Women pre-navigate dialogue
A husband needed to confront a relative about a problem and he had been postponing this event. Eventually his wife became clearly impatient and insisted that he takes action. “But what must I do?” asked the husband. Whereupon the wife just got up and walked off. The husband was baffled. “Do?” she replied when she had calmed down. “You must get in your car and drive over there and talk to them. That is the action that is required. How can you ask me what you must do?” What the husband meant was: “What must I say to them?” Women talk, men do.
Women have an amazing ability to pre-navigate a complete dialogue in their heads, the same way a man would navigate a forthcoming road trip in his mind. “If he says this, then I say that and if he says this, then I will say so,” etc.
Eventually the woman will map the conversation to reach the specific outcome she desires. Armed with this verbal map, she engages in a discussion or argument. No wonder men avoid verbal conflicts with women. However, if a man can only recognise this ability in his female partner as a resource, imagine what a useful tool it could be for him when he has to confront other people. It is a pity men do not want to ask: “What should I say?”
A man asked his wife to proof-read his presentation to the company’s board meeting. She was a linguist and corrected his grammar. “You can’t say it like this, it’s wrong,” she said. “Are you saying I don’t know how to do my work?” he yelled. She threw the document in the corner and stormed out of the room. “You disappoint me,” she screamed. “He attacked me, when I was only trying to help him. Why did he ask me, if he did not want my advice?” she asked me later. I explained to her that her hurt feelings were valid, but that he experienced her comment as criticism, because she told him he was wrong.
Had she worded it differently, he would have accepted her correction. I explained to him that he could have regarded her linguistic training as an allied resource in his camp, rather than an attack from an enemy. By yelling at her and hurting her feelings, he alienated her. He also did not stick to the subject. The subject was the grammar, not his capacity to do his work. This was a typical example of miscommunication.
Like a yin and yang symbol that forms a perfect circle, half black, half white, if men and women can only grasp that their differences can complement each other, instead of perceiving the differences as threats. If we were all the same, it would be a mishmash of greys.(And I’m not speaking of Shades of Grey – that is another book.)
Strengths and weaknesses can complement each other. Mostly women offer advice or suggest alternatives, not because they criticise the men, but because they are on his team, they do have his back, they have the intelligence to make a meaningful contribution and this is her way of supporting him. If only he can step outside his ego for a second and give her the benefit of the doubt. Even generals consult and consider suggestions.Men do rate communication as an important element of a relationship, but they underestimate the vital importance thereof.
A man told me he spends much time at work making lists of all the handyman tasks he plans on doing at home. I asked him if he had told his wife about this list. “No,” he said, “do you think I should?” So, we have the wife at home. Living with all the little handyman jobs that need to be done, wondering if he is ever going to get to them, but she does not want to complain or nag, so she becomes quiet and sulking and sour faced.
He avoids going home because she is quiet and sulking and sour faced and that is why the handyman jobs never get done. If only he told her he is making a list, she would flip over backwards just to know he is thinking about it, and about her, at work. He just never thought of telling her. Did she remember to tell him how grateful she is that he is doing this for her? It works both ways.
One man said the difference between whining and nagging is: whining is when she is complaining and there is no hope of a solution, nagging is when she makes the issue his problem.
Men catch balls, not hints
The wife says: “Wow, the grass is growing wild,” or “it looks like a jungle out there.” He looks outside and says: “Yeah.” He wonders why she is stating something obvious. Come Saturday, she says: “I asked you so nicely to mow the lawn and now the guests are coming over and just look at it.” He answers: “No you did not.” He is right. She did not ask him to mow the lawn. She said the grass was growing wild. Had she said: “Would you please mow the lawn before Saturday because your parents are coming over for lunch,” he would have known exactly what she wanted and why she wanted it and when she wanted it done by.
Come Saturday morning, she should rather not say: “Remember you promised to mow the lawn.” It sounds like criticism. Men prefer feedback. A friendly reminder like: “I’m so glad you are going to mow the lawn, while I prepare lunch for your parents,” would do. Once he has mowed the lawn and she gives him a beer, she can ask him to clean the patio, but she needs to be specific, because it looks clean to him.
“Please unpack the plastic chairs, they are too heavy for me and would you mind wiping them with a cloth, they are dusty and women don’t like sitting on dirty chairs.” (Guys don’t mind dirty chairs. Women wear floral dresses or white jeans.) So he takes a wet cloth and he smears the dust. Don’t say anything. Now she can ask him to go to the shops and buy charcoal and three lemons for his favourite lemon meringue pie. While he is gone she can quickly wash the muddy white plastic chairs.
When he returns from running the errand, she thanks him and invites him to join her in the shower before his parents arrive. He is very happy, he could be the hero and do stuff for her, and he is getting a joint shower and who knows what may happen then. And he is getting lemon meringue pie.