You think we gossip, we think you’re shallow

Posted on July 21, 2009. Filed under: cross cultural communication, Uncategorized, women | Tags: , , , |

It only took me about 47 years, but I no longer get annoyed at the way men communicate, and I no longer try to get them to change. Both being annoyed and hoping  others will change are a total waste of time and energy.  Now when I see the stark differences in communication styles, I just say, wow, look at that.

GENERALITIES (please don’t write me that these are generalities. I know. That’s why I’ve included the header, GENERALITIES):

(straight) Men tend to use communication to:

  • Impart knowledge
  • Define status
  • Present solutions

Women tend to communicate to:

  • build relationships
  • Seek consensus
  • maintain harmony

Women also process out loud, talking things through, whereas men prefer to process internally, and talk when they have a solution.

I fall somewhere between these two extremes–I like to build relationships, but frequently like to cut to the chase and focus on solutions without all the touchy feely lets-talk-it-out stuff. I’ve been told more than once that my communication style is masculine.

Still, I am sometimes shocked at the shallowness of men’s conversations. (sports talk as communication is another posting). Their conversation often shows no interest in the details, vivid descriptions, and microscopic analysis of events that define women’s conversation.

Case in point:

My best friend (female) called me with some “holy crap! I can’t believe it! You have got to be kidding me!!” kind of news yesterday. We went over every aspect of this astounding news in gory detail, revisiting all the juicy parts 2 or 3 times. We spent a good 1/2 hour on the topic.

My husband (male) also told me some “holy crap! I can’t believe it! You have got to be kidding me!!” kind of news yesterday. When I asked for more detail,  his response was, ” I don’t know. I didn’t ask, and he wasn’t volunteering any more info.” And he was quite comfortable leaving it there.

Guys–PLEASE, explain to me: HOW  in the world do you not ask for more info? details? images? insights? analysis? Aren’t you curious? Aren’t you dying to know???

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6 Responses to “You think we gossip, we think you’re shallow”

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No Lauren, as sad as it may seem to women, most men are not dying to know or share the details of each other’s lives. Maybe we’ve evolved to hold our cards close to the vest as a protection mechanism. Maybe we’re just shallow. It’s ok not to be intimate with everyone else’s personal business.

However, if you ask me what Derek Jeter’s batting average is, or any other active Yankee for that matter, on any given day I can probably tell you in a heart beat.

I’ll limit my response to mostly white, upper-middle class urban-or-suburban, well-educated men who live in the North East, but I assume that’s what you mean by “men.” As you said, you were speaking in generalities, but I can’t speak at all about Indian men’s conversational styles, for instance.

As for the men fitting my limited definition, I’d say that those men value privacy. We value our own privacy and we respect others’ privacy. We sense that personal information is a gift, and we know that once it is given, it can be misused or given indiscriminately to others, others with whom the man would not have chosen himself to share the gift. And knowing that personal information is a gift, we don’t always feel it is our place to ask for it. In this context, “OMG, what did you say to that?!” is not an innocent question. On some level, it amounts to requesting a gift. If you think of the gift as something tangible, like a watch, it makes sense why we wouldn’t want to ask for it.

There are probably other cultural reasons we value privacy, and they probably relate to how we might be perceived by others, but I expect you know all that. The part about the gift seems to be the bit that was missing.

I am dying to understand this too! For an example:
My husbands best friend was having a baby. I asked him do you know what they are having, a boy or a girl. He gave me this look like I was crazy and told me he didn’t know and that they don’t talk about that kind of stuff. Is that just a minor detail????

The women friends in my life for the most part I have known for 20+ years. We share everything and it is a given that what we share stays between us. Our friendships have been strengthened because we have shared so much, leaned on each other, and supported each other. To the extent we talk about others – it is more of keeping up with the community I grew up in. Again, these things we share are between us. The confidentiality strengthens our friendship. How else do I have so many friends which stretch back over 20 years? How many men have friends from middle school, high school and college that they regularly communicate with? Friendship needs to be nourished. Communication is sharing. Men basically, in my opinion, have not been brought up with the social skills to be friends. There is always an agenda. Friendship has no agenda.

Charm247-I so totally hear you!! Once the baby arrives, ask your husband what the weight and length is! And for added fun, ask the kid’s name (first and middle!!)

Funny stuff, Lauren. And too true. If you haven’t already, you might enjoy reading Deborah Tannen’s work, especially her book “You Just Don’t Understand!” It’s a pretty thorough analysis of differences (Western) male and female conversational patterns, and I’ve used it in my consulting work for 20 years now.


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