Why Silence Can be More Powerful than Words with a Man

Posted on July 1, 2012 by


Ladies,

As women, we LOVE words.  Marriage counselor and author, Bob Grant, likes to say, “Words are for women.”  We usually like to emote, talk, share, chat, email, text, talk on the phone and relate.  That’s how we “connect” and feel close and loved with each other and with everyone in our lives. 

The opposite of Bob Grant’s statement is also true – but most of us don’t realize it. 

Words are not for men. 

Men use words, of course.  But words don’t have the same impact, meaning and power over men that they do for women emotionally – usually.

If you are ever in doubt about a man’s true feelings, trust his ACTIONS over his words.  Ideally, they would both match up.  But if they don’t match – his actions will tell you what he really thinks and feels.

WHY THE DIFFERENCES? (For those of you who are interested in the anatomical design of male vs. female brains – I’m a pharmacist, I love anatomy – skip it if it’s too clinical!)

Well, our brains are constructed completely differently in regards to emotion and language processing.  Women have larger emotional centers of the brain and millions more nerve connections between the two halves of the brain.  We are wired to talk, to nurture, to love and to connect with words and feelings.  God made us this way.  It’s a good thing!  Women are prepared to use lots of words to teach, praise, encourage, and resolve problems.

Men’s brains don’t have as large of a limbic system (the emotional processing center) and they have MANY FEWER connecting neurons between the right and left halves of the brain.  They also have a much bigger connection between their emotional processing center and their spinal cord than women do.  God did all of these amazing things very purposefully.  Men can’t access their emotions as easily as women –  that is a GOOD thing at a stressful job or on the battlefield and also when they are leaders of a home and there is a crisis.  And when men do have a lot of negative emotions they go more toward the spinal cord and result in physical action instead of words.  Men are prepared to fight if necessary and to defend and protect. 

God’s design is GOOD.

THE PROBLEM

Today, women often expect men to act like women – our culture has taught us to do this, and we don’t even question it.  We expect men to be just like us – to think like us, to process emotions like us, to need to talk about their feelings like we do, to love words and emotional “connection” like we do, to want to sit face to face and talk for hours.   We expect them to be like our close girlfriends. 

Here’s some surprising news!  Men aren’t like women.  God made us to be very different.  It’s good that we are different from each other.  But we get ourselves into a lot of trouble when we assume that men think, process and feel like we do and that when they say or do things it would mean the same thing that we would mean if we did that thing.  Did that make sense? 

There are some similarities, of course.  But there are many differences – and if we don’t understand those differences, we end up speaking a foreign language to men.   We misunderstand them and they misunderstand us.  That is frustrating!  Our relationships work MUCH better when we understand men, allow them to be masculine and admire them for being masculine.  The differences are what make relationships between men and women so magnetic!

THE WORD THING

What this means for relationships (even with our dads, brothers, male coworkers and friends) is that we need to learn about how men think, how they perceive the world, what they want, what they need, what motivates them and how to communicate with them in ways that are EFFECTIVE with men.  That means we may have to get out of our female verbal comfort zone and learn some new ways of communicating that may feel awkward or foreign at first.  If you are communicating positive emotions and happy, joyful, respectful thoughts – I doubt you have to use much restraint.  But with super negative emotions – the following things may be helpful to increase the effectiveness of our communication)

So, when we are communicating with men (especially VERY emotionally charged information), here are some things to keep in mind to make our communication more meaningful and effective:

