Monday, September 6, 2010

Barton Goldsmith: Men, Women, Emotions and Communication

This article has been open in my tabs for a while now, and I have been meaning to post it. Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., blogs for Psychology Today under the Emotional Fitness banner - In this post he tries to dispel the myth that men don't talk to their wives or girlfriends, but really makes it worse by citing false statistics as though they are true.

Side Note:
If men don't talk about feelings, it's because they have raised not to have feelings, so they couldn't talk about them if they wanted to - and they have been raised not to want feelings, because, you know, feelings and emotions are girlie.

So that's the problem - if women want men to be more comfortable with feelings, and to be able to talk about them, it starts with how parents raise their sons. Raise your sons to be emotional intelligent.

Back to the article:
Unfortunately, the author of this piece has bought into some of the gender stereotypes around gender differences in communication that simply are not true.

Men do talk - when they have the words.

I overheard two women chatting in the market. One asked the other, "Does your husband talk to you?" Her companion answered, "Of course he talks, he has to ask me what's for dinner doesn't he?"

I totally understand where they are coming from. Most men have a hard time communicating anything that remotely resembles an emotion. Why? Because emotions are scary to men, who think much more than they feel, and much of the time, many men don't even know what or how they are feeling.

It is interesting to note that women think and feel at the same time, while men can only think or feel. And based on most men's reluctance to embrace their feminine side, it's no wonder they do their level best to stay in their heads.

Guys figure that once they have said the fateful words, "I love you," and the relationship is in full swing there are only three reasons to have a real conversation: sex, money and breaking-up.

So when a woman wants to talk, and the guy realizes he has to think and feel at the same time, just the idea becomes a challenge. So it's easy to understand why men have a harder time talking about feelings, it's because they have to switch gears from their head to their hearts. Sometimes when they have to do it very quickly, they may feel like the life is being sucked out of them.

Most of the time, when a man wants to talk he's thinking, "What do you want to do this weekend?" When a woman says, "Let's talk" guys go to this place in their heads where they start to think, "Oh my God, what did I do now?" Many feel like their relationship is being threatened just because the woman in their lives wants to talk with them. I may be sticking my neck out here, but this could be described as a slight over reaction.

What men need to understand is that when a woman says she wants to talk, she's saying I want to be closer. Unfortunately, when a man hears that he thinks something's wrong.

[Blogger's note: this next section is wrong and was disproved a while ago - it actually started with the homophobic, misogynistic Rev. James Dobsonn (Focus on the Family) in 1993, then was repeated in different numbers by Smalley.]

There are some other interesting facts that can enlighten us as to why it seems that "men don't talk," for example women have twice as many words as men. Women speak at 250 words per minute and men speak at 125, and according to Gary Smalley, author of "Making Love Last Forever" in the course of a day women speak 25,000 words compared to a man who only uses 12,000. It seems that by the end of the day men are talked out and women still have a day's worth of conversation in them. So one of the reasons men don't feel comfortable talking is because most women can out talk them.

[This next section is a little more accurate, but still questionable.]

Men and women also have different conversational styles. Women tend to talk faster when they get excited and may interrupt their partners who are struggling to find the right words. When this happen their male counterparts may lose track or shut down because they feel cut off and were unable to express what they were feeling. Men find it more difficult to attach words to emotions and getting back on track in an emotional conversation can be very difficult for them.

Understanding how men and women differ when it comes to talking will give everyone a little more empathy when it comes to discussing emotional issues. And understanding one another is a big step when it comes to creating and maintaining an emotionally fit and loving relationship.

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