There are countless reasons why men and women find it a challenge to communicate with one other; one of the key reasons is a difference in communication style. Men often prefer just the facts; women like details and prefer to hear the whole story. Having said this (and granted I’m generalizing here), I imagine you’d agree with one of my favorite analogies—that men have a tendency to communicate more like a reporter, whereas women tend to share information more like a narrator.
So, what do I mean by this…?
As you read an article in the newspaper, for example, you’ll notice that the key information is usually contained within the first paragraph or two. For those who are interested in more details, they can continue to read the rest of the article while others can choose to take in the highlights and continue through the paper for other pieces of interest. The important elements of the story—the who, what, when, where, why, and how—are usually spelled out right at the top. Perhaps you’ve noticed that, for the most part, this is how a man communicates (and often expects others to as well… even women).
On the other hand, women tend to share information more like a narrator telling a story; the narrator doesn’t give away the end of the story in the first paragraph. Rather, she lets the suspense build to a grand conclusion.
Still not convinced? Allow me to demonstrate…
A man may come home from work and say to his spouse that
‘there was a multi-car pileup on the interstate on the way home‘
to explain why he was later than usual. If the roles were reversed and the woman was coming home along the same route, she may start her story by saying
‘how she’d checked the traffic report before leaving the office and took the highway as it was clear at the time. And then she found herself slowing from 60mph to 10mph in a matter of minutes. And by the time she got up to the scene of the accident, a couple of police cars and a tow truck had squeezed by on the shoulder…‘
Admittedly, I find myself interjecting what I feel are important details when my (male) partner is relaying a story to a group of friends… sometimes I just can’t help myself, especially when there are women there who will no-doubt appreciate these extra tidbits!
Now, I’m certainly not saying that all men and women communicate along these stereotypical lines as I have male friends who chew my ear off regularly and female friends with whom I work hard to keep a steady conversation flowing. And I’m not saying that one style of communication is any better than the other. However, I am saying that men and women need to understand and respect these differences in communication styles and learn to work with them.
My partner and I have a running joke between us. Whenever he comes home from an event, trip, outing, etc., naturally I’ve asked how it was. All too often, I feel completely shortchanged when all I get is a sentence or two. As a woman, I crave information and start asking questions, to which his response is often “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or “I wasn’t paying attention.” Over time, he’s learned that I’ll be excited to hear about his activities and now comes home and says, “Yes, I know, you want details” and I get them without even asking!
Of course, there’s a flip side to this… when I start telling my “long-winded stories” about this or that, I’ve grown to recognize the look on his face that tells me to “get to the point” and I promptly do. These subtleties have developed over time and with patience and practice and have dramatically improved our daily communications… and they can help you in your relationships, too!
I know that if I share the same tale with a male and a female, there will likely be two different versions customized to the preferences of my audience. Communication is a complex thing. Take the time and make the effort to do it well, gear it to the person with whom you are speaking and you’ll be amazed at how positively your communications will be received.
Does this sound familiar? Have you recognized that some of your friends and colleagues love the details and hang on your every word while others often have a look of impatience in their eyes during a conversation… and are they men or women? I would love to hear all about your experiences, so please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.