Of the numerous comments we received after opening the conversation on the differences between men and women, one topic was far and away the most popular. Though it was expressed in several ways, it could be boiled down to the simplicity of one comment…
No one can count the number of jokes, insults, movie plots, and more which have been created around the “communication chasm” between women and men. And as much as society enjoys using the issue as the butt of jokes, the amount of damage done and progress lost to the lack of understanding about communication is immeasurable.
Let’s get the ball rolling by exploring the misunderstanding inherent in the statement above. “Women communicate, men don’t.”
If we have communication there has to be two parties expressing and receiving information. We cannot communicate at someone and say that they don’t communicate back. We can express our information and ideas to them and they may not respond or might respond in a way that isn’t agreeable for us, but it still isn’t communication.
To be very bold, the issue isn’t that one gender communicates and the other doesn’t. Both sides communicate very effectively, just not with each other…
Put this in perspective and the truth begins to emerge. It has only been in the last 170 years or so that effective communication between genders has really mattered. For the thousands of years prior, men communicated primarily if not exclusively with other men. The big concern, or need for communication, was survival of the species, tribe, and family unit. Concerns of the self were second if present at all. They communicated to hunt, cultivate crops and herds, and defend themselves.
Women communicated with each other to raise children, keep their families and communities organized and efficient. There is obviously more for each, but the point is that they were chiefly concerned with survival, which limited the opportunities to explore the chronic communication problems between genders. They went unexposed.
With industrial and cultural advances, we became less concerned with survival and had more time to consider the important questions of today like, “What do you want to do this weekend?” It’s only recently that we’ve begun to ask, “Would you like to sit and talk?”… only to discover that we can’t!
We are still in relatively new ground where more diverse communication between genders is necessary. Despite all of our sophisticated enlightenments, we still have limited understanding of the opposite sex.
We may believe that we understand because men and women both use the same basic language (in this case, English). But we assume that a word (or personal experience relating to a word) is the same for everyone, even though we know that the meaning of a word may change by region of country, race or religion, and certainly by generations. What is often overlooked is how words are interpreted by gender differences.
In many cases, we might be better off treating the opposite sex as if they did speak a different language. We may find our level of frustration lower and our patience higher because we acknowledge the language barrier. It would be common for us to seek better understanding by asking sincere questions like, “What do you mean when you say …?”
If you have a business interaction with someone from a non-English speaking country, you approach the situation differently. Here are a few tips to get you thinking about how we can all communicate more effectively, eliminate the falsehoods, embrace the gender differences in communication. We’ll tackle the issue as if we are meeting someone of a different language and culture because…we are.
First, you would find out about customs and traditions with communication. What do you know or can you learn about how the opposite sex communicates? It may not be the same with all members of that sex, but even stereo-types have threads of truth in them.
Second, establish common ground so you have a basis to communicate from? Where are the places your cultures and languages overlap? Everyone loves to be understood, and the next best thing is seeing that someone else is trying to understand.
Third, ask questions and get rid of assumptions. Our tendency to think we “know” things about the opposite sex gives way to judgments of wrong versus right. This might take a little work, especially if you’ve not asked sincere, clarifying questions in the past, but it will provide the quickest path to understanding.
Fourth, allow the differences and meet in the common area. The differences between genders bring much of the spice and stability to life. Don’t seek to understand so that you can change their behavior. Seek to understand so that you can become more skilled at speaking their language.
In the grand perspective, our goal is to be our most authentic selves and to encourage others to do the same. Learning the other language and finding common ground is to make us more effective, not to turn us into the other person. By taking an honest interest in how to best communicate with the opposite sex you will find those you interact with making the same effort toward you.
Our businesses and personal lives can only expand and improve with this as our focus. Speaking of which, we’re focused on giving you the best tools we can to solve your most pressing issues. Gender conflicts rank at the top of the submitted requests so you’ll see much more about it in the coming months.
We will explore more specifics of how to communicate with both women and men but for now we’d love to hear from you on specific issues you have at home, business, or both. Please use the comment section or on Facebook and let us know how we can best serve you.
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PJ McClure helps aspiring entrepreneurs to multi-million dollar business owners destroy roadblocks and seize opportunities to achieve their ideal vision of success. He is an award-winning speaker and the best-selling author of Flip the SWITCH: How to Turn On and Turn Up Your Mindset and the upcoming Unlock Your Life: How to go beyond Time-Management to the Life of Your Dreams. You can download a copy of Flip the SWITCH for Free by clicking here.