Alright, gents, listen up. Ladies, too. This is important. I’m about to solve one of the biggest problems between men and women, at no charge to you (except for the 10 ish minutes it takes you to read this blog post).
I’m sure you’ve been there before, sitting there minding your own business, surfing the internet, watching the game, or maybe even honestly trying to get some work done. And suddenly, she’s mad. Livid, in fact. You know she’s in a rage not because she’s storming about, eyes blazing, and screaming and shouting. Oh, no. She appears perfectly calm, a serious expression on her face, and utters the two words of condemnation: “It’s fine.” Yikes, dude! You’re in deep. How did you get here, and how do you dig yourself out? Well, I’m not sure I can dig you out of this particular incident, but I can explain to you how you both got here, and how not to go there again. Let’s start with the root of the problem.
I have one word for you: communication. Ok, don’t run and hide! I know that word in this context probably makes you want to crawl under a rock, most likely dredging up the memories of incredibly uncomfortable confrontations that you’ve been successfully suppressing. Just hear me out. The main problem in the all-too-common scenario above is that neither party was communicating very well. First, I’ll explain what each party was doing wrong (I’ll differentiate the male and female roles, because the situation typically happens where the woman isn’t saying what she needs and the man isn’t listening. However, PLEASE note that it can and does go both ways. End disclaimer.) Then, we’ll talk about why communication in general is so important for being authentically human. Here goes!
Ladies first. Let’s begin with the fact that a woman doesn’t actually want a guy to read her mind. It’s way too scary up there for her to ever want him to enter that territory. The female mind is certainly a “no boys allowed” zone, not to exclude you men, but because women actually love you and don’t want you to die up there trying to navigate the intricacies of their interconnected thought process. What women do want, however, is for you to address their needs. They want you to swoop in to save them from the gross, smelly trash, the lawn that is threatening to eat the house, and most importantly, women want you to wrap your arms around them and make a force field to block the big, bad, stress monster that follows them around. Wow, wouldn’t it be so easy if they just TOLD you that? But women (myself included) suck at it.
Here’s the lady’s part in this debacle: women have so much trouble just telling people what they need. She thinks and ponders and stews over what she wants people to do that they’re not doing, and analyzes why they’re not doing it, tries to shrug it off, finds that she can’t, drops hints, sees that it’s not working, and finally does it herself and then EXPLODES. But the explosion is actually more like an implosion, because it comes out as a meek, “It’s fine.” She plays the martyr, and she does it well, and it brings a sick satisfaction that never actually leaves anyone satisfied. Why does she do that? Part of the problem is a distorted sense of what it means to give of oneself. Women somehow believe a variety of lies that they shouldn’t need anyone, or ask someone they love to do something undesirable, or that if someone loves them they should WANT to do the undesirable. Women need to cut this out. It’s unhealthy. And it’s not being authentically feminine. Give guys a break and use your words.
So Eve took the first bite of the apple, but Adam was standing right there the whole time and didn’t stop her. It takes two to tango, guys. The “male” role in this communication mess is that women don’t think you’re listening. Communication is a two way street. She can talk all she wants, but if no one is listening, communication is not happening. You might actually hear every word she says. But if all a woman gets is a grunt in return, she assumes you weren’t actually listening. If your face is buried behind a screen or a book or a bunch of paperwork, it sends a clear message regardless of your intention. It says: “I’m not here.” There is nothing that shuts a person down more quickly.
If you don’t want the woman in your life to wind up blowing a gasket because you didn’t mow the lawn, learn to show her you’re listening. Be attentive when she’s talking. Hey, you could even be proactive and ASK “How can I save your life today?” (Ok, ok, that may be a bit much. But you get what I mean.) If you can’t meet her needs when she communicates them, let her know! Maybe you have a good reason. But if all you do is grunt and say “I’ll do it tomorrow” or the ever irritating “yes, dear” and then never follow through, you’re going to end up with a mess. Men fail just as much as women do to communicate their needs. Need some down time before saving the world again? Use your words!
The bottom line here is that we all need to use our words better. More problems are caused by saying too little than by saying too much. When I say “better”, I’m not just talking about word choice. I’m also talking about timing, tone, and audience.
Timing: Just as you wouldn’t wait until you’re ready to pass out from hunger to eat something, you shouldn’t wait until you’re steaming mad to communicate your needs. You want him to take out the trash? Ask him nicely right when you think of it, before you have time to over-analyze anything. It’s just the trash. Timing also means picking a time when the person is in a good state to listen. So don’t ask him to mow the lawn right when he walks in the door after work.
Tone: I don’t just mean ask sweetly. I have this terrible tendency to sound more nonchalant than I really am. Is something important? Convey that with your tone. It’s not being needy, it’s being honest. Don’t try to hide your real feelings about something. But yes, still ask nicely. Don’t yell, for goodness sakes!
Why is this so important? As humans, we’re social beings. We don’t just LIKE being with other people, we NEED other people. We need others to relate to. The only way to relate with other people is by communicating. If you want a genuine relationship, romantic or otherwise, you’re going to have to figure out how to communicate well. I know, it’s hard. It takes humility, vulnerability, and compromise. It also takes a lot of practice to get good at it. But you know what? There are few things more satisfying than effective communication. And then you don’t have to do any mind reading!