What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

She was mad. I had failed to heed her warning and she was hot…not hot in the sense that oh, man, she’s hot. But oh, God, she is hot now. I better run. Fast. We had failed to communicate. Since about the second grade I began to perceive boys and girls were different. Not just physically either. I couldn’t quite explain it. I am sixty nine years old and I still cannot explain it.

“Change the names. You can’t use real names. And, while we are talking about what you write, not one mention about what happened at Ship Island, and don’t you ever use my name!” She commanded. “Never, never ever tell the beached whale story. I mean it. You better never tell it again.” She was serious in that special way wives get when you know your life is in danger if you cross that line. You want to cross that line. You need to cross that line. But, in the end, assuming you have the desire to live another day, you don’t cross that line.

I threw down my computer tablet. Frustrated because I asked my wife to proof some material and she very kindly read it and offered some constructive suggestions. I don’t like having to reevaluate my work. It’s perfect on the first draft, or so I believe. Is it a man thing or a writer thing? But, I asked for it and she delivered. I just didn’t like what I was hearing. I knew she was right but I didn’t want her to be right. I wanted her to agree with me. My sincere and repeated apologies finally prevailed and we were friends again.

There is a famous line from he movie, “Cool Hand Luke” played by Paul Newman. In it the warden (Strother Martin) tells Luke (Paul Newman) after having the guards beat his ass, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” It wasn’t in the script. Martin just made it up on the spot and ad libbed it. His words rung so true the director left it in and since 1967 when the movie came out these words are in the public consciousness.

Women and men do not communicate the same way. There is a wonderful article in PscyhCentral by Richard Drobnic in July 2018 entitled 5 Ways Men and Women Communicate Differently. The following ideas are taken from it.

Men are directional. They think and speak in a straight line. There is a known direction to the process. Women on the other hand use communication to discover how they feel and what they want to say. They see it as an exercise in sharing and intimacy and bonding with the one they love. It is circular with much repetition before coming back to the issue at hand.

Men tend to be problem solvers and want to efficiently arrive at a solution. Not women though. They aren’t always searching for a solution but seeking someone to listen.

My wife often says, “Let’s talk.” This is an invitation to have a conversation about something. I’m sitting there thinking, “Why doesn’t she just start talking?” She’ll also announce the topic. “Let’s talk about the house.” As opposed to just going ahead and launching into a discussion about the house. It is setting an agenda for her. That’s kinda ok. At least I know what I am supposed to talk about.

To her, the objective is to engage in dialogue back and forth. To me, I just want to answer the question and solve her problem. Neither method is right or wrong. Each represents a process addressing how to arrive at a solution, or in her case to arrive at how she feels about a solution. We are both hard wired in our brains for these approaches.

A guy I know was balking at his wife’s request to immediately take out the garbage. He told her he didn’t want to take it out. She said, “But, I want you to want to take out the garbage.” Well, dang it, he took it out, of course!

She was in terms of “woman think” assuming he should just take out the garbage because it needs to be done. He was thinking in terms of “man think” there a thousand more important things going on. I’ll get to that chore sometime, maybe even this week. The garbage comes Thursday. What is her rush?

When the woman initiates the conversation the man assumes she is seeking his advice. The woman doesn’t always desire a solution, she wants someone to patiently listen. The listening part is the solution for her. Men, including me, have an enormous problem understanding this aspect of “woman think?”

Ladies, listen up. When a guy is feeling stressed about a problem often he will withdraw into a private space. He does not want to talk about it. This is his coping mechanism. Subconsciously, by withdrawing he is seeking to destress. Women cannot fathom this behavior and interpret this as his not wanting to “share” which is an integral part of their relationship. Resentment can build up. She thinks he is unreasonably shutting her out of his life. Ultimately, if she trusts him and gives him some space he will re-emerge fully engaged.

Men simply don’t like being told what to do (even if we need to be told). For women it may be better to suggest rather than dictate. “You need to mow the grass it looks terrible.” The guy is thinking I’m back in he third grade again. What about, “Honey, do you think the lawn is kinda high?”

Women don’t want their feelings minimized by their partners. “Well, you’re just letting yourself get too emotional about this.” To a woman she hears her feelings aren’t important and she is being marginalized. How about, “Honey, I know you’re upset. Do you want to talk about it?” Which means, I am willing to listen non critically.

Well, that’s the lesson for today. It, here are some examples of our theme.

My wife said, “You need to wash the car.”

I heard, “Honey, keep watching the game.”

She said, “Let’s go out to eat somewhere nice tonight.”

He heard, “Let’s get a hamburger at McDonald’s.”

She said, “I just want to sit here and have you hold me now.”

He heard, “Let’s get naked.”

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Wes Teel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s