Friday, December 3, 2010

Saying What We Mean

Once again I am here to help men/women communications. But first, a story.

I recently took a course on ethnic relations and multiculturalism (don’t stop reading I promise I’m going somewhere). It was an interesting class where we discussed societal issues and prejudices (if you feel yourself falling asleep just bite down hard on your tongue, that’s a trick I learned in this class). During one discussion we were asked how the subordinate position of women is similar to that of oppressed racial and ethnic minorities and also how they differ (I nearly fell asleep typing that but it’s about to get good, hang in there). After outlining some similarities I mentioned that one way I could see their positions being different is that, in some cases, women share an intimate relationship with a member of the majority group and therefore have influence and consideration that would not be given to an oppressed racial or ethnic minority. And then it happened…

A woman in the class launched into a full blown attack/tirade about what a stereotypical viewpoint this was. How men think that women are always trying to be subversive to “the system” by using their feminine wiles and that this attitude dated back to Adam and Eve. How a man can use persuasive argument to get what he wants but how a woman is never given the benefit of the doubt by what means she garnered such influence.

In the moment I sought to subdue her outburst by explaining that I meant “intimate” as in close personal relationship and that there is a difference between intimacy and sex. I simply stated that I meant that a woman might receive consideration from the majority group (like her feelings and general well being) that was not afforded to racial or ethnic minorities and that consideration is influence. Initially I chalked this up to semantics and went on with my life.

The more I thought about it, however, the more it bothered me that her reaction had been so severe to what I thought was a fairly benign comment. And then it happened…

An epiphany. It had little to do with what I said and more to do with what she applied to what I said. Everybody, man or woman, takes their experience and applies it to whatever they may be presented with. That’s human nature it’s how we form our perspective. Therein lies the rub.

Let me explain. Men are very simple creatures. Scientists say that humans are 96% similar to chimpanzees, in my experience that 4% difference is entirely you, ladies. Men are an uncomplicated thoughtless lot. We give little consideration to things other than food and intimate relations, by that I of course mean close personal relations (get your mind out of the gutter). If asked for an opinion we’ll say what we think. And by “what we think” I mean the answer that comes to our mind first, seems most logical and requires the least amount of effort to articulate, while getting us in the least amount of trouble. Really that’s what our communication boils down to.

Women on the other hand, of course I’m speaking as an expert here, you are incredibly complex. Before expressing your opinion in an instant you’ve considered your past and present experiences on the matter, who you are speaking to and their feelings on the topic, the thoughts and feelings of those who may or may not ever possibly hear what you are about to say, potential reactions based on those feeling and how to best state your answer in terms that will be broadly accepted. The synapses in your brain light up like the Fourth of July while we may barely generate enough sparks to light kindling. It’s a credit to your gender that with all the going on you are able to select a single response.

That being your experience, naturally, you don’t express all that you are thinking. Therefore when processing information you believe that there is more being left unsaid by others leaving more work to be done to get to the meaning of what was said. The expectation is not the same for us.

What you’ve got to understand is that we mean what we say and not a lot more. You are searching for meaning behind the words. You drill to depths that we shallow beings simply don’t have and when you find nothing you apply meaning of your own. All of that would be fine except that on occasion you apply meaning that gets us into trouble. We can do that on our own; we don’t need your help.

For those still unconvinced let me use this illustration; the word “fine”. As in “I’m fine”, “it’s fine”, “that looks fine”, etc. For a man the word fine has, tops, three or four meanings and that’s only because of the fairly recent edition of “Dang, girl! You look fine!” Otherwise “fine” would range somewhere between satisfactory and of superior quality. For a woman the word “fine” has like seventy meanings and depending on voice inflexion can actually mean ‘If I’m questioned again I’ll stab you in your sleep’.

If we tell you we like something it is because we actually like it or because not liking it will lead to unpleasantness from you. If you say you like something it can mean that you truly like it, you think we want you to like it, someone you know likes it and you don’t want them to hear that you said you didn’t like it, you think we think you thought you should like it because someone you know likes it and…AHHHHH! My brain hurts. It’s exhausting in there.

Here’s the bottom line. For women, you need to understand that what we say is what we mean. Sure there are underlying motives behind what we say or sometimes what we say is born out of our natural thoughtlessness but there isn’t a deep, penetrating meaning underneath. So stop looking because you won’t find it and please don’t feel the need to fill that void with meaning of your own that is going to make you angry at us. For men, understand that she didn’t believe a word of the previous three sentences and has completely disregarded them as the inane ramblings of a fool so like it or not you are going to have to start thinking about how you say what you mean. You are going to have to consider your audience and how your words will be perceived. That’s just the way it is.

Now let the communication begin.

***disclaimer*** This is in no way a reflection on my experience with my wife. She had foreknowledge of me writing on this topic and granted permission. Our communication and relationship are sound as is her knowledge of my love for her. Love ya boo.


  1. this should probably make me really mad. but i'm fine.

  2. That was a fine commentary :)

  3. It's probably better that I don't express all that I'm thinking right now.


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