By DEZRI ROCHIN/Montana State News
In case you forgot, February was National Relationship Wellness Month. If you did forget, that’s OK because March is National Listening Awareness month. The two go hand in hand as communication is the key to a healthy relationship and listening is key to good communication.
The problem lies in the fact that males and females communicate so differently. So different indeed that someone decided to dedicate an entire month to listening awareness.
In a survey circulated in February, questions three and four asked what people’s partners could do to improve the relationship and what they themselves could do to improve the relationship, respectively.
A number of women reported that “freaking out” on their part would do the relationship some good. “Freaking out” seems to be a common reaction to situations that arise as a result of poor communication, at least for women.
Men don’t tend to freak out and don’t understand why women do. According to licensed family therapist Sally Hand, “The male and female brains are so different it is like two different cultures.”
This can lead to a great deal of frustration. But that is also OK because March is National Optimism Month.
One response question number three was from a male who thought he could help the relationship by, “Letting her know when I am upset with what she is doing in a way that doesn’t piss her off to the point where it’s worse than just dealing with her irritating behavior.”
Ouch! But this, arguably, holds true for both sexes. It just manifests itself in different ways.
A female tizzy fit looks much different than a male tizzy fit. But men do have them. Right ladies? They’re just more low key. Silent but deadly if you will.
The key to successful communication is understanding the person you are involved with. This means we must examine how our brains function.
The first thing partners need to realize, according to Hand, is, “[e]very human is born with a right and left brain.
The right brain is home to the emotion centers as well as creativity and feeling centers. The left brain is home to the centers for cognitive skills, analytical thought and verbal skills. There are many more neural pathways bridging the left and right brains in females than in males.”
This is why women are more in touch with their feelings and are constantly trying to get their male companion to listen to her talk about those inner feelings, according to Hand.
Hand also says, “[t]he connections between hemispheres in females are like superhighways and in males they are like little cow paths.”
In other words, males have a much harder time accessing their feelings and finding words to communicate them.
“Men also are much more adept at shutting off moods and feelings,” says Hand.
Are things are starting to make a little more sense now right ladies? It is understandable that women become irritated with their men. They are by nature programmed to do the exact opposite of what women would like for them to do.
Hand adds, “[w]omen often are much more verbose than men and what many women don’t understand is that men can’t take in all of that. So men just shut down. It’s too much to absorb especially in a heated discussion.”
Most males who started reading this have likely stopped by this point. April is National Twit Award Month. Remember it’s all about listening.
When women are upset they want to talk about it. Hand says that, “[a] woman may speak for about 10 minutes and a guy has heard like 30 seconds of it. He’s just tuned out.”
When men are upset they want to watch a game or tinker in the garage, according to Hand. Communication can actually make some men uncomfortable.
“The downside is that women live with much more awareness than men [who] don’t have the same feelings. Or at least they aren’t in touch with them,” says Hand.
Not that women are the easiest gender to understand. In fact the opposite is true. Women have the hormone fluctuation issue. Even women have a tough time dealing with their hormones. Women are complicated in comparison to men. Women are time bombs.
So, given all of our fundamental differences, how are we to peacefully co-exist? What then is the key to good communication? April is also National Emotional Overeating Month as well as National Alcohol Awareness Month? Emotional overeating and alcohol consumption might be tempting, but they are not the healthiest solutions.
Sex is always good. Many of the people responding to question number five, which asked what the best things about their relationship were, put sex at the top of the list.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits of sex there is an emotional benefit as well.
“Sex totally changes the chemicals in the male brain,” says hand. “They become more expressive, attentive and tender.”
In other words, by day they might be Mr. Oblivious but by night (or whenever) they might become Prince Charming.
So, there are benefits to maintaining a healthy sex life.
However, since most of us don’t have the luxury of spending our days in bed, there has to be a way to increase our ability to communicate with the opposite sex.
Hand teaches her clients to “really listen to each other and to respond rather than become defensive or aggressive.” One male in the survey answered question three with, “[w]hen she gets angry, she shouldn’t also become spiteful.”
It is important for partners not to raise each other defenses. We stop listening when we are being defensive.
“Having a successful relationship is about learning how to accept the differences in one’s partner without condemnation,” says Hand.
If communication is the most common problem in relationships, then listening is the solution. Care about the other person’s feelings, even if you don’t understand them.
A favorite response to question three: What could your partner do to improve your relationship? According to one survey taker, “Become independently wealthy, quit her job, immerse herself is things she loves and rekindle awe in the world.”
And a favorite response to question four: What could you do to improve the relationship? Another survey taker said, “[b]ecome independently wealthy so she could quit her job and immerse herself in the things she loves and rekindle awe in the world.”
Chivalry is not dead. Happy Listening Awareness Month.
Edited by David Hoy