A common perception is that women have a positive association to relationship talk and men don’t—that women feel better connected through relationship talk, whereas men are distressed by it and tend to feel criticized. I think this is another myth perpetuated in the popular culture, based on stereotyping and misunderstanding of individual communication styles. I’ve written about this before and suspect I’ll continue to write about it from time to time because it’s a complex and confusing topic, simply because humans are complex and confusing. No one has quite figured us out yet. So when you put two of us together in an intimate relationship, it’s bound to be . . . confusing.
So, let me be clear and definitive about one thing: There is no general female or male communication style. There are plenty of women who find it very difficult to discuss relationship issues and there are many men who wish their female partner would be more open to discussing them. Also, there are as many communication styles as there are individuals. Those styles are influenced by personal history, culture, and how each of us is wired. How we are wired gets to the heart of the model I presented in Do You Know What I Mean?—Discovering Your Personal Communication Style, published in 2009.
The book has a thorough discussion of the seven communication components that come together uniquely for each of us. Through an understanding of this process, individuals (men and women) can learn about their communication strengths and challenges and how to use them to develop communication skills and solve problems in relational communication. This problem solving is based on an understanding of the actual processing strengths and challenges of each individual, not on the so-called “issues” of gender.
Our sex does not predetermine our communication proclivities. Our willingness to understand the communication process and improve our skills, as individuals, is what’s important. Better to avoid the stereotypes and take personal responsibility for how we relate to one another, person to person.