I don’t understand men. When I say I don’t understand, I do not mean that I can’t identify with their behaviour, I do not mean that I do not comprehend their logic, I also do not mean that I disagree with their principles. What I am trying to say is that when they talk, I don’t actually understand a word they’re saying. Why is this? We are both human beings after all, and we both communicate through vowels and consonants, so why don’t I understand a word they say? This question has lead me to think, and think hard I did. I thought about all the possible reasons for this odd thing and I have come to a conclusion: we are different species. Please allow me to share my theory.
Now we have all heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. To me, this means that we are the same species but we are geographically separated, hence our customs and manners may be different. Well I propose a slightly altered theory to that of the author of the famous book. I actually believe that we are different species altogether. Completely different. If humans were dogs, then most people would think that man is the male dog and woman is the female dog. Well I disagree. Men are dogs (I don’t mean that in an insulting way, I could have used horse as an example) and women are cats. We are not the male and female equivalents of each other. We are altogether different. So the reason we don’t undedrstand each other is because men bark and women meow. We may both use the same alphabet, the same grammar and often the same sentence structure, but the overall meaning of the sentence could be totally different when spoken by a dog, than it is when spoken by a cat.
Women generally tend to want connection with others, and to feel close through getting and giving confirmation, empathy and support. For women, an important part of life consists of an effort to develop and preserve intimacy. And conversations are one way to help to achieve this goal.
While women may tend to think of interactions in a non-hierarchical way, men on the other hand, typically view the world in a hierarchical way such that, during any interaction, one person is in a superior position and the other in an inferior position. In a man’s world, conversations are negotiations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper hand and prevent others from psychologically putting them down or pushing them around. Generally, then, life for men is like a contest, a struggle to preserve independence.
Because each gender tends to operate by a different set of rules, when men and women come together in conversation, problems may arise – because the two genders are, in effect, speaking in different styles. Conflicts arising from differences in conversational styles can have unfortunate consequences for relationships if they are not managed well.
Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., has written several books on this topic. In ‘You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, she says, “Though all humans need both intimacy and independence, women tend to focus on the first and men on the second.”
The beginnings of these differences, Tannen notes, can be seen in childhood interactions. Boys and girls tend to play in same-sex groups and, though some play-activities are similar, boys’ and girls’ favourite games are different. For example, boys tend to like to play in large groups that are hierarchically structured, with a leader who tells others what to do. Some achieve status by trying to grab centre stage through telling stories or jokes and sidetracking or challenging the stories and jokes of others. Boys’ games tend to have winners and losers.
Girls, in contrast, usually play in small groups or pairs and the centre of a girl’s life is her best friend. In their most popular games like jump rope or playing house, everyone gets a turn and there are no winners or losers. Much of the time they sit and talk together. They’re more concerned with being liked than achieving status.
This difference in the use of language can lead to misunderstandings between men and women. In all conversations, there are always two sides: that of the speaker and that of the listener. The key to avoiding misinterpreting statements is for couples to realize that one’s partner most likely has a different conversational style than one’s own, and to think about how a message could be heard differently than was intended.
Researchers don’t really know why men and women seem to have such different ways of communicating. Nevertheless, it is certain that such differences can lead to misunderstanding, tension and conflict in relationships. When it comes to communicating with the opposite sex, a willingness to listen with compassion and without defensiveness can make all the difference in the world. Well, I guess that’s the only thing we cats can do until experts invent some sort of gender based Esperanto. Until then, they will bark and we will meow!