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Speaking Male, Speaking Female–Communicating into Another’s Listening

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More

Communicating “to” or “at” someone is a far different experience than communicating “with” someone. Master communicators speak into another’s listening, “with” them. What is another’s listening, particularly across the genders of male and female? Misattunements-missing each other by not accurately understanding each other on the levels of feelings, cognitions or intentions-happen all the time, to our collective dissatisfaction and unworkability.

To create a context, consider gift-giving. People, usually below the level of conscious awareness, quite regularly give another what they want and figure the person receiving the gift would like it too. Thinking and acting in accord with this agenda usually does not work. How many guys want pretty clothes and cologne, while how many gals want a sport equipment and video games? Not large numbers. The real trick is to give a gift the other person will treasure.

A classic example is giving your partner a little massage. Males tend to be stronger and firmer in their massages given this is their preference. Physiologically males’ skin is thicker and needs a stronger, firmer touch for him to really feel the touch in the massage. The female typically does not appreciate this and quickly lets the male know this with irritably saying, “Ouch! Can’t you be any gentler? Tender does it!” Physiologically females’ skin is thinner and thus needs a much lighter and tender touch. So long as he doesn’t get defensive or take anything personally, and further begins to understand what females need in massages is a lighter, gentler touch and offers this, all gets back in attunement. Similarly, the woman starts to gently massage the male and he lets her know in no uncertain terms that, “I don’t feel much of anything; can’t you press any harder and stronger?” Again, so long as she takes influence without resistance, defensiveness or personalizing, all comes back into pleasant attunement with mutual satisfaction.

In terms of knowing what each other want in our communication styles as males and females, almost every one of us remains utterly clueless, if not oblivious and unconscious. The truth is we all missed school that decade, even lifelong, since it was never taught. Of course, what do I know?! Pause, look and see for yourself. With the help of many gender moles and informants, here is a beginning skinny on communicating female and male-speaking into another’s listening. May it serve you and your partner lifelong, and all your cross-gender conversing and relationships.

A humble recommendation is in order for us all. Consider that in this arena we all are entering into one of the early elementary grade levels and are not quite ready for college or graduate school. No one runs until they learn to walk, and no one walks before they learn to crawl. You may carefully and slowly read this handout daily and pick one item to stay very conscious about and further commit in action to do. In essence, doing your best to deeply understand, accept and make these guidelines for conversing with the female and male of the species your very own can help bring out the honey, not the bee, the teddy, not the bear. Here is a priceless gift to everyone in all our relationships. Have fun, enjoy!!

Conversing with the Male of the Species

For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order. —Deborah Tannen, Linguist/Author

The male’s communication system, as with essentially everything to do with males, is remarkably simple-a simple system. It can be likened to an aircraft control panel-it simply has an on-off button. Some people talk about the male brain as made up of separate boxes or is compartmentalized, with everything in its own box or compartment. Furthermore, particular emphasis is often placed on the boxes of working, being a good provider, having fun, playing around and doing nothing. The last box can be most challenging for females to allow the male to live in this moment, when so much remains to do, as the female perceives it. Please keep these awareness’s most prominent in front of you as you peruse the following 11 principles that have been extremely helpful to females for their survival and thriving in conversing with males.

1. Be Direct: You cannot be too direct and straightforward with males. This is a language males totally understand and really appreciate.

2. Be Concrete and Modulate Your Emotional Expression: Be tangible to the extreme. Even point and have the male engage as many of his senses as possible. Emotional expression is wonderful and this is not the males’ strong suit, so restrain and modulate please. It beats emotionally flooding and overwhelming him, thus blowing the poor male out of the water.

3. Be Specific: State most clearly, simply and exactly what is the issue at hand. Narrow and focus the topic down to a pinhead. Again, the male will appreciate knowing what is the issue.

4. Be Brief: The attention span of males with topics of less than burning urgency and interest is small. Totally respect this! If he wants to know more, he will ask. You can count on it.

5. Be Blunt: It cannot be overemphasized that nuance, subtlety and finesse are often missed by males. Use these like a spice-most sparingly. Rather use a 2 x 4 or even a 10 x 12 inch thick, big piece of wood to get the male’s attention. (Please don’t take this statement too literally!)

6. Allow No Distractions: Refuse to communicate with the male until you have his undivided attention. That means no reading the newspaper, watching television, looking elsewhere or humming along with a song while talking. Otherwise you’ve lost your audience.

7. Keep Eye Contact: Wait as patiently as possible for eye contact. Only converse when there is eye contact. Otherwise you may find yourself talking to yourself.

