Are Men and Women from Different Planets? (4)

Susan Broadwell

Communication Between Men and Women :: Part 4

Have you ever had a conversation that went something like this?

Mary comes home from an exhausting day of classes and sorority stuff. Tom (her boyfriend) calls her and asks if she wants to go out to dinner in a little bit. She’s excited because she wants and needs to share her feelings about the day.

As they sit down at the table in the restaurant, she says, “There is so much to do; I don’t have any time for myself.”

Tom says, “You should drop a class and quit doing so much for the sorority. You don’t have to work so hard. Just slow down a little bit.”

Mary says, “But I like my classes and all the sorority stuff I do. It’s just that the professors surprise us so much with extra work each week and they just expect me to change everything at a moments notice.”

Tom says, “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just do what you can do both in the classes and cut back on sorority stuff.”

Mary says, “I am! Oh my gosh!”

Tom says, “What?”

Mary says, “I can’t believe I completely forgot to call my best friend from high school today!”

Tom says, “Don’t worry about it, she will understand.”

Mary says, “Do you know what she is going through right now? She needs me.”

Tom says, “You worry too much, that’s why you’re so unhappy.”

Mary angrily says, “I am not always unhappy. Can’t you just listen to me?”

Tom says, “I am listening!”

Mary says, “Never mind! Why even bother?”

Ever have this happen to you? After this conversation Mary is now more frustrated than when she arrived home and Tom called her. Tom is also frustrated and has no idea what went wrong. He wanted to help, but his problem-solving tactics didn’t work.

For the past few months I have been talking about the differences between men and women and how we can communicate better. Last month, I talked about difference number two: that men morph into Mr. Fix-It and women can morph into Ms. Home Improvement.

Once a man understands a woman and her needs, he learns he needs to just listen as a woman needs to talk about problems to get close, and not necessarily to receive solutions. If a man understands this, he will learn to listen patiently with out offering solutions.On the other hand, once a woman understands a man and his needs, she learns to stop giving advice and trying to correct the man and will wait till he asks for her advice. Otherwise she gives him the message that he is not good enough or competent enough to figure it out on his own.

For example – Tom and Mary were going to a party. Tom was driving. After about 20 minutes and going around the same block a few times, it was clear to Mary that Tom was lost. She finally suggested that he call for help. Tom became very silent. They eventually arrived at the party, but the tension from that moment persisted the whole evening. Mary had no idea of why he was upset.

From his side, he was offended. What he heard was “I don’t trust you to get us there. You are incompetent!”

Mary could not appreciate how important it was for Tom to accomplish his goal without help. Offering advice was the ultimate insult.

What Mary should have done is assume Tom could solve his problem—unless he asks for help. This is very hard for women to do. It’s against her nature.

Here are some brief examples of ways a woman might unknowingly annoy a man by offering advice or seemingly harmless criticism. As you explore this list, remember that these little things can add up to create big walls or resistance and resentment. See if you can recognize why the man might feel controlled by these statements.

When a Man resists Ms. Home-Improvement

1. “How can you think of buying that? You already have one.”
2. “Those dishes are still wet. They’ll dry with spots.”
3. “Your hair is getting kind of long, isn’t it?”
4. “There’s a parking spot over there, turn the car around.”
5. “You want to spend time with your friends, what about me?”
6. “Don’t put that there. It will get lost.”
7. “Why are you waiting for a table? Didn’t you make reservations?”
8. “Your room is still a mess. How can you live in here? When are you going to clean it up?”
9. “You forgot to bring it over to me again. Maybe you could put it in a special place where you can remember it.”
10. “You’re driving too fast. Slow down or you’ll get a ticket.”
11. “I didn’t know where you were. You should have called.”
12. “Those potato chips are too greasy. They’re not good for your heart.”
13. “Your shirt doesn’t match your pants.”
14. “Bill called for the third time. When are you going to call him back?”

(from the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus pg. 25 and pg. 27)

Here are some brief examples of ways a man might mistakenly invalidate feelings and perceptions of a woman, or offer unwanted solutions when she needs empathy and nurturing. See if you can recognize why she would resist.

When a Woman Resists Mr. Fix-It

1. “You shouldn’t worry so much.”
2. “But that is not what I said.”
3. “It’s not such a big deal.”
4. “OK – I am sorry. Now can we just forget it?”
5. “Why don’t you just do it?”
6. “You shouldn’t feel hurt, that’s not what I meant.”
7. “So what are you trying to say?”
8. “How can you say that? Last week I spent the whole day with you. We had a great time.”
9. “I got it; this is what you should do.”

10. “Look, there is nothing we can do about it.”
11. “If you are going to complain about doing it, then don’t do it.”
12. “Why do you let people treat you that way? Forget them!”
13. “All right, then you can do it from now on.”
14. “From now on I will handle it.”
15. “Of course I care about you. That’s ridiculous.”
16. “Would you get to the point?”
17. “That’s not at all what happened.”
(from the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus – pg. 25-29)

You can see how conflict can happen easily if you look at these lists. Men don’t realize how they innocently invalidate women’s feelings and women don’t realize how they innocently criticize a man and tear him down.

Next month I will explore this topic more and continue talking about how to understand each other and how to communicate better in these areas.

Susan Broadwell has been on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for 15 years at Virgina Tech. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Dave, for 14 years and is a mom of three children. There are two girls, an eight and five-year-old and a son who is four and a half-months-old.

One Response to “Are Men and Women from Different Planets? (4)”

  1. scott johnson Says:

    If you don’t know that women and men are two different animals that if willing, function amazing together… now you know. Understand that there is great opportunity to be complimented by your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend that you cannot find in your frat brother of sister. Enjoy the differences and praise them for being made perfectly to be strong where you are weak.

    What an awesome gift to have someone pick up your slack, while being able to help them as well.

    FIJI ‘AO’

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