Men naturally tend to lean more toward problem-solving types of conversations and women tend to lean more toward feeling-sharing conversations. This can lead to frustration on both parts. Women may say things like, “He never listens to me. He just tells me what I should do.” While men are saying, “I don’t understand I was just trying to help.” When we see our differences as problems rather than just what is, we can set ourselves up for constant disappointment. The fact is that men and women tend to approach conversations differently. Recognizing and accepting this fact can allow us to side step the usual frustration by clearly communicating our needs up front. Let your partner know what direction you want the conversation to take early on. If you just need an opportunity to talk things through and process how you are feeling, you could say something like, “I just need you to listen to me right now.” That lets your partner know that you are looking for reflective listening. You need them to listen carefully, validate your feelings and empathize with your experience.
If you are looking for advice or help solving a problem, you might say something like, “I could use your help.” Or “What do you think I could do about . . .” This lets your partner know that you are looking for their thoughts, advice and problem solving expertise. It is still important to listen, but the door is now open to suggesting possible solutions.
Being clear about whether you are looking for a listening ear or help solving a problem can reduce the frustration of receiving unsolicited advice. It is not the men cannot listen empathetically or that women cannot problem solve, it is just that their natural tendencies are different.
We need to accept that different is not bad. We can celebrate and enjoy the differences.