Just a few days ago, the movie version of the book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man came out. One of my friends bought me the book a while ago and, since she had, I felt I should read it. The book was very good and reemphasized a point that is becoming increasingly common knowledge: Men are built to be problem solvers. However, my personal theory is that, when it comes to women, men try to solve the wrong problems. (Note: I am not an interpersonal communication expert nor do I have a lot of training in the subject. This is me as a marketer and communication person sharing my personal thoughts. Also, there are some professional applications to this theory, which is why I’m posting this on my blog.)
When a woman comes to you with a problem, the problem is almost always how she feels. I think a lot of the communication breakdowns between men and women are from this one misunderstanding. Men are trying to solve the problem presented, but women are looking for them to help them cope with their feelings. Let me give you some examples:
Problem presented by the woman: Her boss criticized her ideas in front of all her coworkers during a meeting.
Actual problem: The woman feels disrespected by her boss and is questioning her abilities.
Wrong solution: Call and yell at her boss or tell her to forget it because he is incompetent.
Right solution: Remind her of how great she is at her job and how, just the week before, she had received an award for her great work. Also remind her that her boss does this to a lot of people all of the time, so it’s not just her and her coworkers probably thought badly of him, not her. Maybe suggest she go speak to her boss and suggest other ways for him or her to talk to her about issues in the future that won’t be so disrespectful.
Question (problem) presented by the woman: How do I look? Or does this make me look fat?
Actual problem: She doesn’t feel attractive.
Wrong answer: Saying “You look fine, let’s go.”
Right answer: Saying something that affirms that you are still very attracted to her. “You look stunning/amazing/wonderful, etc.” “I won’t be able to take my eyes off of you all night” or something else that you might have said when you first started dating to make her feel good.
Question (problem) presented by the woman: Why was I not included in the meeting about that?
Actual question: Am I not valuable? Are my contributions not valuable?
Wrong answer: Not everyone needed to be there.
Right answer: You always give us very valuable input when you are in meetings, but, for this one, we were afraid of overpowering the client with too many people in the room, so we only included the people who work with the client on a daily basis.
When I’ve shared this theory with my male friends, they exclaim “Why don’t women just say what they really mean?” in frustration. I understand. However, we live in a male-dominated culture and it’s just not ok to share feelings. A woman that cries during a business meeting would be considered “weak.” A woman who flat-out said “I don’t feel attractive, I need a compliment” would be categorized as “high maintenance” or a “princess.” So, women make implied statements instead of direct. I’m not saying its right, but it is what we do.
Agree? Disagree? Have a personal example? I’d love to hear from you on this one.