Gender Differences in Communication

Although much of the world has moved to a community based on gender equality, there is still a great deal of interest in the differences between men and women. When it comes to relationships, attempting to understand one another can go a long way toward developing harmony. Understanding the gender differences in communication should help resolve and prevent conflict and, hopefully, draw couples closer together.

How men and women are different

John Gray, author of the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," argues that men and women are entirely different. His view is that the differences in the two genders are driven by entirely different needs, values and, important to note, communication styles. The book became a best seller that presented the differences between men and women in a lighthearted, honest and accessible fashion. When most conversations about men and women looked at equality, this book suggested that the idea of accepting differences was entirely all right.

How men and women talk about their problems

When discussing problems, men and women are looking for very different outcomes. Women want somebody who listens and empathizes with them. More often than not, they are not looking for someone to help them "fix" the problem. Instead, they want someone who understands how they feel and who allows them to express their anxieties and concerns. Men, on the other hand, are very solution-driven. They want a listener who can come up with an answer, even if one is not really possible.

Conflict between men and women

These inherently different needs frequently lead to conflict. Women have a tendency to offer advice. To men, this leads to accusations that they "think they know everything." To a man, this is a threatening behavior. He will see the solution to the problem as something that he should be able to deliver. Any attempt by the woman to do this is a challenge to his competency as man. Conversely, men are inclined to go into solution mode. This very often oversimplifies a problem and ignores some of the more-sensitive issues involved. The woman accuses the man of "ignoring how she feels," and a barrier arises.

When women talk and men don't

In terms of crisis, the two genders react in very different ways. Women need to talk about their problems. They might do so with friends, with family, with colleagues or their respective partners. They might do so with all those people. They are seeking empathy and comfort, as this helps them feel emotionally equipped to deal with the challenges.

Men are the opposite. They will become introverted and withdrawn. They will not choose to talk about an issue, assuming that any request for help is a sign of weakness. These conflicting behaviors can be very damaging to relationships at a time of crisis.

Understanding the differences in gender communication can help couples identify traits and behaviors, both in their partners and in themselves. Acknowledging these differences doesn't mean trying to change them. It is very difficult to change generations of social and genetic conditioning. Empathizing and attempting to adapt, even just a little, is an entirely positive course of action and can lead to much more rewarding relationships for both men and women.

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