Friday 29 June 2012

Men Versus Women (Part Two)

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 …


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…


Elisabeth said...

You may be generalising, PM, but it's a generalisation with which I'm inclined to agree. As a woman I've noticed the same thing with my husband. And when I tell him stories he gets frustrated if I take too long to get to the point, but for me the telling is in part the point. I'm not as Mrs PM suggesting I want solutions. No, more often than not I too want to be heard.

I like to work most things out for myself in the end, but equally I enjoy the input of men because they offer a different perspective as long as it's not too hastily offered and they are also able to listen to my distress or anger or rage or whatever else is going on at that moment.

The point seems to be that men are not so effective at handling emotions as women. Men are more into action.
We are wired differently, culturally, sociologically, biologically etc. On the other hand it's not set in stone and much of the difference is constructed.

I've talked to women who can be all action and men who are deeply empathic. I suppose it's a matter of degree.

Thanks for a fascinating post.

MedicatedMoo said...

Sympathy and arms ready for a hug always win. Always. Offering to make a cup of tea and then bringing it out with some chocolate as well also wins big time.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Elisabeth,

Many thanks for your insights.

Actually, since you mention it, I have met men who are sympathetic and women who focus on action too.

I agree - it is a matter of degree.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

I will remember that. I already know that chocolate and/or a glass of wine are winners too.




Anonymous said...

Oh you are wrong - Wrong with a capital "W" - Wrong with all caps. So very, very wrong. And no you are not generalizing too much -

And yes, all men do this - men are always trying to "fix" things - (except the things that really need fixing - like a leaky faucet).

Women "vent" - we need to just get all this stuff off our minds, out in the open where we can see them more clearly - and then we can fix the problem ourselves. If we need help or advice, we will ask for it (unlike men).

My husband took a supervisory position and most of the people working for him were women - I had to explain to him that women vent - they were not coming into his office looking for him to solve their problems - they just wanted him to listen. I advised him to always keep a box of tissues on his desk and to just LISTEN.

He finally gave up trying to figure out when his help was needed and when it wasn't - He would just flat out ask "Are you just venting or do you want me to do something about this?" The women actually appreciated it.

When I just need him to listen I preface my little rants with "I'm just venting - your input is not needed" It works for us...

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Grace,

Brilliantly explained :0)

That's exactly what Mrs PM did.

I will adopt that approach for sure!

I'm learning so much :-)



drb said...

Mr PM,
I am totally with you this time. I want to offer solutions when my gfs are complaining or venting too! And get called smarty pants or something worse since a child.

To me, getting upset is a waste of energy. I think I actually only allow myself about 5 min to get upset about stuff, have some food and then regroup.

Therefore, I always tell Rob he is lucky to marry me as I am not wired normally. :-) His life is cruisy... more of the time except with my dyslexia and inability to locate stuff even when it is right under my nose.

However, I have learnt that everyone has to learn their own lessons and will only offer solutions if asked.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

I'm fairly laid back too - I rarely get upset these days.

OK - I rant - but I do so with a smile on my face.

Rob sure does sound lucky :-)



River said...

You're right. It is a man thing to want to fix things. There's a problem? You'll fix it, you're a man after all, it's what men do.
It's the way men are wired. It's been that way since the dawn of time.
And here's where I have a problem with that. I'm a woman, yet my instinctive reaction to problems is to find or offer solutions. I can't help it, I blurt out things like "you should" or "I would have..."
It's possible I learned this because I was raised by my dad, or maybe I just have more "yang" influence than "yin". Under chinese horoscope my sign is listed as yang and that's male.
I noticed this more intensely when married to L. His feminine side is much stronger than his manly side, and when things went badly for him and he wanted to talk out his feelings, I couldn't cope very well with that. I found myself saying "why didn't you..." or why don't you do..."
As I get older, I'm learning to listen more, but on the inside I'm screaming what are you going on about, why don't you just....
I'm so confused.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

That sounds like real role reversal. I need to find my feminine side I think.




drb said...

Oh Mr PM,
24 h ago, we were at SFO (San Francisco airport) , my blood pressure raised when I saw Rob came back from the conveyor belt with my luggage bag - with bit so f clothing stcking out. It was heled together with industrial strength sticky tape. The blooddy TSA custom officer had broken the lock!!! Suitscase cost US$500. Previously, they had broken another that costs US$600.

Fuming, I marched to Baggage Inquiry - United Airline staff said,"NO, we don't break locks, the TSA do. They area upstairs."

I went upstairs, and couldn't find the bloody office. Getting madder.

The whole time, Rob was following me in silence while I was muttering,"Can't believe they do it to me again!!! This time we supposely bught Samsonite because the locks are supposed to be TSA complaniant. The bloody TSA blah blah blah.."

Finally (~10 min later), I gave up and said,"Let's go and check in for the connecting flight. Hopefully, we can claim it on Tavel Insurance."

Rob nodded.

Plastic Mancunian said...

hi drb,

I must admit my reaction would have been similar to yours ....




DelGal said...

Dearest PM -

Men and women are definitely different but I think that some of your examples are extremes of both genders and lots of times both sexes have a little bit of the "other sex" mixed in their brain too depending on the situation (or at least I do and Ive noticed some men do too).
For example, I do listen to other women's problems and get into the emotional thing, but I also find myself attempting to solve the problem they've presented depending on the situation. How do I know when to do what with a woman? Good question, it's not something I can pinpoint with directions, it's just an intuitive feeling and changes with each woman.
I've no doubt women are confusing creatures, I fully admit that I am at times, but I also think men can be confusing because they aren't as complex as women are so women almost have to reverse think or think less to interact with men.
Oh, and you might not want to call it a "rant" she may take offense at that word and you'll be in the doghouse again.

PS Thought you'd like to know that I had to go see an opera this past Sat. with my mum and I couldnt last through the second act so I left...also Mark has a present for you we got in Vegas (ok I fully admit I MADE him get it, coz after all he's a guy, and you guys don't get gifts for each other) :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Lady from Delaware,

A lot of the time, when I'm in the Doghouse, I have no idea why.

But I am improving - gradually.

See? I told you opera was rubbish ;-)

No - guys don't get gifts for each other usually; a pint of beer in a pub is good enough for me. Mind you, Mark doesn't buy many of them either ;-)

I'm intrigued ...




DelGal said...

Dearest PM -

To further intrigue you, the present also comes with photos that I will send to you via email after you get the gift.
Hmm, now this is starting to sound a lot dirtier (or secret agent like) than it really

Jackie K said...

Very true. Until I understood this I used to get really annoyed with my husband who is completely crap at sympathy. Now I wonder if he gets annoyed at me for sympathizing instead of 'helping' when he tells me his troubles? Even though to my mind I am doing a wonderful job making him feel better... I'm probably not!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Dearest Lynette,

Indeed - I am even MORE intrigued (and trying to think cleanly)...




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

You probably are doing a wonderful job; I know I am (he says bravely).




Anji said...

Rob is like you. The lest thing I need to hear is how he would have dealt with the problem.

I hope you post about what happens 'next time'.

ExposeYourBlog! Joining up bloggers for over two years.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Anji,

Yes - I might just do that.