Communication Breakdown (Part 5): Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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From Glamour magazine, “11 Things Guys Just Don’t Understand About Women,” it seems that the biggest beef men have with women is that they can’t understand our style of communication. Seriously, six of the eleven things were about communication!

Men and women have very different styles of communication. I know, newsflash, right? I’ve been offering some tips to improve communication between the sexes. There are five major differences in communication between men and women, in my personal experience, and this is the last in the series. 

The fifth major difference is that men hear actions, they don’t always hear words. I sure wish I’d realized that before I told my husband I wanted a divorce for the first time. I thought I’d been saying loud and clear that I wasn’t happy and things needed to change or I would leave. But we were still having sex, so everything was fine as far as he was concerned.

Maybe it’s self-preservation; for the sake of their sanity they tune out things we say repeatedly that they don’t want to believe. But I think it’s more likely that it’s our fault as women, if you want to place blame somewhere. We say one thing, but don’t act in a congruent way to what we’re saying. In my case, I kept saying I was unhappy, but I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t demand therapy, although I requested it. I kept sleeping with him, even as I felt less and less attracted to him. 

There’s a really good reason we do this dance of incongruence. It’s called FEAR. Men have their own dance; it’s called avoidance. Call it a survival tactic, but whatever it is, it keeps us from acting before we’re ready. Readiness is a tricky thing; we never really know if we’re ready until we’re in the middle of it. So one day I decided I was ready.

I discovered that as soon as I moved into the guest bedroom, he started to take me seriously. Suddenly, he agreed to begin therapy. He started asking what was missing, and what I needed from him to be happy. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your perspective), it was too little, too late for me. 

Lesson learned, and the advice I’d like to pass on to other women who feel like they’re in a similar situation. When you decide you’re ready, you’ll be ready. Even if you don’t know how it’s going to work out, it will. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Be willing to back up your words with action, or don’t waste your breath. 

On the flip side, women can learn that men speak volumes with their actions. They may not use flowery prose, but by mowing the lawn and cleaning the gutters, they’re telling you how much they love you. If you’re dating and he doesn’t call often, or finds excuses not to see you, that’s a different kind of sign. Men are wired for actions, not words, but their actions are usually clear signals if you know how to translate them. 


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