Communication is the Key!
Buckled in, I had nowhere to go. It only took a few minutes to figure out that the man sitting next to me on my flight home had a lot on his mind. He began by celebrating the fact that he was able to score a seat closer to the front of the plane – the seat that my husband gave up to fly elsewhere for business. The sharing didn’t stop.
When the conversation was over, one thing was clear. The happy-go-lucky fellow was on the verge of walking away from his marriage. He was confused and had no idea how to make things better. He didn’t even really know how to talk to his wife – communication was nearly nonexistent in their relationship, and he was convinced she was a little crazy. This encounter was a fabulous reminder of just how much communicating well matters!
Don’t get me wrong – I could relate to his pain. Over the years, my husband and I have had our communication struggles. Unfortunately, communication is not just tricky in marriage relationships. Misunderstandings can take place with family, friends, or with those you lead in the work place just as easily; especially when communicating with someone of the opposite sex.
Men and Women Communicate Differently
Because men and women process and communicate differently, it is not surprising that there are misunderstandings. Awareness and appreciation of these differences will lead to fewer conflicts and can facilitate a more constructive exchange of information.
Women experience life as a process where everything seamlessly connects together while men tend to compartmentalize. That’s why when a woman communicates she seems to jump from one topic to the next, like this:
I really need to think about getting a new phone before this one dies altogether. It has been acting strange the last week. My boss was very unhappy with the way the conference call went today. It is so hard to please him. Did you go by the dry cleaners? I have no idea what I am going to wear to that meeting tomorrow.
A man can’t imagine what a phone has to do with an outfit for tomorrow. He would like to solve the phone problem first. For a woman, the phone reminded her of the conference call and how she must dress for success for tomorrow’s significant meeting. She is feeling stressed and sharing allows her to release some of the pressure. This kind of seemingly disconnected rant can make a man crazy.
Men, on the other hand, tend to prefer to focus on one thing at a time in a more linear and compartmentalized fashion. That’s why they are able to keep work concerns in the work box, home concerns in the home box, and the problem with the car in the car box.
Being able to keep things separate makes it possible for a man to focus on work in spite of the car problems in ways that are harder for most women. It does not mean that a man doesn’t come home and feel work stress, it just means he might not think to share it.
A man generally views talking as a way to solve a problem or report information, while a woman usually views talking as a way to bond. My husband is amazed by the four hour lunches I have with my girlfriends. He cannot imagine how anyone can possibly have that much to say. Truthfully, it takes no effort at all!
Women tend to process through talking while men tend to process internally. For most men, that processing takes time. That’s why men often don’t know how they feel when you ask them. First they need to think about it.
In the course of a day, an average woman speaks 20,000 words compared to the 7,000 words a day an average man might speak. In addition, a woman generally thinks in words and tends to have words for most things. There are very few word free moments in her mind. Men on the other hand often have thoughts that never become words. For some things, a man has no thoughts or words. While hard for most women to understand, it really is possible for a man to not be thinking about anything.
As a woman, how can I communicate more effectively with men?
- Stick to one topic at a time.
- Keep it short and sweet.
- Skip the details and sum things up.
- Be direct.
- Give him time to process.
- Keep the chit chat to a minimum.
- Appreciate his ability to focus and problem solve.
- When asking him to do something, use “would you” rather than “could you.”
As a man, how can I communicate more effectively with women?
- Be willing to listen more.
- Don’t try to fix everything.
- Ask questions to help you make connections.
- Create space in your life to think about how you feel.
- Hear “Let’s talk” as “let’s connect.”
- Appreciate her ability to see life in an interconnected way.
Relationship is at the heart of leadership and communication is the key to successful relationships. That means your ability to lead hinges on how well you communicate. Without a clear understanding and appreciation of how men and women are different, there will be friction. Just ask the man I met on the plane!
For a man, my new friend was surprisingly chatty and unusually revealing. Even with these qualities he was surprised to discover some of the things I have shared with you here. The information gave him hope, and a fresh perspective. He was convinced that the seat change was no accident.
How about you? When it comes to communicating with someone of the opposite sex, what do you struggle with most? How would improving your communication skills benefit your life or leadership?
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Tomnamon