It’s important to say what you mean and mean what you say, especially in marriage. How many times have you heard a marriage expert try to explain the difference in what men and women expect from their communication together? We’ve all laughed at the dead-on accuracy of the, “It’s Not About the Nail” video, which showcases the frustrating differences in the way men and women want to communicate. The fact is, women talk more and use communication to sort out their thoughts and to feel understood—not to reach a solution, necessarily.
Recent research even found a biological basis for the differences. According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland, women possess higher levels of a particular protein in the brain which is tied to language and devote more brainpower to speaking. This may explain their concurrent finding that, on average, women use almost three times as many words per day (20,000 versus 7,000 for men). So how can the two vastly different communication styles meet in the middle? Here are some strategies you can try.
1. Think before you launch into it.
When we use all the airspace (and our husbands’ attention spans) to wander around in the subtext and backstory of a situation, we lose him before we ever get to the main point. If there’s something important you want to share with your husband, take a second before you begin to ask yourself, “What’s the point here?” You’ll probably still be far more thorough and descriptive in telling it than he would be, but being disciplined about organizing your thoughts can keep you on track, and keep him in the conversational game without the need to interrupt in an effort to find the point.
2. Tell him what’s up.
If you had a horrible day at work, and just want to talk it out to decompress and get it off your chest without any real expectation of resolution or help, say so before you begin unpacking your tale of woe. It could sound something like this, “I had a rotten day today and I need to talk it out to be able to vent a little. I’m not looking for advice or anything, I just need you to listen. Is that okay?” On the flip side, when you are looking to him for guidance or solutions, make that known at the outset of the conversation as well. Trust us, he’ll appreciate knowing which set of rules you’re playing by on a given day.
3. Respect his communication style in the same way you want yours to be respected.
Even if you long for your husband to share more of this thoughts and feelings with you, don’t push him when he’s in a “just the facts” mindset. Try your best to switch gears and think like he would—most likely in a solution or conclusion focused way. Trust us, he’ll appreciate the effort and will likely be more willing to bend toward your style of listening and empathizing when you need a listening ear.
Tell us! What works best with your husband?