I recently read John Gray’s classic, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. This relationship guide (with an extraterrestrial twist) details the various differences and nuances in behavior between the genders.
I’m normally one to advocate that people are people; there’s something to be said for individualism and circumstance. However, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with certain generalized ideas, particularly distinctions in how both sexes communicate when conflict strikes.
When a problem arises, men may become “Mr. Fix-it.” Instead of listening to his significant other express her feelings, anxieties and frustrations, he immediately attempts to conjure up quick, tangible solutions. While women may simply be looking to be heard and understood, men are prone to problem-solve.
“Many times, a woman just wants to share her feelings about her day, and her husband, thinking he is helping, interrupts her by offering a steady flow of solutions to her problems,” Gray said.
For example, Mary comes home after a long day and wants to relay her feelings to Tom. She says she’s overwhelmed. Tom, attempting to “fix” the problem, says she can quit her job. Mary’s frustration increases, and they become annoyed with each other. However, once Tom figures out that all Mary’s really seeking is support and empathy, understanding occurs.
When men encounter conflict, women may offer unsolicited advice. Gray refers to this as the “home-improvement committee.”
“For many men, it is very important to prove that they can get to their goal, even if it is a small thing like driving to a restaurant or party,” Gray writes. “Ironically, he may be more sensitive about the little things than the big.” (This provides further insight into the “Mr. Fix-it” mentality as well.)
When women try to advise and assist, men may internalize feelings of incompetence. “Even though her intent is loving, her suggestions do offend and hurt,” Gray noted. “His reaction may be strong, especially if he felt criticized as a child, or he experienced his father being criticized by his mother.” With the awareness that these emotions are surfacing, women can more helpfully tailor their responses.
Gray also discusses how the genders embody different communication styles. While women may yearn to talk directly about issues and prefer instant communication, men may retreat and contemplate in silence.
“When a man is silent, it is easy for a woman to imagine the worst,” Gray said. Silence can fuel insecurity when one is unsure of its meaning. With the acknowledgment of such coping endeavors, it’s easier to handle tension and eradicate an insecure frame of mind.
“Without this vital understanding of our differences and needs, it is easy to see why couples struggle so much in relationships,” Gray said.
John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus sheds light on communication matters within relationships. When trouble manifests, women desire an outlet for expression, for conveying their feelings; men propose clear-cut solutions. When men are in need of assistance, women offer unsolicited advice or criticism that does not bode well for men’s psyches.
And when conflict arises, coping mechanisms between the sexes differ, too. Women long to talk issues out, extensively, and men tend to withdraw and bask in solitude until they’re ready to break the silence and initiate a discussion. Once these differences are understood and accepted, conflict can be better managed.