Men reluctantly agree, that sometimes, they are the actual source of the woman’s problem. Although usually they are the handsome, sexy, clever, strong heroes, occasionally they can be the pain in the butt or the source of her pain. They also agree that when this happens, they would like her to tell them about it. I explain to the men that when she tells him about something he did that made her unhappy, men usually experience this as a dagger to the gut and then they have one of two reactions.
They either say: “You are being over sensitive.” Or they say: “Yes, but you also …” In both cases they are attacking the woman and excusing or defending their own behaviour. What follows is the woman retreats into silence. The next time he sees that sullen face and he asks: “What’s wrong?” he gets the icy: “Nothing.” Men hate the icy note, sullen mouth, and the screwed-up eyes face. Yet, if he does not afford the woman the opportunity to communicate to him what he did to make her unhappy, without interrupting her, he is conditioning her into that sullen face.
The next time a man hears “Nothing!” from a woman, he should ask himself how he responded the previous time she tried to tell him what was upsetting her.
Tone of voice
Anyone who has watched a movie like 300, depicting the battle of Thermopylae in 480BC when the Spartan king Leonidas faced the might of King Xerxes and the Persian empire, will develop a sense of the din of a raging battle. The man’s body is geared-up in the highest fight-or-flight mode. Now in this mode, a part of the brain stem – the primitive reptile brain – secretes a neuro-modulator called noradrenalin, which peaks his aroused senses.
This enables him to hear sounds in the finest detail and raises his signal-to-noise ratio. The more noise, the higher the aggression, the less he is able to argue reasonably. His pupils dilate and he is focused only on annihilating the opponent in front of him, one after the other, like a machine. Remember, his higher brain functions such as logical reasoning are temporary out of action. Would you try to reason with Leonidas in the heat of the battle? Knowing this about the functioning of a warrior, is it conducive to yell and scream at him in order to try to convince him of something?
So when I ask the men: “ How would you want her to communicate to you that you did something that made her unhappy?” they all unanimously agree: “It’s in the tone of voice.” One of the biggest complaints men have about women is TONE OF VOICE.
Remember when I explained a man decides within split seconds pre-consciously whether he is encountering an ally or an enemy? We hear faster than we see. Hearing is 25 per cent more acute than seeing. Men are especially sensitive to tone of voice, more than to content. They are also sensitive to criticism, which they perceive as verbal daggers, which will throw them into the flight-or-fight state. Men are apt not to flee, they fight.
Now the good news is if the woman is calm and engages her own parasympathetic or relaxed state, she activates her vagus nerve, which among other functions such as slowing down her breathing, will also actually lower her tone of voice. Our brains are reported to receive millions of bits of information per second from our senses, of which only 0.5 bits per second actually reaches our consciousness. The rest remain pre-conscious. So when the man perceives her calmness through his senses, he is pre-programmed to calm down and to actually stay focused and pay attention to what she is saying.
If she sits next to him, touches him and says gently: “I did not like the way you spoke to me at dinner. Please do not do it again. I do not speak to you that way.” Short and sweet. No need to repeat it, or analyse it. He heard her. Maybe he will apologise there and then, probably not, but he may make her coffee later and make some silly joke just to see her smile.
If he engages in some excuse or defends his actions, she should just smile and say: “I get your point. I know you don’t want to hurt me deliberately. Thanks for being my hero.” Now come on, can any man argue with that? Try it. It works. Much better than throwing a hissy fit and remember a gentle touch releases the oxytocin, which improves his emotional understanding of the situation.
I know women are asking: “But why should I be nice to him if he was horrible to me?” Just explain to me how reciprocating nastiness is going to resolve the problem? Or will it only exacerbate the situation? Which option offers a win-win benefit in the long run?
How would she prefer him to react when she tells him what is bothering her? She would not want him to interrupt her, defend or justify himself, change the subject or accuse her. If he could just keep quiet and let her finish talking, even if what she says may sound unfair. If she is talking in THAT TONE OF VOICE, he may say: “I really want to hear what I have done to upset you, but please can you tell me in a kinder way, it would help me understand.”
Then she tells him and he listens. When she is done, he may say: “Thank you for telling me. I need time to digest this.” He may even add: “I am sorry that you are hurting,” if he is really kind. Then he goes off and thinks about what she said and maybe she had a point and maybe he can up his game, or maybe she had misunderstood his intentions, eventually he could consider what is more important, the issue or his marriage? The same applies to her.
I need to stress that men complain about a woman’s tone of voice, but many men are guilty of raising their voices. Women are just as sensitive to men raising their voices and it scares them. Men often defend by saying they were just talking loudly. Talking loudly is raising your voice. It scares her. You are supposed to protect her, not scare her.
Some men talk down to women, patronising them. Some men have a bad habit of inflicting little nasty pricks with verbal daggers, continuously sniping at their women. Prick being the operative word. This can backfire. One woman told her man: “If only your dick was as sharp as your tongue.”
This comment illustrates the point I made about how a man fears a woman’s tongue as a dagger that can castrate him. The comment: “Since you like sex so much, don’t you think it is time you learn how to do it?” has pretty much the same effect. Perhaps men learnt to humiliate and belittle women from their mothers who used those daggers on their husbands? Imagine asking a man if he learnt to be a bitch from his mother?