If you look at the top factors that lead to an end of a relationship, a major one is almost always “communication.”
Couples that don’t communicate well often end up separate. While some relationships need to end, many can and would survive if both partners communicated more effectively.
While both sexes fail to communicate their thoughts and feelings adequately, numerous studies over the last thirty years have shown that women are better social and emotional communicators than men, since they possess thirty percent more of a brain protein associated with communication. A 2013 study even found that women use around 20,000 words a day compared to 7,000 for men.
Because of these factors, men often have a unique set of communication problems, especially when communicating with women.
Here are four communication mistakes men make, with advice on how to communicate more effectively:
Bottles Up His Feelings
Society tends to mock men who openly express their feelings. But, those feelings have to go somewhere. Usually guys put them inward. So, if something about a relationship bothers them, their first reaction is to not talk about it, so they don’t appear overly weak or emotional. Women tend to talk about their issues – a lot, and broadcast them over social media to relieve stress. Guys go silent, and the negativity builds.
This is a mistake for a couple reasons. First, the feelings typically don’t stay bottled up, but come out in a very unhealthy way, usually frustration or an explosion of anger. In addition, holding them in can be very stressful and damaging to a guy’s mental health.
The key for guys is to assertively express themselves in their relationships (whether romantic, friendship, or family). It doesn’t even have to be overly-emotional. In fact, the less emotion, the better. A man should confidently and calmly explain what he is thinking and feeling if he has the need to do it, not reach the point of stress and explosion.
Something as simple as, “I had a frustrating day at work because a lazier and less-talented co-worker got promoted to a job I wanted” can go a long way in helping a guy feel better and help his partner understand where he is coming from.
And women reading this: encourage the guys you know to open up. If you openly mock them when they share their feelings or dismiss them, then guess what? Guys aren’t going to share their feelings in the future, which is bad for their emotional health and their relationships.
Assumes She Thinks Like He Does
Men and women think differently. Brain scans, polls, and even common sense show this. However, we live in a culture where equality is prized and differences are downplayed. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as we recognize that general differences in the sexes can lead to communication problems.
Lots of guys assume that the woman is thinking exactly like him. He assumes that she has the exact same needs and thought patterns. So, he communicates to his partner based on those assumptions. However, that can lead to problems.
Regardless of inherent gender differences (which don’t always apply across the board), all people are different. For example, she might need “space” while distance only makes him frustrated. She might want to talk while he simply shuts down emotionally. She gives “the silent treatment” while he wants to work it out as soon as possible.
The key here is to actually understand how your partner thinks and communicates. Hopefully a guy will know this from years of being with someone. But, usually it’s not the case. Taking time to learn how the other person thinks and responds will allow a man to communicate with empathy and understanding, at the very least. Of course, his partner should do the same.
Doesn’t Stand Up for Himself
Not only are men taught not to express themselves, but there is also a motif (sometimes for humor) that the “woman is always right” or “yes, dear” is the proper response to a woman’s demands. However funny this may be for a sitcom, it doesn’t work in real life, at least if a couple wants to find mutual success.
For one, if a man agrees with a woman all the time, most women don’t even consider it attractive, even within in a relationship. Men who lack edge eventually become boring. She may say she likes his passive attitude, but then will criticize him for it when she is with her girlfriends.
Second, it leads to the same type of resistance and resentment from holding in his emotions. Trust me, resentment WILL come out eventually. If a guy’s needs aren’t being heard and respected, eventually it could show up as unhealthy aggression or even with the guy harming himself or others (or taking his own life).
While a guy shouldn’t be overly stubborn or aggressive, if he has a valid point (especially regarding an emotion he is feeling or a legitimate concern), he needs to stand up for himself assertively without aggression. A relationship is a two way street and no one in the relationship (male or female) should be silenced simply because of gender.
While a guy should stand up for himself, he also needs to realize that digging in his heels and never compromising isn’t going to make a relationship successful. While he might be right in his own mind (and even objectively), he will also likely be single forever if he can’t compromise.
Any relationship requires mutual understanding and compromise. While some things might require standing ground (like for the safety of a child), most things can easily be discussed and both sides can come to a happy agreement.
Usually, this can be accomplished by staying calm and logical during a disagreement. The key is for a guy not to get worked up and instead look at an issue rationally. If there is a way to move forward on an issue rationally, a man (and woman) should. In fact, the best course of action is for a guy to assert his feelings, then find a compromise to deal with what is causing trouble in the relationship.
So, while communication can be very difficult, especially for men, it doesn’t have to create difficulties in a relationship. Men can effectively communicate their feelings and needs and have great relationships, if they are willing to make a few changes.