His and Hers Approaches to Conversation

by Steve and Kathy Beirne

Mike and Lisa are driving home after an evening with friends. Mike says, “Dan tells me that he and Stacey are moving to Washington, DC.”

“How exciting! Will they be living right in the city?” Lisa asks.

“I don’t know. He didn’t say.”

“But Stacey is so involved in the elections here. Will she be able to continue with that?”

“We didn’t talk about that either.”

“Well what did he say?”

“He said they were moving. He has a new job,” Mike says, clearly closing the door on the conversation. He’s sorry he ever brought up the topic, and Lisa can’t wait to call Stacey to find out all the details. She’s mystified that Mike brought it up if he didn’t really want to talk about it.

Gender Patterns

Men and women communicate differently because they think differently
Gender Misunderstanding. Men and women have different structure of thinking leading to communication conflicts

Mike and Lisa’s impasse is one that you may have experienced in your relationship. Mike had a fact he wanted to convey—he was not intending to start a longer conversation and the direction it went was frustrating to him. Lisa wanted details. She wanted to flesh out the story with the “human interest” parts. These are patterns that researcher Deborah Tannen has observed in men and women. She published her research in her book You Just Don’t Understand. It helps to explain some of the situations many of us have found ourselves in as we try to navigate our interactions.

So What’s the Solution?

Certainly trying to be aware of the differences and that your spouse isn’t being annoying is a start. They are just speaking the way they learned to speak. If you feel frustrated, try to take a step back and figure out if this is one of those “his way vs. her way” conversations. The next time Lisa and Mike find themselves in a similar situation, hopefully they will recognize what’s going on. Mike might say to Lisa, “Sorry, honey, that’s all I know. Why don’t you call Stacey tomorrow?” and then steer the conversation in another direction. “How about those Orioles?”

Reprinted with permission from Foundations, a newsletter for married couples. www.foundationsnewsletter.net   

Steve and Kathy Beirne have extensive experience in marriage and family education, catechetics, and marriage ministry. They are the editors and publishers of Foundations Newsletter, FACET premarital resource, and Catholic and Newly Married, an award winning book published by ACTA publications. They live in Portland, Maine, and are the parents of 7 children and grandparents of 5.