Have you ever felt like the opposite sex is a completely different species than you? I know I have. For decades, I’ve felt both misunderstood by males and so confused by them! “What goes on in his head?” and “Why would he act like that?” are just a couple of questions I’ve asked myself dozens and dozens of times in my lifetime.
Whenever I heard about Dr. John Gray and his Mars & Venus series of books, I was instantly intrigued and picked up Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex and dove right into it. I happily welcomed learning about gender insights in order to become more understanding, tolerant, and forgiving of men.
Below, you’ll find four insights from Dr. Gray on how to better understand and communicate with the opposite sex. When used, these insights can also alleviate the disappointment and frustration that we’ve all felt before and lead to increased happiness and intimacy in our relationships.
Insight #1: Our sense of self is unrelated.
Dr. Gray explains how a man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results. Power, competency, efficiency, and achievement are what men value most. Success and accomplishment are how men experience fulfillment.
A woman’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of relationships. We value communication, love, and relationships. It’s in our nature to help, support, and nurture. Females experience fulfillment through sharing and relating to one another – personal expression and communication are vitally important to them.
It’s important to identify these two varying perspectives and sets of values because it impacts all of the rest of the insights from this book. Because we’re fundamentally so different, the way we each approach the world and how we communicate are, too.
Insight #2: Our reasons to communicate vary.
A woman talks for a variety of reasons – to convey or gather information, to explore and discover what it is she wants to say, to feel better and more centered when she is upset, and to create intimacy through sharing her feelings.
Women can easily talk about their problems and how they feel – it’s refreshing for them to get it off of their chests. Men, on the other hand, feel frustrated by problems unless they are doing something to solve them.
When a woman verbalizes that she simply needs someone to listen to her – no advice or solutions needed – she helps a man realize that just by listening, he is helping her work through her thoughts and emotions. When she’s going into an emotional rabbit hole, it’s also a good idea for her to say “It’s not your fault,” and “I really appreciate your listening; I feel so much better talking about this with you.”
A man, on the other hand, typically communicates to convey or gather information. In fact, oftentimes a man WON’T talk, and that’s the time when he needs to think about a problem and find a practical solution. If he doesn’t have an answer to a question or problem, he can sometimes become more upset or stressed and needs to cool off to find his control again, or he needs to find himself.
Learning this has been helpful for me to realize when it’s appropriate to engage in conversations with my boyfriend and when it makes more sense to reach out to my sister, based on what it is I want to talk about.
Insight #3: We communicate differently and need to read between the lines.
Men and women may use similar words, but they mean totally different things. What do I mean by that? Men use words quite literally while women tend to use words as expressions of a general feeling.
As you might’ve guessed, this can cause A LOT of communication issues between men and women. Both men and women unknowingly communicate in ways that are not only counterproductive but may even be a turnoff.
“I’m OK”, “It’s nothing”, and “It’s alright” are a few common comments you might have heard come out of a male’s mouth. When a man makes one of these statements, he typically wants silent acceptance and space. When a man says he’s okay, what he means is that he’s okay because he can deal with whatever issue has arisen alone and doesn’t need any help. He’d like to be supported by not having you worry about him – trust that he can handle it on his own.
What about women? When a woman says something like “I’m so tired, I can’t do anything else today” to a man, what she means to communicate is “I’ve been doing so much today, and I need to rest before I can do anything else. Will you reassure me that I’m doing a good job and that I deserve to rest?” More often than not, a man will judge or invalidate their female partner’s feelings, which leads to arguments and resentment.
I can’t agree more with this sentiment, and learning this has made me push myself to try and be more literal when I’m communicating with my boyfriend, although I’m still quite longwinded and probably always will be because…that’s the female way of communicating!
Insight 4: We have different emotional needs.
Males and females have different emotional needs, but typically they don’t realize this. As a result, men and women don’t instinctively know how to best support each other – each mistakenly assumes that the other has the same needs and desires, and as a result, they both end up dissatisfied and resentful. Oftentimes, both men and women feel their love goes unappreciated.
Why? Dr. Gray highlights the 12 kinds of love – men and women each have 6 unique love needs that are required before one is able to receive and appreciate the other kinds of love. For women, we need caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance, while men need trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement. Men and women get their feelings hurt most easily when they don’t get the kind of primary love that they need.
Examples of common mistakes that men and women make
The book showcases a variety of common “mistakes” that both men and women make when in conversation that I totally related to. For example, one mistake men commonly make is that they don’t listen or get easily distracted, and a woman doesn’t feel loved when this happens because he isn’t being attentive or showing that he’s invested in her life. Similarly, when a man takes a woman’s words about her feelings literally and corrects her, she will not feel loved because she feels completely misunderstood.
With women, they often try to improve men’s behaviors by offering unsolicited advice, and men don’t feel loved when this happens, because he thinks she doesn’t accept him as he is anymore. Another common mistake a woman can make is not acknowledging what a man does for her, but complaining about what he hasn’t done, which makes a man feel taken for granted and unappreciated.
I must say that the amount of insight that I found in Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus is significant, and I just scratched the surface with the ones shared here today. If you’re intrigued by what you just read, I encourage you to go pick up a copy of the book and dig into it yourself – you’ll learn something new, I promise.
After finishing this book, I’ve begun to switch up my own approach in order to better respect men in a way that’s important to them. Changing lifelong communication habits is tough, but I’m continuing to practice small tweaks in my communication techniques in order to better communicate and understand the men in my life better than before.