We have all heard the funny saying that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. When it comes to processing strong emotions, this could be close to the truth! And understanding those differences will give you much better communication – especially when you need it most!
Wives, when you are in a passionate situation that causes a display of emotions – let’s say you are really upset about a problem at your kids’ school and you disagree how to solve it – realize that your husband may not receive what you are trying to communicate because he thinks you are not thinking clearly.
Before you get indignant about that, let me explain why that is!
For men, strong emotions and logic cannot coexist together. It’s like a bird trying to live underwater. When men are feeling strong emotions, they have to compartmentalize those feelings in order to be able to continue to think logically. This is a huge thing we need to know about our husbands – and men in general, actually. (It applies to your male colleagues too!)
A man sees someone (woman or man!) getting defensive, upset or holding back tears, and no matter how smart or logical that person is, he thinks, “Oh man, they’re getting emotional!” He then will begin to worry that he won’t be able to think clearly to address whatever is being discussed, and so will often withdraw from engaging with that person in that moment. He feels a strong need to wait until things have calmed down, and the discussion can be productive again.
In other words: when someone shows a display of strong emotion, a man automatically thinks all logic has left the building! You may be highly rational, educated and informed, trying to communicate a concern very clearly, but your husband has now shut down receiving any of it because he believes you are not thinking clearly in the midst of your emotions. Men, am I right?! This was shown repeatedly in interviews for research in my book, For Women Only in the Workplace.
Ladies, you may be protesting, “Just because I feel something strongly or I am upset, does NOT mean I am not thinking clearly!” For you as a woman, you are 100% correct. The key is that he doesn’t realize that. So everything will change once he sees you being as logical as you actually are. Take some deep breaths and pause, so you are able to use a calm voice, a steady tone, and an even expression. List two key points why you think it is important to email the school right away, rather than waiting until tomorrow. It doesn’t mean he will automatically agree with you, of course, but it will help a man hear what you are actually trying to say.
And husbands, here’s what you need to know on your side: your wife has a type of brain wiring that can process BOTH strong emotions and logical thoughts at the same time. So when you are communicating with your wife, understand that her passionate display of emotion does not mean she is not thinking clearly. Try to avoid the temptation to set the discussion aside, since she may view that as a signal that you don’t care – even though you probably care very much! Reminding yourself that she is thinking clearly will help you be able to better receive what she’s saying, and not miss a point that might be very important for you to hear.
Yes, we may be from two different planets, but we can communicate well. And understanding these different ways of processing will help you do that, right when you need it most.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.