What Women Need To Know About Men
- Tuesday, October 01, 2002
If you are a woman, I (Leslie) want to reveal a few facts that can help you make healthy connections with the men in your life. Not that I have the answer on how we women can relate to every man. The male-female connection is too mystical for such claims. But I do have a few insights that have proven helpful to me and many other women. They have to do with knowing how men are different from us. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, here are a few of the important distinctions - the ones that can make or break your ability to cross the gender borderline.
Men are not as in touch with their emotions as we are.
The first problem women run into when they attempt to explore men’s emotional needs is that men don’t want women to explore their emotional needs. Let’s face it women, relative to us, men should come equipped with an emotional thesaurus. I’m not saying they don’t feel things deeply, but men certainly don’t express their emotions as clearly or as readily as we do. And who can blame them; they were raised that way. Parents, a recent study found, discuss emotions (with the exception of anger) more with their daughters than with their sons. As adults, men naturally tend to have a smaller feeling vocabulary and stuff their emotions. The point? We can’t expect men to identify our emotions or their own as quickly as we do.
Men are more independent than we are.
Here’s a lesson form "Male Development 101": Very early on, males define themselves in relation to their mothers by being different and separate. Their impulse is to go away and assert their masculinity. Men need to wriggle free, to do male bonding, to place a great deal of emphasis on work (or golf, for that matter) as an escape from being smothered. But it’s not so much being smothered by the women in their life as it is being smothered by their own feelings of dependency. Men need space to be men. And the more fragile a man’s sense of self, the stronger the impulse is to flee. So don’t expect men to glom on to you and tell you how much they need you. Instead, take comfort in the fact that the men in your life do need you, but most of the time, they are trying to deny how much they need you because it poses so many threats to their sense of masculinity.
Men are more abstract than we are.
While you and I are more likely to talk about our fears, feelings and experiences, men are more likely to talk about ideas, concepts and theories. Men want to tell you what they know. They use conversation to discover factual information the same way an anthropologist uses a pick and hammer to unearth an artifact. Men gather facts, debate opinions and solve problems through reasoned conversation. Sociologist Deborah Tannen calls this abstract style of man-speak "report talk." It’s well established, so we can’t expect men to be too enthusiastic about conversation that serves as a means with no end. We can certainly talk about our fears, feelings, and experiences to the men in our lives, but we can’t expect them to listen with the same vigilance we’ve grown to expect from our girlfriends.
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