In my position, I hear from men and women continually. In most relationships — communication appears to be the biggest struggle. It’s a constant work in progress in my own marriage. The difficulty is in the way men and women communicate.
My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike — and these are generalities. I can’t emphasize that enough — so if you comment that these aren’t true for everyone — I with you! (Please re-read this statement.) The only way to know is to talk with the men with whom you are trying to communicate to see if these are true for them. My hope is that these — as general as they may be — may help some women better understand a man and improve communication. (The companion post will follow.)
Here are 5 tips to communicating with a man:
We meant what we said. Often not what you heard – That is true 99% of the time. (Statistically verifiable. 🙂 ) Men are usually more literal, and frankly simple-minded. Women may have multiple meanings with a statement. That’s less likely with men. So, when a man says something, try to hear only what was said — without attaching extra thoughts triggered by emotions. If in doubt, ask if his statement had a deeper meaning before making assumptions. Most likely he meant only nothing more than what was said. (I can’t tell you how many classic examples of marriage problems I’ve seen develop with just this one tip.)
We don’t often like to give details – If we said where we were going, who we had a discussion with or what we had for lunch, that’s usually enough for us. End of discussion. (At least in our minds.) We may not like going into detail beyond those simple facts. I understand you may need and even deserve more information. That’s especially true when a man has given reason to disprove his trustworthiness. In learning how to communicate, however, it’s important to know details may be out of his realm of comfort to provide. When it’s not a matter of trust, the less you pump for details the more likely he will be to share facts, and even occasionally, details. (For Cheryl and me, she has learned that if she gives me time, and especially if we are doing something together — like walking — that I’m more likely to share the details she wants without having to ask for them.)
Our range of emotions are limited – Most men don’t feel as deeply or multi-faceted as a woman feels about an issue. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we are wired differently. Because of this, men tend to communicate more factually and less emotionally.If you ask us how we feel “happy” or “sad” may be as descriptive as we can get for you. That may be it. I’ve heard so many wives who want to know their husbands “deeper” emotions. She may not understand that he’s shared the depth as well as he knows how to share them.
When you may tend to cry we may tend to get angry – I get criticized for this point sometimes, but it’s a difference in wiring. Please understand, there is never an excuse to misuse anger and abuse of any kind should not be tolerated. But anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible says “in your anger do not sin”, but it seems to assume we will have moments of anger. The same things that may cause female’s emotions to produce tears, often cause a man to develop anger. A godly man learns to handle that anger responsibly, but it doesn’t eliminate the response. When an issue riles a man emotionally, it helps if you understand his emotions may be normal and you may even be able to help him channel his response to that emotion. Cheryl does this for me continually.
Sometimes we have a hard time communicating what’s on our heart. often we never fully do – This is sad and we may even know it. Here’s a tip. When you make us feel we will be respected regardless of the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions.
Please understand. I’m not making excuses for men. The basic premise of all of these is to remember that men and women are different. I’m simply trying to help you communicate with a man.
Join the discussion 42 Comments
Do you think that men have more trouble, generally, having a three way or multiple input conversation than women? Or is that not a gender difference?
As a girl, I can really get some help from this writing. It is just awesome and surely, next time I will keep in mind everything your tips. ):
I had a relationship in which my girlfriend always cried. I tended to view this as I sign of weakness and now I realize that was a mistake and I was negatively affecting that relationship with that mindset. Maybe I could have saved it, but now I am married to a woman I love very dearly so I would prefer not to think like that. I also have always wondered if our culture didn't emasculate men who expressed tears in the same way women do (different from what I like to call manly tears for example saving a "brother " think Saving Private Ryan or in sports) maybe we could solve relationship issues easier.
You couldn't have said it better. We are practical, and rarely (or never) feel eager to talk about our emotions or put too much emphasis on a single thing. The clearer, the better.
Thanks for the helpful article Ron. I can definitely identify many (if not all) of these in my communication and those of other guys. I especially felt that this point hit it right on the head: "When you make us feel we will be respected regardless of the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions."
I have shared this others and it has already begun conversations in our group. Thanks!
Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Great reminder! I've been married for 31 years but I still need a refresher 🙂
Good information here. This can be as helpful for men as it is for women. Women tend to be perceived as more skilled socially. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Men simply tend to have different social sensibilities. However, assuming women are typically superior to men in this regard, I hold it as a Scriptural principle that the onus of humble condescension is on the one who is stronger at something. It is their job to build up whoever is weaker rather tear them down.
But this goes both ways. Each item in this list has a corollary for women in general that can help men understand their wives. I’ve often heard a man say that he can’t understand women. My stock response is that a man doesn’t have to understand women; he only has to understand one woman: his own wife. Studying how she differs from him in these categories can go a long way to helping him learn how to communicate with the one woman he needs to understand.
