Communication – Why is it so hard?

Communication between women and men with prostate cancer sometimes ends up being a battle between the sexes.

Part of the problem, writes author John Gray, PhD, is that we automatically assume that our partners will react the same way we do because we love them.  In reality, this is only wishful thinking.

Purpose of talking varies

One reason that men and women don’t react the same is that their perception of what the act of communication represents may differ.

Women perceive talking as a way to interact and get close, writes Deborah Tannen, who is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University.

Women also perceive listening as a way of showing that they care and are interested in what their partners have to say. They tend to enjoy intimate and personal communication.

Men, on the other hand, may be more open to talking in public situations (such as in a group setting) because they communicate to express their knowledge and skills.

Unlike women, men may not have the same need or desire to talk as a way of establishing closeness and rapport.

This may explain why some men with prostate cancer are silent at home, yet they are chatterboxes in social settings.

See the gender differences

Tannen gives an excellent example of gender differences and communication in her book, You Just Don’t Understand!

  • A man suggests he and his partner have breakfast together before leaving for work
  • The woman is excited, thinking it will be an opportunity for them to talk intimately
  • The man opens the newspaper and begins reading
  • Previously, the woman would have felt ignored and rejected
  • Now she knows that her physical presence is what her man desires and needs for him to feel close to her, not a conversation

More communication insights 

  • Women often use talking as a way to work through their problems
  • Men are programmed to “fix” problems and may mistakenly assume that women want them to provide a solution, rather than just listen and empathize
  • If a man offers a solution, and a woman keeps talking about her problem(s), he may feel the woman is ignoring his advice. He may then become disinterested in the conversation and will stop hearing her
  • When women are engaged in conversation, they may show their partners they are listening by using phrases such as “yeah,” “hmm,” and “okay.” Men may not. A woman may mistakenly think that a man’s lack of verbal response means he is not listening to her
  • Women tend to ask questions when communicating, while men may not
  • When talking, women tend to directly face the person they are talking to, while men may not
  • Men may take longer to process information during communication. They may need time (from minutes to several hours) to think about a conversation before they respond. If they feel they don’t have enough information to make a knowledgeable response, they may not say anything at all
  • While women talk about their problems to help work through them, men tend to talk about their problems when they are blaming someone or looking for advice

Read our other helpful articles about communicating with a man with prostate cancer:

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Gray J. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Harper Collins:New York, NY; 1992.

Tannen D. You Just Don’t Understand! Harper Collins:New York,NY;1990.

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