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’m 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 five tips to communicating with a man:
We meant what we said. Often not what you heard. That is true 99 percent 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.