Why Men Don't Talk
Posted Mon, Dec 17, 2007, 9:32 am PST
As the editor of the biggest men's magazine in the world, I am privy to something many women rarely hear - straightforward, uninhibited guy talk.
Don't be so shocked - guys do actually talk, and not just about Tom Brady's quarterback rating. Most women think their man is the strong, silent type (or maybe the oblivious, silent type), and they wonder why he doesn't share his feelings.
But here's the truth: Men do want to open up, about their hopes, their fears, and their passions. Yet put him alone in a room with you, and he often turns into a Sphinx. Why can't he take his eyes off the TV and talk about the state of the relationship, or the finances, or, heck, the backyard landscaping? Why in the world can't he just summarize his day for 10 minutes?
In fact, one in five women say that they typically fight about a man's lack of verbal interaction, and 30 percent of men say their failure to communicate is the source of major conflict in the relationship. Why is it this way?
Here's one answer: Because even men who have feelings to share don't always feel comfortable sharing them with their partner. These are some of the reasons why some men often prefer to zip it, rather than delivering the goods:
Guys Are A Little Intimidated
No question, women are expert communicators. They throw questions like Oprah after her third cup of coffee; they're connecting on all cylinders. And like the divine Ms. W, women bring a lot of skill to their game: A special awareness of the people-scape around them, a keen set of emotions keyed to that awareness, and a rich vocabulary they use to talk about anything at anytime.
And they're always practicing their Q&A skills on their many friends, so they're in top talk mode all the time. Men know this. And they also know that more than one-third of women say that men simply can't relate and don't understand women. The result: Men are afraid of saying too much, because saying the wrong thing may get them into more trouble than Lindsay Lohan as a designated driver.
Guys Need To Decompress
Woman's view: When a man walks in the door, he ought to cough up some of the details about his day. After all, it's been 10 hours since they've communicated, not counting the two IMs, three voice mails, and one actual mid-day conversation.
Man's view: Can I please make a beeline to the bathroom? When men reach home, it's like those ultra-marathoners staggering across the finish line in Death Valley. The last thing they want to do is discuss how bright the sunlight was, and how scarce the water stops were.
Further up on his want-to-do list after arriving home: 14 percent of men want to check email, 12 percent are looking for a little private time in the bathroom, and 10 percent simply want to eat dinner. The common theme here: After they've spent a day serving the needs of others, they want to take care of themselves a little.
So when a man is hit with a demand for conversation so closely after returning from the stressful environment of work, he has only one gear left to shift into, and sometimes it's reverse. He's retreat, retreat, retreat.
Guys Are More Comfortable With Actions Than Feelings
Rather than talking about how he "feels," often a man would rather express his love by changing her oil, or bringing home a flower, or relinquishing control of the remote.
And when men do talk, they'd prefer to talk about actions rather than emotions. For instance, a lot of guys would choose to express their long-range faith in a relationship by talking about next summer's vacation plans, not by launching into a soliloquy about undying love.
Both conversations can mean the same thing (that he plans on sticking around); he just prefers to say it with plane tickets, rather than poetry. It's one of the reasons men are more comfortable talking at work (the practical universe) than they are at home (the castle that emotion built). But you can bring out his great communicator by making him feel more like he's operating in work mode, even when the topic at hand is your love life. Here's an incredible article, "The Home Office," that shows how he can use his best office skills for great success at home.
Guys Don't Want To Be Put On The Spot
When men talk less and women want more, the scenario can escalate. Like when the bad cop is pummeling the reluctant witness, more silence equals more questions. A full 65 percent of men we surveyed recently told us they don't want their partners to ask them more questions about themselves.
It's clear that some men are just plain tired of feeling like they're on the witness stand. They're not necessarily hiding anything; many guys simply prefer not to have to relate confusing feelings that they may not even understand themselves.
An age-old tactic can make things better: Back off a little, give him room to operate in a conversation, and he's more likely to open up. To find out if his lack of communication really does mean that your relationship needs a tune up, take this quick quiz.
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