Guys, women…you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them…right?
Well, if you thought things were hard before what about today’s social climate for intergender relating? What a mess, eh? The old “rules” and ways of doing things don’t work anymore. Women want respect (wasn’t I doing that before you say), they want to be empowered (they weren’t before? you say) and they want to have their wishes and desires honored and satisfied. It’s a new world, guys, and it is time to start learning how to navigate it.
How, how, how?! How do men talk and interact with women now? I know there is a growing number of men saying they are through trying. They feel betrayed by women, confused and discouraged. Maybe you are in that place as well. That’s OK. There is nothing wrong with your feelings. Truthfully, that’s one of the important lessons in this new world. Just be sure that you truly want to go your own way and leave women behind. Some of you are still sitting on the fence over all of this-ouch! Let’s get you off that place. For those of you still in the field, there are things you can do to keep from getting trampled in the midst of this social change. And maybe bring some of you down off the fence.
Time to define some terms here. I am using binary language. Huh, you say? I am using the terms men and women. What I really should say is male-bodied or masculine people and female-bodied or feminine people. Men can be feminine and vice versa. Recognition of this is part of the social environment that is changing and allowing for it is important. I will talk about this more in other blogs. Understanding will come later for you. For now, to keep it easier for those that have not yet made the shift, I will use “men” to refer to male-bodied masculine people and “women” to refer to female-bodied feminine oriented people.
Let’s look at the issue first. Women. What they want and how they see men. And how they communicate. Communication is different for the genders. Some of this difference is cultural, some biochemical. I don’t want to spend time talking about the biochemical, neurological and hormonal differences that lead to different communication styles here. Once again, another blog perhaps. But in my academic and scientific readings, instruction from mentors, coaches and from women themselves, I have learned that women communicate to connect. Men communicate to share information or to fix a situation.
And so, in general, women seek connection and understanding. They want to feel the other person, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. They crave connection. Men, in general, haven’t been trained to feel. If anything, culture teaches men NOT to feel. Feelings are unimportant at least, dangerous at worst. So feelings are not central to the male condition. This creates disconnection when communicating with women. Women feel unheard or invisible, disrespected. It’s not that the man is trying consciously to make them feel that way but it is the by-product of the direct way men communicate. Men aren’t aware of this and don’t understand why their attempts to fix or correct or control aren’t appreciated or understood. And women see men as distant and unfeeling, lacking in understanding. Men see women as a confusing, chaotic mess, inscrutable and incapable of being pleased. Wow. What an impasse!
Let me suggest some communication tools to help with this impasse.
First, for the ladies.
- Get the guy’s attention by expressing gratitude for something about him. Maybe saying something like “I love how you always make sure the car is in good shape for us. You pay such attention to details.” When he feels sincerely appreciated he begins to open up. He can listen better.
- Then tell him how this makes you feel using words like “safety”, “protected” or “cared for”.
- Connect with his heart, eyes and emotions.
- Make him feel heroic, even if the task is menial.
- Be direct when you speak. Vagueness leads to not listening and confusion.
- Ask if you were clear enough..
Now the guys.
- Start by putting your attention on her.
- Take a deep breath and feel your feet on the floor. This will center your attention and make it easier to hear her words, emotions, body language and be more present for her.
- What she says may hit your ego. Take a deep breath and let the hit brush off your shoulders. Her emotions are important for her. Listen and give her space to have those emotions. It takes time and work to develop an ability to not take her words personally, even when they seem personal.
- Don’t respond angrily, like a defensive child. You are stronger and better than that.
- Ask non-judgemental questions.
- And if she is asking you to do something for her, repeat back what she has requested when she is done to be sure you understand it. She will feel listened to, heard and respected.
A personal anecdote will help with this a bit. My beloved wife Belinda likes her toasted cheese sandwiches done a particular way. I am an eat-whatever-doesn’t-run-too-fast kind of guy. When I would make a toasted cheese sandwich for her I didn’t do it “right”. She expressed to me how wonderful it was that I would prepare them for her. I was taking care of her. AND, she would love it even more if I could do them a certain way. She spent the time to show me how to make them. I could’ve gotten miffed and said “well you fix them then” or felt resentful and buried it. Instead, I set my ego aside and learned how to do it the way she preferred. She was happy and made me feel better for taking care of her in a way that felt good. We both took the time to be respectful and grateful.
Of course this isn’t just a simple activity. It takes work and practice. Getting help from a disinterested third party (a coach) can help with the development of this skill. School didn’t teach you this. Most don’t learn it growing up. It’s new to you. So be compassionate with yourself, your partner and give it time. This makes for a happier and healthier relationship. The benefits are worth it! And addressing women with respect and men with gratitude will help make the grand social shift occur.