Facts for Living: Are we from the same planet?

By Rebecca McFarland
Frontier Extension District Agent

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, I’m sure you’ve heard that statement before or you may have even read the book by John Gray, Ph.D. It’s true that men and women 080714-facts-for-living1communicate differently; in fact some people believe that they are so different that they come from different planets. However, it’s important to remember that we are more alike than different. Nonetheless, women and men have been found to interpret the same message differently, and these differences can cause major conflicts.

Studies have shown that women, more frequently than men, emphasize the similarities between themselves and others, and try to make decisions that make everyone happy. Women tend to be the relationship specialists and are typically the experts in “rapport talk” – the type of communication that builds, maintains, and strengthens relationships. Rapport talk reflects skills of talking, nurturing, emotional expression, empathy and support.

Men tend to emphasize the differences between themselves and others, and oftentimes make decisions based on their personal needs or desires. They are the task accomplishment specialists and talk the “report talk”, which refers to the types of communication that analyzes issues and solves problems. Men seem to be more attentive to issues of independence and competition, and report talk reflects skills of being competitive, lacking sentimentality, analyzing, and focusing aggressively on task accomplishment.

So, how are these differences seen in relationship? Women, to a greater extent, are more sensitive to the between-the-lines information about intimacy embedded in messages they exchange with their mates. Men, on the other hand, are more sensitive to between-the-lines meaning about status. For example, when a woman says, “Let me know you arrived safely”, she probably feels that she’s demonstrating affection, care and concern. But, when her male counterpart hears, “Let me know you arrived safely,” he’s more likely to feel nagged and that his competence is being challenged.

Understanding communication differences is the key to working them out. When we misunderstand one another, we often think the other’s motives are not reasonable, mean spirited, or even worse. But, by knowing that sometimes men and women interpret things differently, we can begin to share with one another the distortions we experience, and thereby find our way to clarity.

To prevent some of the misinterpretation from happening, sit down with your partner and make separate lists of how each of you would expect or like your partner to communicate. Should your partner be honest, tactful, direct, etc.? Compare your two lists. Are the characteristics different or similar, and in what ways? You will probably find that the most desirable characteristics of communication are not very different after all!


McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and child development agent. For more information, she can be contacted at Frontier Extension’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email [email protected].

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