8. Repeat Yourself Asking Few Questions: Do repeat the same point several times, possibly offering an example or two to illustrate precisely what you are aiming to communicate. Give a little information at a time, let it sink in and check-in with his body language and eye contact to see if it was received. Ensure that the message you sent gets received. Ask few if any questions since this is often perceived as a power challenge or provocation, usually only escalating irritability, frustration and defensiveness. Reframe most questions as “implied questions” within clear statements. You’ll get farther, no kidding! The key phrases to open such statements as implied questions are: “It would be great to know. . . “, “I wonder how we can. . . “, “It sure would help and be relieving for me to know. . . “, and “I would feel so much better in finding a way through. . . ” For instance, instead of asking, “What are you going to do about your in-laws coming over unannounced all the time?”, you can make a statement including an implied question by stating, “I wonder how we might address your parents coming over without calling first?” Or, in lieu of inquiring, “Why do you keep spending money we don’t have on your entertainment?”, you can say, “It would be great to know how we can find agreement on how much each of us can spend on entertainment per month given the income we have.”

9. Ask and Receive Feedback: “Yea, I hear ya,” doesn’t tell you anything about what anyone received from your communication. Active listening in the form of feedback from the male paraphrasing what you said helps clear any confusion about exactly what was heard. Often you will be amazed. At these times, review these principles, take a deep breath and start all over again. Practice makes perfect. It’s true.

10. Avoid Telling, Demanding, Nagging, Screaming, Complaining, Whining, Rationalizing, Explaining or Giving Lots of Reasons: Each of these gambits backfires at the female and sets up the male to call you a bunch of ugly names, which only further fuels the fire and constructs a bigger wall. The last way to get a male to do anything is to tell him what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Ask any wise, happily married woman and she’ll tell you the same.

11. Above All Remember to be Sweet and Loving, to Use Compliments and Offer Genuine Acknowledgements of Who He is (and Not Just What He Does): Help bring out the “Teddy”, and not the “Bear”! Being straightforward is better than indirect subtlety, just as sweetness works better than getting ruffled. Now, enjoy the connection!

Conversing with the Female of the Species

For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships. —Deborah Tannen, Linguist/Author

Sigmund Freud once asked, “What do women want?” and was largely clueless in terms of practical and accurate answers. Actually there is something to shoot for beyond “ordinary unhappiness” Sigmund, and just possibly women have a great deal to teach men about what exactly that is!

The female’s communication system is rather complex and clearly not so simple since it encompasses everything and everyone in the woman’s world. It can be likened to an aircraft control panel with an incredible array of switches, knobs, levers and instrumentation. Some people talk about the female brain as having everything connected to everything with essentially no boxes or compartments. These 11 principles have been helpful, if not essential, to males to survive and thrive in their conversing and relationships with females.

1. Show Caring: You cannot show too much interest in a woman’s life, opinions and sensitivity. This demonstrates loving respect for her well-being and builds trust.

2. Show Attentive, Non-Judgmental Listening: Give empathetic (i.e., “feeling with”), interested, full attention by choosing to set aside all distractions like the computer, video games, sports magazines, newspapers, books, videos, and television. To hear her problems does not mean to fix or solve anything (often it is not even wanted!). What a woman hears and how a woman is heard are the royal roads to a woman’s heart.

3. Show You Like Her With Affection: In a thousand ways, and mainly in your tone of voice (“the melody”) and body language, let her know you really enjoy her company, self-presentation, friends, dress, hair and views. Value her conversation. Strictly do not sexualize conversations. Quite often she may just want you to hold her. Empower her having “a voice” and participating in all mutual decision-making. Communicate that you deeply appreciate “just the way she is.” She’ll adore you.

4. Show Validation and Confirmation For How She Feels: Grant her the right to feel the way she does. Grant her the time, space and attention to give her feed- back. As you are supportive of her ideas, she’ll naturally feel loved and respond in kind.

5. Show Respect and Admiration: A woman knows she’s important when her feelings are even more important than his interests in that moment! Only a woman could have ever said this! Acknowledging a woman’s personhood and giving high priority to her rights and needs will result in appreciation emanating from her. Honor social connections by consistently remembering important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays with giving unique gifts. If married, proudly wear your wedding ring all the time.

6. Show Continuing Reassurance in Honoring Being: Consistent reassuring behaviors, with no conflicting messages, results in her feeling more secure in every way. Value and honor the state of being (and not just compulsive doing!).

7. Show Your Honesty, Openness and Trustworthiness: Be straight, period!

8. Show Generosity In Time, Money, Kindness, Patience and Other Resources: Stretch and offer more of your finest qualities, especially family commitment.

9. Show Valuing of Her Knowing The Details of Your Life: She’s better able to love, trust, care and support you, family, developing relationships and important projects.

10. Banish Ordering, Belittling, Being Condescending, Treating Her as an Inferior, Calling Her Derogatory Names or Acting in a Manner That Insults Her or Her Sensibilities: Each of these gambits backfires on him and sets up the female to have nothing to do with the likes of you and be cold as ice! Give no ammunition!

11. Above All Remember to Help Her Laugh, Be Loving and Endear Yourself to Her: Regularly acknowledge her competence and growth in words-it strengthens her and your relationship. Support her “taking” her personal power. Help bring out the honey, not the bee! Honey works better than vinegar any day, just as sensitive consideration works better than being a bull in a china shop and getting stung. Now, enjoy the connection!

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