How To Communicate Constructively
It’s long been said that men and women communicate differently, but a new study might just prove it. The modern man may moisturise, cry and be more in touch with his feelings than ever before, but when it comes to telephone conversations emotions go out of the window - he only tends to call if he wants something. So how can couples talk constructively? Experts give their view.
At first glance, Rupert was everything that Carol could ever hope for in a partner. Tall, kind and considerate, Rupert got along great with her family, worked in the entertainment industry, was easy to talk to, and was fantastic in the kitchen.
“My first few boyfriends were so macho, they constantly proved their masculinity by walking out the door instead of discussing our relationship problems,” explains the 28-year-old social worker.
“Rupert was the exact opposite. He was more metrosexual and in touch with his feelings.”
But no matter how emotionally in tune Carol thought the couple were there was one problem: he hated talking on the phone.
“Considering how much he travelled for work, that turned out to be quite a big problem,” she says. And as soon as this communication crack appeared in their relationship, it began to shatter the seemingly perfect surface.
For Carol, staying in touch with Rupert while he was travelling was essential to maintaining a healthy relationship. But no matter how much they emailed or texted, she found that they still grew apart emotionally, much to her frustration.
A new survey has revealed that, as anecdotal evidence would suggest, men and women treat phone calls very differently. And for Carol and Rupert their differing communication habits spelled the end of their relationship.
According to a new survey by BT, men’s “quality” phone calls consequently contain around three times as much functional content (50%) compared with women (17%), according to the research.
Women’s calls, by contrast, include almost three times as much (28%) personal conversation compared with men (10%).
Six months, after their break up, Carol is still thinking about where she went wrong.. It’s not always the men who need help communicating, though,” she says, wistfully. “I realise now I could have done a lot better myself.”
So how can men and women communicate their love in the modern world?
Men, it seems, only phone when they want something. According to the BT study, which analysed nearly 500 calls and investigated the phone habits of over 2,000 UK adults, this is because men and women disagree over what they consider a “quality” phone call. Men consider “quality” calls those which allow them to “get what they want”, such as information about what time to meet for dinner.
Women, on the other hand, more frequently look to forge an emotional connection with the person on the other end of the line. The reasons for this are varied, says relationship expert and psychologist Emma Kenny, as women’s and men’s brains work differently physiologically. But a large part of why the sexes communicate differently has to do with how they process their emotions.
“Communication stems from emotional awareness, so if we’re brought up to be more laterally logical and less emotional - like men are - then it will be harder for us to communicate in a way other than to convey information, such as what time we’ll be home for dinner or whether the kids have been dropped off at school,” she explains.
“This results in women expecting men to be as emotionally aware as they are themselves, and can lead to a woman thinking her man doesn’t get her emotionally.” But this isn’t necessarily the case, she adds. Men are just as capable of deep emotional thought and feeling as women are - they’re just not used to expressing it.
These days we might feel like we’re in constant communication all the time, but really it’s a misconception, says Kenny. “These days people are communicating by texting and using facebook, but they’re not doing it in an intimate way that allows them to be closer emotionally. It’s an assumed contact rather than an actual contact.”
We’ve become so used to communicating about the mundane events of everyday life - such as what time to meet at the pub or quick texts consisting of ‘How r u’, she says, that the times when we do really ‘connect’ with each other resonate strongly within us.
The trouble is just finding the time.
So how do you ensure that you have a meaningful conversation with your partner, either on the phone or in person? Practice, says Kenny. “While the research confirms that men and women communicate differently, the way they reflect on good communication is very similar,” she explains.
“All those involved in the study, whether male or female, agree the best conversations occur when in comfortable surroundings, away from daily distractions and in a relaxed environment - usually sitting or lying down, and ideally with a cup of tea or glass of wine at hand.”
Top tips on communicating
1. Assume nothing: Talking on the phone means you don’t have any body language to pick up on. Instead of reading into things, be clear, concise and prepared to listen.
2. Save yourself: You’ll have more quality conversations the more time and space you make for them. “Do you really need to talk to your mum 15 times a day?” says Kenny. “Try twice a week and see if the quality of the conversation improves.”
3. Ritualise your time: The British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy (BASRT) suggests setting aside at least 30 minutes to discussing issues with your partner. Kenny agrees: “The best conversations are those that take place with space and time. So put the kids to bed, kick your feet up, have a cup of tea and give yourself time for a good chat.”
4. Be clear: Successful communication involves saying what you feel and need, not asking your partner to be involved in a guessing game Your partner isn’t a mind reader. Say what you need out of the relationship. If, then, you don’t get it, then at least you’ll know you asked for it.
5. Know when to quit: Nothing will be resolved if the discussion goes awry. Schedule another time and spend some positive time together in the interim, advises BASRT.
6. Write it down:
If you’ve got gripes with your partner, say nothing, write it down and sit on it for a few days, then, take a look at what you’ve written and only discuss the bits that still feel bad to you. You may realise that whatever was upsetting you wasn’t your partner, but your bad day at work.”