When Chris and I sat down to discuss how we wanted to kick off this Heart to Heart series, the first topic that came to mind was communication. It is important to understand how men and women differ when it comes to communication. It’s not that the way one communicates is right and the other is wrong, it’s just different. We have to learn to accept these differences, and find ways to be more effective with the opposite sex to better engage with one another. So for the next several blogs within this series, Chris and I are going to focus on just that. Before we dig in, I want to share this YouTube video called It’s Not About The Nail. Go ahead and watch this less than 2 minute video as it paints a perfect picture on how differently men and women communicate.
Now, keep that in mind as you read Chris’s blog post on how men communicate:
There was a statement I heard years ago that suggested the most interesting thing…that men were like waffles and women were like spaghetti. Obviously, waffles being an example of logical, symmetrical compartments, and spaghetti being an interconnected, interwoven network of strands. This was probably the closest illustration (in my mind) of how men think and communicate that I’ve heard. Since then, one of the most intriguing discoveries that I’ve made was the glaring difference between how men and women communicate with each other.
Let’s do an experiment: The next time you have an engaging conversation with a man, notice the number of times he says the words, “I think.” With the same level of intrigue, the next time you have a conversation with a woman, notice the number of times she uses the words, “I feel.” What you’ll begin to see is that, even when sharing facts, men “think” and women “feel.” Now that’s not to suggest that women don’t think and men don’t feel. But, what I will say is that it’s not our primary default. The revelation here is that men don’t engage their heart and emotions when communicating as often as women do. That said, please don’t misunderstand…men feel things very deeply…we just don’t often share deeply. I can hear you asking now, “Why is that?” Honestly, it boils down to a matter of safety and trust. I know what you might be thinking, “How does a big, strong warrior feel unsafe when it comes to communicating?” Easy. An arrow shot at his body can be blocked by his shield. However, an arrow shot at his heart is MUCH more difficult to defend against.
For most men, the last time they were regularly vulnerable while communicating was as a young boy…with his mother. Now, to be fair and equitable (because I’m a daddy), boys do share openly with their fathers. The most distinct difference is that most conversations with Dad are “how to” conversations. “Feelings” conversations are most often had with Mom. That was the last person he trusted to communicate exactly what he felt. When he was a boy, it was okay to cry when he was hurt. It was okay to express sadness when his best friend moved away or when he lost something he cared about. It was safe to fail because he would always be encouraged to try again…as if the expectation was that he was sure to win because he was reminded that he had what it took to succeed. That safety, that trust, faded for him around 7 or 8. That’s about the time when the affirmation for his accomplishments became expectations. That’s around the time when the response to failure changed from encouragement to chastising and critique…all without much warning. Being confused by the “shift,” all of the openness, transparency, and vulnerability was suffocated. The most devastating breach of his safety and trust came at the hands of the loving architect of his safe haven, his mother. In her defense, she was probably completely unaware that this catastrophic break had happened at her hands…but it did. It was then that his most tender emotion in communication was replaced with fiercely protective safe guards.
Most of what you, as a woman, experience when you communicate with a man (on an emotional level) is him working through his protective check list to see if you are safe and can be trusted. Because the flashbacks to that “shift” in his childhood are so intense…when he could no longer cry when he was hurt or was expected to “be strong,” or “suck it up/walk it off,” the weight of allowing it to happen again is crushing. He was expected to be strong before he knew how. So, the constant expectation for his strength as a man is a reminder of the fact that he has an instinctive desire, but lacks the skill and “know how” to confidently pull it off. So, instead of admitting that he doesn’t know how, because he was never taught how, or that he has crippling doubts about his ability, he constructs a façade, a mask, so that he can function.
These are the realities of what exists below the surface. So, taking these realities into account concerning generally what he is thinking and feeling when he communicates with you will help you build a healthy level of exchange with him. Be patient though. Safety, when it comes to matters of the heart, takes time to build. But, the hope for you is that what you need and desire from him in communication…is actually in there. Your love and patience will be the massaging he’ll need to bring it out.
Well there you have it! Stay posted for the follow up to this topic: Heart to Heart Series: “Communication: She Feels” You can email Chris and I at firstname.lastname@example.org