Late, Lost, and Driving in Circles
You’re headed to dinner at a house you’ve never been to before, and you just can’t seem to find it. It’s not on the GPS, and you seem to be driving in circles. Only, you aren’t driving, he is. You’ve passed the gas station more than once, but he just isn’t inclined to stop and ask for directions, even though you are late. You suggest at least calling the couple to let them know you are late and see if they can help, “Just wait- I’ve got this!” He replies somewhat gruffly. You’re obviously both frustrated. What is going on?
Nothing is Wrong with Either of You
Well, let’s start out with- nothing is wrong with him; and nothing is wrong with you. Opposites attract, right? Something is going on beneath the surface of conversation that perhaps neither of you are aware of.
Communication Styles are to Blame
Men and women in general have quite different styles of conversation. Now, obviously, this is not true across the board. There are always exceptions to patterns, no matter how solid the pattern. You and your significant other might not fit this box, and nobody likes to be put into a box anyway, but there is well researched evidence to support this pattern that might be helpful for you to know about.
So, what is the difference between male and female conversation styles?
Men and Women Communicate for Different Reasons
Men and women have very different communication styles, because they use language for very different reasons. Women tend to use communication to build relationships and connect. They tend to minimize differences and use language to reinforce similarities between people in order to build intimacy. Men tend to use communications to establish independence and avoid failure. Men’s conversation involves a world of hierarchy where one-ups and one-downs are used to establish status.
Why Do Women Ask for Directions?
Women are usually happy to ask for directions. There really isn’t any perceived threat to a woman in doing so. In fact, asking for directions not only saves time in getting you to where you are going faster and with less difficulty, it also reinforces bonds with other people. Asking for help is relational, and builds a bond with the person asks, however temporary, it’s still a connection. Women also desire to preserve the relationship with the people they are headed to see by asking them for help or telling them a reason for their lateness. This preserves intimacy. Now, men also care about preserving relationships and building connections, but there is a stronger purpose driving the majority of their communications that can often override these concerns.
Why Don’t Men Ask for Directions?
Men usually don’t ask for directions, because it is inherently a negotiation of status. The man would have to admit that he is inferior and can’t figure it out himself. In asking the other person, he is communicating that the other person is the expert and superior in knowledge in that situation. Since men use language to establish hierarchy, most men are reluctant to tell another person that they are deficient in knowledge and can’t solve their problem on their own. This is, in fact, the hidden message they would be communicating by stopping. Most men would rather drive around a little bit longer and figure it out themselves, as this retains their independence and dignity.
How Can We Work Together?
There are a couple options that you might take together, depending on who you each are and depending on the situation. One great option is to sit back, relax, and let him solve the problem. He’s fully capable of figuring it out, and will preserve his honor by doing so. Now, you might not sense that his honor is at stake, but it is completely palpable to him. Showing him respect is likely more valuable to your relationship and your life in general than getting where you are going on time. Another option might be to manage the Internet search. If he’s driving, it’s safer to have this delegated to you anyway. And finally, if you really do need to ask someone, you can be the person to make the call or go in. After all, its easier for you to run in to a store or pick up the phone if he’s the one driving anyway. It’s also far easier for a woman to ask than a man based on the different purposes behind your communication.
Maximize your differences and work well as a team!
Don’t let your frustrations work against one another. Women can achieve their purposes to build a relationship of intimacy by communicating respect. Men can achieve their purposes to preserve their honor and independence by delegating some of the research to their sweethearts.
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You may also like:
- Love and Respect Make or Break your Marriage
- 3 Ways to Disrespect Your Husband (And Respectful Alternatives)
- You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.