I just came across this post and wow is this fantastic. This one is getting shared on Reddit for sure. Great, useful information. Thanks for the article and keep up the great work!
This is very helpful. Would you have any research or experience with passive aggressive behavior. I have read some of the secular websites and it has helped some.
I have lots of experience with it. Not sure how skilled I am in dealing with it. I tend to address it head on. Thanks!Ron Edmondson
A-M-E-N to this post!
I've been sharing it around to friends like crazy! Thanks for all the good stuff you post, I've really been enjoying your blog.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks. I appreciate you reading!
This is a good post! The funny part is, some women will still look at this post, and us in general, as a lost cause. Not only are there differences, but they still have the same problem we do: We still need the other to really get through this life! I honestly think that angers some.
Unfortunately, you're right.
I guess that is where being lead by the spirit is important. In our flesh we tend to be selfish and just see our own perspective. It is quite painful when we are not understood. I am afraid today's society tends to disrespect men. Women have gone to the other extreme and have become so independent they are not patient and do not take the time to understand the man's point of view. I am afraid it took me a while and I still get frustrated. I like that we are given "tools" and that this gives us a realistic view we can use to go by. I couldn't do it with out the Lords help either. 😉
Yes. In our flesh we fail most of the time. Thanks!Ron Edmondson
I did not realize women's tears triggered men's anger. How intriguing! It's interesting to me because many women (yep, me) cry when we get angry. It's the female version of seeing red for a man. We've hit a wall and have no way of releasing the intense feelings, so we cry. When that happens to me, it's much better to leave me alone to talk it out with a girlfriend and then come back to the issue later with my husband. Female friends often will help a woman get a handle on the emotion and see perspectives. So guys, step back and give her space when she cries instead of charging in like a bull. We'll often have a better chat about it when we've both calmed down. But even better, ask if she needs space before pushing for the solution. That's when the explosions happen. Being cornered when either party can only act on emotion is a lose/lose!
Thank you for a great post on relationships,
Author of Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life
Thank you for your reply. Let me make sure I'm clear. I'm not saying women's tears produce men's anger. I'm saying that the things that would make you cry, would make us angry. To the same situation…your reaction may be tears…ours might be anger. Does that make sense?
Thanks for the link
Many thanks for sharing. Echoing what is said in the Bible about anger, I read in the Koran that glad tidings are promised to those who repress their anger (Chap 3 verse 134).
I'm a big fan of the Myers-Briggs, and I see a lot of the communication styles having more to do with personality preferences than with gender or sex, although there is correlation between gender/sex and the Feeling/Thinking dichotomy.
Thinkers tend toward analyzing rather than evaluating. Thinkers tend toward objective versus subjective. Thinkers focus on things rather that persons.
the fact is, it isn't that that men ARE this way, but TEND toward making decisions based on objective analysis; its not that women ARE this way, but TEND toward decisions based on subjective evaluations. There are women who score clearly on the Thinking side of the scale; men who score clearly on the Feeling.
Using personality-based understanding of communication style rather than gender based, I believe, helps protect against harmful implementation of existing gender/sex based stereotypes and helps focus on the traits of an individual, despite one's sex/gender.
Thanks Kurt. I do think this plays into it. I've actually written about this before concerning marriages and team-building. I'm certified in Myers Briggs. Good stuff. I still believe the male/female differences are huge too.
Yes! Kurt, thanks for saying this. My wife and I have observed this for a decade, since before we married. She's a "T" and I'm an "F." We had to learn how our personalities affected us specifically rather than trusting in generalities.
In seminary, I took a class about men's ministries. It bothered me that there was such a limited view about who men are and how you should create ministries and events for them.
By the way, I've heard some complain that MBTI puts you in a box, but with MBTI there are 16 boxes. With male-female generalities, there are just two, and there are too many exceptions for me to accept the generalities.
And I think there are bigger consequences when we say, "men are this way," and "women are that way." What happens in the minds of the 30% of the male population who feel more, prefer cooperation over competition, and want heart-to-heart communication when they are told that's feminine? And what about the 30% of the women who don't have such an emotional, complex, nurturing heart for others as they are told they should?
Sorry if I've gone on too long. I've just never seen a comment like this one, and it does my heart good to see others understand the nuances of people.
Great post Ron,
I agree with you about these points. Over the many years of being married I have found communication is key.
Great posting. It succintly reflects some deeper wisdom borne from experience. I'm looking forward to the "other side".
I see you also deal with leadership issues. How would you say gender dynamics impact leadership teams? Do you have any postings or thoughts on that?
Good thoughts for a future post. The differences certainly impact leadership issues.
I remember reading an article somewhere a couple of years ago, that in businesses, men and women working on a problem will come to the exact same conclusion about 80% of the time, but will get to that conclusion in significantly different ways, because of the differing ways in which men and women think and process information.
Interesting. Thanks for sharing this.