My response to Mark Pollard’s piece on getting a man to open up – apologies for the crass generalisations and largely hetero bias.
Some of my best friends are men, clever and inspiring fellows all, but even they sometimes struggle with what might seem very simple: communicating with the women they love. The specious logic of the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” hypothesis starts to seem seductive – why should something this fundamental be so difficult unless we are, in fact, speaking different languages…? Men, this post is for you…
He said, she said…
Women, by and large, are operating on a higher emotional plane than men; we’ve long since accepted complexities that you men are still grappling with. We don’t mind too much; we’re waiting patiently for you to catch up, and then what a joyous world it will be.
We’ve skipped lightly over the blatantly obvious and are dealing with the abstract. Unfortunately, what this looks like to your average man is that we are saying one thing while meaning something completely different. It leads to what can appear bewildering semantic hair-splitting.
“it’s not that I want you to do the laundry / watch this Balkan arthouse film with me / call your mum, I want you to want to do it”.
To which you may reasonably enough reply “but of course I don’t – I’ll do it because it must be done, but don’t expect me to be overjoyed about it.” On a practical level, this is fine, because the outcome has been achieved, the problem solved. But then why is she sulking, sobbing or zipping off down the street with an ominously loud clickingclacking of the high heeled shoe?
Now hear this…
What’s wrong with this picture? You’ve tried to solve an emotional issue with a practical outcome. You haven’t listened to what’s really being said.
We’re speaking in poetry while you’re more prosaic; it’s a high art form where the spaces in between are as important as the words.
I heard a story about a woman married to an autistic man; she was tired and exasperated beyond measure by his inability to read her emotional responses. Having to rationally explain during the heat of the moment that she was upset or angry was proving difficult, and she feared that it would ultimately lead to a cooling of both negative and positive sentiment, leaving her an automaton in a marriage without passion.
Her solution was to hold up cards with the name of the emotion on them; this seemed less disruptive than vocalising and she was able to express herself and be understood.
Women need to give clearer cue cards; men need to work harder at reading them.
We understand intuitively that things (events, tasks, objects) often represent deeper concepts. You’re confused because we asked a friend’s advice about that thing at work and you can’t figure out why you’re annoyed about something which has ultimately nothing to do with you; we already know that you’re hurt because by not asking you, we seemed not to trust you.
Incidentally, the reason we didn’t ask you is because we just wanted to vent, and you have this insistence on solving problems; we need the space to be heard more than we need the answer: listening shows you believe the speaker to be worth hearing.
When we ask you to do something, spend five seconds figuring out what that thing might stand for. Is it demonstrating how much you value us? Is it your commitment to our family, the kids, the dog?
Essentially, this is the blueprint to get out of any onerous task. Figure out what the deeper issue is and solve it in a way that makes you happy too. Demonstrate that you love the home you share and you’ll never have to go shopping for soft furnishings again (unless you want to).
I’m not saying it’s easy; I’m saying it’s an effort worth making. And you might just find it helps with other stuff too. Whether you prefer this wisdom to come from the Matrix or from Plato, above all things, know thyself.