  • You know I have to say it – be respectfulMen have an understanding that they will speak to each other respectfully.  If a guy does NOT speak respectfully – WATCH OUT!  It is not going to be pretty!  We do not want to signal to a man that we want to fight him.  That’s a bad idea!  Even when we disagree, we can be polite.  Even when we end up not getting what we want – we can refrain from eye-rolling, sighing, pouting, stomping across the floor, slamming doors, yelling, name-calling, cussing, character assassination or any kind of Jerry-Springer-guest activity.   This means we must have self-control, poise, grace and dignity.  A man respects a woman who can speak respectfully to him and handle herself responsibly and maturely.  So if you want to have influence over a man – he has to respect you and the way you present yourself to him.  If you act in a way that makes you seem emotional, out-of-control or crazy – he won’t respect you.  Then your desires, thoughts and feelings will matter very little to him.  That’s how it works in a man’s world.  Men only allow those they respect to influence their decisions. 
  • Be fairly to the point and give the bottom line – especially if it is a very emotionally charged issue.  Men usually don’t want lots of details – unless you are talking about things you respect and admire about them, of course!  But details about what is happening in all of your girlfriends’ lives, or every detail of every emotion you are experiencing, or a word-for-word hour-long conversation you had with someone – those kinds of details can seem a bit unnecessary sometimes to guys.  Men can sometimes feel inundated with the sheer volume of a woman’s words alone, and if the words are also extremely emotional – it can be way too overwhelming.  When men feel overwhelmed in a bad way – they don’t like to stay there.  They go where they feel successful, wanted and like winners, not where they feel like they are failures or losers.
  • Watch your body language and tone of voice – men gather a lot of data from non-verbal communication and tone of voice.  They will generally pay much more attention to HOW you are saying something than what you are saying.  I’m sure women do this, too.  But sometimes we don’t step back and think about how we sound and what we look like as we are talking.  It’s easy not to notice ourselves having an edgy, angry tone of voice or crossed arms, or other body language that says, “I’m angry.  I’m not open to your input.  This is a confrontation not a pleasant conversation.  I’m right, you’re wrong and you better do what I say – or else.”   Guys will generally be able to hear your feelings and needs MUCH better when you use a pleasant tone of voice, when you smile, when you whisper or speak softly and act like you generally enjoy being in their company.
  • Realize that if you are upset with a guy – more words probably won’t help.  LESS IS MORE sometimes!  This is REALLY important!  With other women, we go talk about how we feel.  We say what the other girl did to upset us.  We go into great detail and exact quotes.  She apologizes.  We talk about all of our feelings.  We apologize, too.  We make up.  It might take an hour or two, there will probably be crying and hugging and then laughing.  But we try to use words to reconcile relationships.  Men don’t usually do this!  In fact, if we approach a man with a lot of negative emotion to try to reconcile the relationship and “connect” – he may feel attacked if we are using a lot of upset words and tears.  The languages a man can best hear when we are upset – are distance or pain (Bob Grant).  If he sees we are in pain (and not blaming him), and he is feeling respected – he will probably try to help us and be our hero.  If we say fairly calmly and briefly that we are upset about something he did – he’ll probably apologize.  But if he doesn’t – we can respectfully move away for awhile and create some distance while he processes his feelings for us and about the situation and decides what he wants to do.  If we are being respectful, he’ll most likely start to miss us and feel really guilty about whatever it is he did wrong.  Giving him some time to think and some silence allows him to feel the weight of his own sin and also allows him to hear God’s voice better.  AND – I really love this part – if we are not sinning in anger against our man, and all he has is his own sin staring him in the face – he is much more likely to repent and change and turn to us and to God.  If we blare a bunch of angry, upset words at a man and tear him down and treat him like dirt – he’s going to be thinking about our over-the-top, crazy, out-of-control behavior and how he can get away from THAT!  Getting away from us is NOT what we want him thinking about, ladies!  We want him to think about wanting to be with us and reconnecting with us.  And I know this is incredibly counterintuitive for us – but silence is extremely powerful with men – if we learn how to use it respectfully, and only when necessary.  If we are normally very joyful, pleasant, admiring, approving and respectful – a guy will MISS THAT A LOT!  He would be willing to do almost anything to have some more of a girl like that back in his life.  He doesn’t need a litany of words and accusations.  He will respond to a very small tidbit of information – ie: “I’m hurt about X.”  “I’m upset about Y.”  “I’m angry about Z.” 

TO THE GUYS WHO READ MY BLOG

You are welcome to comment!  We would be very interested to hear your take on some of these issues.  Thanks for your willingness to give us your valuable masculine perspective!

RESOURCES

I LOVE Shaunti Feldhahn’s book “For Women Only” (It’s geared more towards wives) or you may also want to check out her book “For Young Women Only.”    She uses large surveys of Christian men to find out how real men think and feel and handle situations and she gives women the information in a very understandable format that helps us really get inside the minds of men and have empathy and appreciation for their point of view.

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