Men Really Are From Mars

// April 1st, 2009 // Blog

I attended a workshop a couple of days ago, titled “Positive Presence and Image”, that aimed to help Muslim women create a greater personal impact within their professional environments.

The female instructor gave us several pieces of advice, but the one that stuck in my head the most was how to effectively communicate with male colleagues. A very important topic, considering that the workplace is still somewhat of a “man's world”.

Women have a great knack of speaking quickly, almost nonstop, without the need for pause of breath in between sharing a whole host of thoughts and ideas; additionally, we have no problems interpreting information presented in this fashion. Just observe two women gabbing in the kitchen at lightning speed, over cups of tea and chocolate-covered digestives, and you'll see what I mean.

However, according to our instructor, men are not very good at assimilating information when presented in long, spoken sentences, and will only likely remember the last few words that are thrown at them. Apparently, communicating with men in this way is akin to verbal assault.

I found this to be a very strange concept, and almost didn't believe it. That is, until I recalled the classic sitcom scenario:

A husband pretends to listen, while his wife continuously pours out her frustrations, unaware that her words are falling onto deaf ears. He adds to the illusion by throwing in the odd, well-timed: “a-ha”, “hmm, and “yes, dear”. However, the tone of scene quickly shifts when the wife eventually realizes his indifference. Upon being jogged awake by screams of: “Are you even listening to me?!“, the panicked husband tries to cover his tracks by repeating the last few words that remain in his subconscious. This usually turns out to be the absolutely wrong thing to say, and much hilarity ensues.

Indeed, I myself, have often lamented over the apparent inattentiveness of male acquaintances, whom I perceived to be purposefully disinterested. Now I suspect that their brains were not appropriately wired to receive my transmissions. Or maybe I really was boring them to sleep…

Anyhow, the instructor's remedy was simple: if you want to get a message across to a man – whatever the situation – the best method of delivery is short sentences, with distinct breaks in between phrases, to allow the brain time to sort through the information.

Initially, I was quite excited to experiment with this technique. However, I soon began to consider the implications of acting upon such advice: would it be condescending for me to speak at a slower pace to a man – just because he is a man?

It's one thing to behave differently because I want to communicate more effectively – but what if this implies that I think all men are 'slow' and thus need special treatment? Even if such gender-specific practices are pragmatic – are they also insulting?

After all, many women are offended when their own biology is turned against them by their male counterparts. For example, when we're accused of being 'overly emotional', or when “that time of the month” is used as an excuse to undermine a genuine grievance.

Personally, I think it is a matter of intention. But as neither gender can read minds, I suspect that they are forever fated to battle through their physiological differences. It seems that only patience, thick skins, and the Grace of God can save us from all out war.

15 Responses to “Men Really Are From Mars”

  1. Well-written article, but you were given some really bad advice. While it’s true, we’re not communicators as women are and we have a tendency for short, clipped speaking, the reason men only catch the last few sentences is because they don’t know where you’re going in the discussion.

    Women tend to “bury the lead”, so to speak. They start building the details of the story, but if you want a man’s attention, start with the title of the story, start with the main point, then build up the details.

    When you start with the point, now his mind has something to latch on to, something to associate all the other details with, and can form a coherent picture as you now build the story.

    So no, don’t slow down or talk down to men – begin with the end, and end with the beginning, and you’ll be good to go, insha’Allah.

    Siraaj

  2. teddlesruss says:

    Too much information! Waaahhhhh! %)

  3. ibn Halal says:

    assalam alaikum

    are you studying men communication skills like you studied those creatures in your PhD experiments? :)

    I think anyone who doesn’t pay attention will try to cover up their inattentiveness by repeating the last few words.

  4. muslimengineer says:

    This reminded me of the lecture the three Sheikh Yasers gave during TDC 07 titled Men are from Makkah, Women are from Madinah. For those interested it is available for free at http://www.texasdawah.org/DOWNLOADS/AudioLectures/tabid/282/Default.aspx.

