Men tell stories. It’s just what we do. Narrative is the way we share information.
“Is that desk heavy? Let me tell you about the time I helped my cousin move.”
“You think your girlfriend is clingy? The girl I was with in ’05 would put her to shame”.
Pay attention to a group of men talking and see how much time is spent in story and how much is spent on emotion. The stories we use are plot driven. What does a plot require? Beginning, middle, and end. Advance the story. Get from point A to point B promptly and keep it entertaining.
Emotions? Only if it helps advance the plot. You were feeling sad? It better have something to do with a terrorist killing your dog and your relentless pursuit of justice. None of that? Just sad? I believe you have wasted my time, sir.
Ladies, the point of telling you this is not so you can know the secret code of male communication. It’s so you understand we work off of finite information. Facts, figures and statistics are the way we sort and communicate.
Men size each other up in group settings. “I think I could take that guy in a fight.”
How do women size each other up? “I wonder if everyone thinks she’s prettier than me.”
Men can easily determine the answer to the question out in the parking lot. The answer to the women’s question can vary and is in the eye of the beholder. It’s the difference between report and rapport. A good book for understanding these differences is You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen.
That’s why you think most men aren’t good listeners. They may be trying, but you’re speaking about things that don’t have a point…by his normal communication. Let’s say you want to vent, so you’re telling a man in your life about some problems or feelings.
What do you want? To be affirmed and to felt understood.
What does he do? He tries to be helpful and fix it. Otherwise, what was the point of the story?
Men are not devoid of emotions. The fact that we don’t talk about them much and they aren’t always the topic of discussion is because those are things that don’t drive the story. Plus, anything other than anger or awesomeness shows vulnerability. Wish your boyfriend/ friend/ husband was more in touch with his emotions? No you don’t. You already have plenty of girl friends.
This is why last week’s “Dear Adam” was helpful for men everywhere. A decoder blog, if you will. Subtleties are often too subtle. Again, we work off of finite information; we speak in finite information. (And when I say “we” I leave out the subgroup of skinny jean hipsters discussing the emotive differences between Keats and Whitman. I’m not even sure if those are both poets. I think I remember both names from a literature class in high school, and I refuse to Google the truth.)
Some men may try to communicate with you in your preferred style with lots of emotion and affirming feedback. Have you ever seen a bear riding a bicycle at a circus? That’s about how natural it is. They deserve credit for the effort.
I have gotten in trouble a few times for things I’ve communicated – a certain look, a smile when I shouldn’t have, not enough eye contact, etc. Why? Because women tend to communicate on more levels than just language. Men use words almost exclusively – unless it’s on the subconscious level (and I’ll leave that one for the Learning Channel). By the way, the things I got in trouble for had nothing to do with what I was thinking. I was probably hungry and thinking about a sandwich.
Don’t be hard on men because of the way they communicate. It doesn’t mean that they’re disinterested, upset, annoyed, brooding or any of the 20 other things you may think they’re thinking. We just don’t communicate the same way.
*Photo credit: studiobeerhoorst