they think that this kind of behavior indicates a weakness. However, sharing will convince her that you can trust and rely on her, and she will be proud of herself. On the other hand, if you are a woman, your partner would be interested in success, ability, and efficiency. Sometimes men go into a ‘cave’ where they want to be alone and have silent to solve their problem without any help or to find their identity. At that time, maybe he will be upset and stressed, but he won’t tell you that he needs to go into the ‘cave’ directly. Although you might worry that he doesn’t like you anymore or that he doesn’t care about you, you should wait and go about your regular routine and activities. Wait but don’t push him. Don’t ask if he feels better. Don’t offer solutions. Just wait for him trusting that he will solve the issue by himself. This trust will enhance his confidence and allow him to come out of his ‘cave’ finally (Gray).
To sum up, men and women always have arguments in their conversations. The reason for this is that their interests are different. Men focus on objects and results; moreover, they seek an efficient process to prove their competency. In contrast, women concentrate on people and feelings; moreover, they feel worth in giving advice, sharing emotions, and creating intimacy. This difference is revealed in the workplace, in the process for solving problems, and in nonverbal communication. Even though the difference in thinking is not a big matter, misunderstanding others can cause huge conflicts. Therefore, in order to have smooth conversations, we should know why the man/woman acts or thinks as they do, and try to consider these differences. Recently researchers have figured out that there is no difference between a man’s brain and a woman’s brain. They insisted that the difference between men and women is not because of their brain but from the different societal environment that men and women have experienced (Orr). To live in the world, we have to respect one another’s thinking and try to understand because all people think differently. If you blamed others for a different opinion, you would separate yourself from society. Likewise, you should not ignore and blame others because of the other gender’s features by saying, “I don’t understand men/women. They all are crazy.” Men and women have lived for a long time, and they can’t help living together forever. Because of that, they have to respect each other’s interests and ways of thinking and make an effort to adjust to each other.
- Bradley, Margrit. “Problem Solving — Differences Between Men and Women.” Healthguidance. Healthguidance, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.
- Edwards, Vanessa Van. “7 Body Language Differences of the Sexes.” Science of People. Science of People, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.
- Gray, John. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.
- Orr, Deborah. “Male and Female Brains Are the Same, but People Are All Different – and That Gives Me Hope.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 04 Dec. 2015. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.
- Thiederman, Sondra. “He Said, She Said.” Monster. Monster, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.