How do we communicate our differences?
Men and women communicate differently. However, the differences don’t stop there. We are surrounded by differences. Differences between women and other women. Differences between men and other men. If that’s not enough, let’s factor in age group and geographic differences as well. For example, people who live in the east are different from those in the west and people in their 20′s are different from those in their 40′s.
Given all the factors, it’s no wonder that misunderstandings and communications go haywire. How often have we heard — “you didn’t hear what I had to say,” “you don’t understand,” “no that’s not what I said,” or “I thought you knew what I meant.”
Are you aware that when you communicate you may be communicating differently?
We are all different. We come from different backgrounds, different experiences, and different social styles. We carry patterns and ways of relating to others that we’ve developed in childhood and past relationships. Most of the time we’re not aware of our differences. Many of them are transparent. It’s when we begin to talk and relate to each other in business and personal relationships that these differences surface, sometimes creating walls. At times we’re not clear when we communicate. We may think one thing, verbally express it one way, and then yet in another way express it non-verbally.
On the flip side, as the listener, we may think we’ve heard what the other person said. In reality the words and actions have been filtered through our brain, emotions, attitudes, experiences and values. After all that, could we really hear what was said? Sure we could, but it takes a little extra awareness and action. Let’s look at some common listening behaviors. First, there’s the interrupter. When playing this role, we think we know what the speaker is going to say. We interrupt them midstream, sometimes attempting to offer solutions or advice without hearing the complete story. Enter the problem solver. Men are often accused of playing this role when we communicate with women. The common thought is that women want to be heard and acknowledged while men want to take action. This is not to say that men and women won’t be in agreement with each other. We just communicate in different ways. In spite of all of our human differences, we each share a common need to be heard. More satisfying and mutually fulfilling relationships lie in our ability to truly listen, respect each others opinion, and perhaps even AGREE TO DISAGREE.
To communicate effectively we must learn to listen
What appears to be our biggest challenge in the communication/miscommunication process is simply learning to LISTEN, LISTEN, and LISTEN. To truly listen is a complicated but achievable goal. Research indicates that in order to truly listen we need to stop our schedules and personal agendas, turn off our emotions and defenses, shut down our response mechanisms and open our ears, eyes, hearts, and minds to receive both the verbal and nonverbal message coming to us. To help others know they are being heard, we need to communicate back what we understood.
Learn to communicate by paying attention to what is being said
Relax, breathe, Sound too difficult? Hang in there. It’s possible. A few simple steps to get you started. Steps: tell yourself you have all the time in the world; stop thinking about you, being judged while you listen. If you don’t, let the other person know. This is called ACTIVE LISTENING. If confused about whether they wish for advice, ask. At the conclusion, we have listened we need to communicate back what we understood. A big complaint that women have of men is we don’t communicate back. Often as a male we hear what women say but often don’t appear to have heard what she said, or that we don’t communicate back or acknowledge what we heard.
In a relationship learn to communicate the difference
Another communication theory is that men have a tendency to focus on work related issues and women focus on relationship issues. Generally men don’t like to talk about relationship concerns and women don’t like to talk business issues. Of course this can cause dissatisfaction in a relationship. Couples need to learn the 20-minute rule. This rule is that the couple will spend 20 minutes discussing a relationship issue once a day. The woman knows that she will have the opportunity to talk about the issue, the man knows that there is a time frame to work within. This rule can alleviate much resentment and get the issues out on the table.
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