Understanding gender differences can help minimize relationship problems

November 12, 2012

Helping with Relationship ProblemsUnderstanding is the key to minimizing relationship problems

One of the biggest relationship problems I hear about, especially from women, is how frustrating and challenging it is to communicate with their partner!

We naturally think because we are taking to another human being that we would be speaking the same language, especially if you both are from the same country. That assumption and expectation is the beginning of the problem, if you are trying to communicate with the opposite sex!

Fortunately there has been a lot of research on gender differences as well as gender communication style differences, that gives us understanding, so we can hopefully develop compassion and acceptance that can keep us open to the love we can share.

It’s important  to understand and keep in mind when reading the differences below, there may be average tendencies in the directions they suggest, these generalizations certainly do not apply to all men and all women. There are certainly some men who would fit the communication characteristics described here as common to women, and there are certainly some women who would fit the characteristics described here as common to men. Studies have shown that about 80% of us fall into our gender specific categories, yet we can still have some tendencies that reflect the opposite gender depending on the situation.

I want to thank Walter vom Saal for these notes for discussion.

Highlighting below the summaries of two books, that claim there are significant and consistent differences in communication styles between men and women. One is a popular book for the general public; the second is more professionally oriented. Both based on significant research.

1st book is John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: a practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in relationships. New York: Harper-Collins. This is entertaining and easy to read. The author argues that men and women are “from different planets”: they have different needs, goals, values, and communication styles. He claims that understanding these differences is the key to successful relationships.

Differences include:

– a woman’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships;

a man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results.

-women are relationship oriented;

men are goal oriented.

– women want respect and devotion;

men want appreciation and admiration.

– women want to feel cherished;

men want to feel needed

Gender communication style differences that cause relationship problems

-when talking about a problem, women want empathy and understanding,

but men offer solutions.

-a man follows his natural tendency to offer solutions,

but the woman sees it as invalidating her feelings.

-a woman follows her natural tendency to offer unsolicited advice,

but the man sees it as questioning his competence and ability;

-women cope with stress by reaching out and talking;

men cope with stress by withdrawing

“men go to their caves and women talk”

More gender differences to understand, so you can have less conflict, less relationship problems:

Book #2, is by Deborah Tannen, “You just don’t understand: women and men in conversation”, New York: Ballantine Books (paperback). This book is an easy-to-read description of the ways women and men miscommunicate because of their “different words and different worlds.”

MEN: live in a world of status

WOMEN: live in a world of connections

MEN: conversations are negotiations for power

WOMEN: conversations are negotiations for closeness

MEN: want to preserve independence

WOMEN: want to preserve intimacy

MEN: seek to win, avoid failure

WOMEN: seek closeness, avoid isolation

MEN:  avoid taking orders (since that means low status and loss of independence)

WOMEN: are ok with taking orders (if it is perceived as forming a connection)

MEN: seek control

WOMEN: seek understanding

MEN: prefer inequality and asymmetry

WOMEN: prefer equality and symmetry

MEN: are adversarial (with conflicting goals)

WOMEN: are synergistic (with common goals)

MEN: value differences

WOMEN: value similarities

MEN: goal of conversation: transmit information

WOMEN: goal of conversation: maintain interaction

MEN: offer advice

WOMEN: seek connection and understanding

I hope this article is very helpful in understanding relationship problems, so you can have less conflict and more love in all your relationships with the opposite sex!

For more help in person, on the phone feel free to contact me to help with your relationship problems, to see how I may be of service to you.