    Mashallah articulated post! I guess it boils down to the general nature in which men and women think or process information. A typical masculine character tends to be more rational in thinking while a typical feminine one is more inclined to her emotions. Every human being has some percentage of both in them. Each gender has to open up their mind frame when conversing with the other and then InshaAllah men will listen to what women have to say and women will say what men like to hear :)

  5. Shawkat says:

    ‘…I think anyone who doesn’t pay attention will try to cover up their inattentiveness by repeating the last few words..’ ya, i agree. Bcoz i also pretend like listening when i dont want to listen at all.

  6. Shawkat says:

    @ muslimengineer: Very wellsaid.

  7. iMuslim says:

    Siraaj: Excellent advice, masha’Allah. Tbh, I’d trust yours more than the instructor’s, considering you’re a guy n’ all. Though when I told my mum about the slow-talking tip, she seemed to agree with it… and she’s been married for >40 years. So maybe there is /some/ truth in it! :D

    teddleruss: Just read the post more slowly, and take frequent breaks in between paragraphs. ;)

    Ibn Halal: Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. I think I would have enjoyed studying anthropology. But the ethics of human experimentation is a little ‘iffy’. :)

    muslimengineer: “men will listen to what women have to say and women will say what men like to hear”… :p

    Shawkat: “Bcoz i also pretend like listening when i dont want to listen at all.” Have you ever thought of writing a sitcom? ;)

  8. AnonyMouse says:

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

    *Looks around at the blog*
    *Dusts off chair*
    *Seats self at table, links hands together, leans forward and joins the conversation*

    Siraaj is right. Speaking to men is like writing a newspaper article. You need a catchy title (sensationalism is permitted if the intended audience is easily bored, distracted, or just plain thick in the skull), throw out some exciting-sounding main points, and THEN you can rant. Just not for too long ‘cuz then their eyes glaze over. It also helps if you give them something to do – much of the time they assume you’re talking to them because you need them to do something. It makes them feel better if they feel useful.

  9. AnonyMouse says:

    Oh, and there are many times when it’s just better to talk to a guy because girls get too caught up in their feelings… whereas guys can be (gratefully) dense in that particular area. Unless they’ve been married for a while and can (kind of) pick up on that stuff.

  10. Assamu’alaikum,

    First off, nice blog, MashAllah.

    Secondly, being a man, I find that women are much more intuitive than men are. That means they will say things (and not say things) and expect you to understand the big picture.

    Unfortunately, men aren’t as intuitive. Spelling things out to us will really help in the relationship/conversation/etc. I think this is because we are more logical.

    There are, of course, always exceptions to the rule. But this is generally how I see it.

    Wasalam,
    Slim | MuslimWorker.com

  11. Also, for those of us who are particularly dense, you’ll need to spell out when you want understanding, and when you want a solution, otherwise, men will assume you want the latter (which is why when you don’t get to the point, they can’t be helpful to the metaphorical damsel in distress).

    Evolved individuals like myself can usually tell the difference because we evaluate the discussion in that light – if I truly can’t tell what my wife wants, I ask her directly, “Hold on, before you continue, you want a solution, or understanding?” It’s pretty funny, but so far I’ve gotten away with it without having the chappels chucked at me yet.

    Siraaj

  12. Manas Shaikh says:

    It’s correct what you heard. And it’s correct to treat people according to their needs. There’s nothing wrong with that. Rather being not responsive to somebody’s special needs, even when you can, is wrong- I would say.

  13. Sumera says:

    Good thing I talk kind of slow anyway and switch off when people talk for too long :D

    Am I a man….

  14. Specs says:

    Gosh, I’m with Sumera here… I lose track of what people are saying because I keep on tuning in and out but shorter sentences make their way into my long term memory in a surprising way because I don’t even have to make an effort, really.

  15. iMuslim, here’s something just for you:

    http://muslimbestlife.com/blog/?p=829

    When the time is right, insha’Allah, it’ll come in handy.

    Siraaj

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