Cultivating Your Emotional IQ III

Cultivating Your Emotional IQ III

Recent psychological research has revealed that there is a vast difference in styles of communication between men and women. The great differences in how men and women communicate, very popular in recent research, was recognized by our Sages long ago. The Talmud describes women as “ahm bifneim atzmo", a ‘nation’ of their own” (Shabbos 62a), with their own customs, traditions and language.
Mishlei (Proverbs) teaches, “Mavess vechaim b’yad lashon". The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). Unfortunately, pain, frustration and misunderstanding are prevalent among people who could have avoided or limited these feelings, had they only understood the basic differences between how men and women express themselves.
In fact, many well-meaning, wise, educated couples discover that routine, everyday situations can become complicated if inherent gender differences aren’t understood. Despite common goals, a shared address, and many years of marriage, because men and women communicate differently, miscommunication often causes problems. Ignoring this fact doesn’t solve anything. We hope the following ideas will.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS

1. Understand the fundamental differences between how men and women communicate. With an awareness of how men and women feel and think differently, we are freed from the tendency to invest energy in attempting to change our spouses. When we realize that there was usually no intent to hurt, no “davka” involved, it also makes misunderstandings more tolerable. Being aware of the differences also helps people accept each other in a non-critical manner, and may allow them to work with their spouses instead of against them.

Ignoring differences only creates more confusion and frustration. The human brain is divided into the left side, which controls language skills, and the right side, which controls spatial and problem-solving skills. Research has proven that men and women use their brains differently. Generally, women tend to use both sides of their brains simultaneously, while at any given time men use either one side or the other. This explains why men feel irritated when women talk to them when they are attempting to figure out how to assemble something. It also sheds light on the fact that a man must think about feelings before he can discuss them, while a woman can feel, talk and think at the same time.

The Talmud alludes to the feminine capability when describing women’s capacity to more from one activity or idea to another with more ease than men (Shabbos 33b, Kiddushin 80b). It is precisely this mental agility which allows women to successfully juggle various family/household/job obligations simultaneously.

This unique feminine flexibility should be harnessed to help both spouses accept the fact that men and women think, behave and communicate differently. When they adjust their expectations to this reality, they will greatly improve their relationships.

2. Don’t tell your spouse, “You don’t understand.” Being convinced of the genuine differences between men and women helps women expect inevitable misunderstandings. Yet, sometimes, emphasizing these differences can cause problems. When a wife wants her husband to understand what she genuinely needs, she should avoid telling him that he doesn’t understand, even when she truly means it, because this phrase is perceived by men as accusatory, and is therefore difficult for them to hear.

Instead of using these words, try the more tentative, “Let me try saying that in a different way.” When a man hears this alternative phrase, it also conveys the message that he hasn’t fully understood her, but in a non-critical manner. He doesn’t feel criticized, and as a result he is much more willing to listen and reconsider what she is saying.

Wives don’t appreciate hearing accusatory words either, so it makes sense for husbands to utilize this same technique.

Making this minor, yet significant, change will foster better understanding and cooperation instead of hostility and disappointment.

3. Learn to ask for what you want.  Women don’t find it easy to ask for things. A woman often feels that if she has to ask for something, it is a sign that she is not truly loved, that her husband is not sensitive to her needs. This weakens her self-esteem and threatens the stability of the marriage relationship.

Instead of directly asking for things, women use other forms of communication. They hint about their needs. They ask their husband for his opinion about an issue instead of taking the initiative and openly stating their ideas and thoughts. They are vague about what is bothering them rather than openly discussing the issue. All these feminine tactics leave men feelings manipulated and angry.

Learning how to ask for what you want, and how to express yourself clearly and directly, will enhance your relationship with your husband, will minimize your use of irritating methods of communication, and will greatly improve your chances of getting what you need.


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