Friday, 29 June 2012
I have a problem understanding women sometimes and have tried to remedy the situation by highlighting what I perceive to be our differences, like in this old post: Men Versus Women.
However, despite all of that I am still a simpleton. If you had any doubts, here is further proof.
Mrs PM and I had a conversation when she returned home from work a few nights ago. She had had a bad day and wanted to let off steam and talk about it.
The gist of the conversation was this.
MRS PM: I’m so fed up.
PM: Well here’s what I would do. It’s not really your problem so take a step back and ignore it.
MRS PM: I can’t ignore it. I’m pissed off.
PM: Don’t be pissed off; I wouldn’t be. Here’s what you need to do…
MRS PM: I don’t WANT you to tell me what I need to do; I just want some sympathy.
PM: But I can sort this out for you. All you need to do is …
MRS PM: STOP TRYING TO SOLVE IT. I JUST WANT SYMPATHY.
The next few minutes were spent with Mrs PM reading the riot act to me.
I had upset her and become a verbal punch bag simply because I had followed my natural instinct to address her problem – a suggestion to solve it.
That’s okay – I don’t mind being a verbal punch bag – especially for Mrs PM.
Nevertheless, what I really didn’t understand was that all I needed to do was listen to her, touch her hand, nod in agreement and culminate the exchange with a hug, a kiss and a few chosen words of sympathy.
Another woman would have achieved this perfectly.
In the end, I cast my insensitive stupidity aside and followed her and gave her the hug she needed.
I don’t know whether it is the same for other men but when anybody discusses any issues with me, my natural reaction is to try to solve their problems. I will listen intently until I understand what the problem is and then I will offer a solution, or at least offer my opinion based on how I imagine that I would deal with the situation myself.
It’s a natural thing for me as a guy. Whether other men think this way I don’t know – but it works for me.
Sadly it doesn’t seem to be the same for Mrs PM – or indeed a lot of other women. Sometimes, a woman will want a solution, but the majority of the time, in my experience anyway, discussing the issue, expressing her innermost thoughts and getting everything out in the open to a sympathetic ear is all that she requires.
In the case above, Mrs PM knew what she needed to do; she just wanted to express herself and tell somebody how she felt.
And this is a fundamental difference between women and men in my opinion.
Am I wrong? Am I generalising too much?
Women say that men are shallow and switch off when the conversation takes a turn into deeper emotional territory. Men are unwilling to listen to the emotional journey that a woman wants to expose to the world; we see a problem and we try to solve it. The moment we find ourselves having to cope with deep inner feelings, we tend to switch off.
If you listen to the conversation between two men, you will see what I mean. It is peppered with phrases like:
“I would have done this”
“Why don’t you try …”
“I can help with that; here’s what you need to do …”
Whereas a woman will say things like:
“Oh that’s terrible.”
“Oh no! Tell me more.”
“How are you coping?”
I do sometimes find myself being sympathetic but the situation depends on whether I can do anything about the issue at hand. This is a subconscious and purely instinctive reaction. If I can help with a problem, and I mean suggest a way to sort it out, I will because that is what I would expect myself if the boot were on the other foot.
Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all that is required, or a hug.
Here I am, almost 50 years of age, and I am only just coming to terms with this seemingly obvious option. As a person who likes to solve problems, I should be able to recognise that the situation at hand is the problem that needs to be solved; Mrs PM had had a bad day and the solution to that was not to step in, grab a hold of the reasons for her bad day, wrestle them to the ground and stand triumphantly over them like a weird victor.
I am an idiot sometimes.
What I needed to do was to realise that the problem was Mrs PM’s frustration and her desire to get the feelings off her chest – and that to solve it, all I needed to do was to stop what I was doing and listen to her.
If she had asked “What would you do about it?” then I could have stepped in with my natural instincts.
Of course, all of this highlights once again that I am pretty dreadful at understanding the enigma that is woman.
But I’m still learning and I’m getting better. At least I think I am.
What do you think? Am I wrong?
Anyway, Mrs PM is happier now, having sorted everything out herself, as I knew she would.
Next time, I shall be the most sympathetic person on the planet for the duration of her rant.
Who said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Even a stupid old dog like me…