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September 15, 2012

Saturday Time Waster

How well do you understand the different ways men and women communicate?

Men and women communicate differently, but what is fact and what is just perception? Can you discern the overgeneralizations?

Handy-dandy quiz here. The Editorial Staff missed two questions.

Posted by Cassandra at September 15, 2012 11:47 AM

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Hmmm.... Missed 7, so apparently I can recognize a woman on a good day. What does dancing bees and the number of people on earth who use email have to do with anything?

Posted by: Pogue at September 15, 2012 01:02 PM

Missed 7, also, but I had trouble with the pseudo-logic of many of the questions and their answers.

Women interrupt the speaker to show concern: announcing to all participants, with the fact of the interruption, that the speaker has absolutely nothing of value to say and so speaking, as though the original speaker isn't actually saying anything, shows concern for whom, exactly?

Women offer compliments automatically, to offer support/forge connections: the dishonesty of insincerity is supporting and fosters connections how, exactly?

Men don't make eye contact regularly "even when paying attention." And so of course it's only because he's "concentrating," not out of boredom or fatigue, or.... Hmm....

Men are so focused on being right they ignore emotions. Sure. Couldn't possibly be simply because irrationality has no place in a discussion. Or argument.

Women apologize to maintain connections? See above about insincerity.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at September 15, 2012 04:26 PM

About half way through it occurred to me the test would conclude I was a Neanderthal – so I stopped.
Now I have a question. Who drew this test up? A man or a woman?

Hint:

Typically, which is a goal of men's e-mail?

to apologize

That would not have occurred to any but the female or the feminine (anima).

Posted by: George Pal at September 15, 2012 05:10 PM

"Men and women talk the same amount" Really? My average phone call duration: 30 seconds to 2 minutes. My wife's: Upward of 15-30 minutes. I can document this.

I am not being judgemental here, but the facts I observe do not support the quiz answers.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at September 15, 2012 05:57 PM

Apparently they didn't know any Southern women, though, if they think women don't use compliments to criticize.

"Bless your heart, darlin', what an interesting dress. It shows real spunk to try and run up something yourself on a sewing machine. And to wear it in public! I declare."

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2012 07:36 PM

Honeybees are female. The number of people who use email is mostly us wimmin.

I missed seven, but only because I was trying to change my answer and it wouldn't let me. Otherwise, I missed five.

Men talk less. I won't say how I know. :p

Posted by: Carolyn at September 16, 2012 09:04 AM

I thought the quiz was interesting. I do think it was slanted in the sense of cherry picking things that tend to make men look worse and women look better. Although looking at Eric's responses, that would seem to depend on your values. Things I value, he thinks are dishonest and insincere :p

A few observations:

Emotion is not the same as irrationality.

Offering compliments is only dishonest and insincere if you don't mean them.

Apologizing is insincere only if you don't mean it.

The part that rang particularly false to me was, "Women interrupt to show concern" (I got that one "wrong"). Interrupting, to me, is usually either aggression/dominance or impatience, not caring.

Men do talk more - a LOT more - in work settings, and in class. The amount of talking depends on the context. Women are less likely to speak up in public settings, more likely to talk at home. Men are the opposite.

I've always thought the point of marriage was to get both men and women to be able to see how the other half of humanity sees things. I don't take these quizzes as gospel, but rather as an opportunity to consider things that may not have occurred to me otherwise - a chance to step outside of my own way of seeing things. If what I read seems supported by my experience, I take it on board.

Finally, I thought the quiz said men use email to establish authority, (not apologize). Am I remembering that wrong?

I would have answered, "men tend to use email to convey information". I don't pretend to know the motives, which I assume vary as much as women's motives do :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2012 10:39 AM

Emotion is not the same as irrationality.

Emotion, by its nature, is illogical--irrational.

Offering compliments is only dishonest and insincere if you don't mean them.

Apologizing is insincere only if you don't mean it.

When they're automatic, as the questions posited, how can it be that the utterer actually means them; how can an automatic apology be sincere?

I don't pretend to know the motives [of men], which I assume vary as much as women's motives do

Nah--our prime directive is to deny you your birth control pills. [p]

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at September 16, 2012 11:47 AM

When they're automatic, as the questions posited, how can it be that the utterer actually means them; how can an automatic apology be sincere?

Easy. You realize you did something wrong, you apologize automatically. You don't think it over, you don't worry about relationship dynamics ("Will this put the other person one-up on me?"). It's a no brainer - you apologize b/c it's the right thing to do.

End of story.

I've had people tell me that I didn't need to apologize for something before. Maybe as far as they're concerned, I didn't. But if I think I've done something wrong, I apologize. Simple, and for me, automatic.

And also sincere. There is no point in an insincere apology and I won't offer one. They're not the same thing.

As far as emotion/irrationality, a person can feel strong emotion, admit it, and still behave rationally. So they're not the same thing either. One pertains to how you feel.

The other pertains to how you respond to that feeling. Two quite different things.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2012 03:50 PM

You realize you did something wrong, you apologize automatically. You don't think it over.... End of story.

Well, not quite. When someone does this automatically, without thinking it over, he also does it when it's not warranted. Automatically, without thinking it over. You don't do this. You're unusual. I've seen false apologies, offered without thinking, and offered cynically as a square filler. And simply as an auto-response with no thought for what was passing through the utterer's lips. Which cancels the sincerity and honesty of all the apologies--none can be taken for true when some of them cannot be. It's the problem with lying generally: having lied once, how is it possible to believe anything the liar says without independent corroboration?

As far as emotion/irrationality, a person can feel strong emotion, admit it, and still behave rationally.

Certainly. But the question, unless I misremember it, posited acting on that emotion, not acting with rationality despite the emotion.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at September 16, 2012 04:33 PM

I missed four. I didn't understand the one about why a man would fail to make eye contact. The explanation seemed to be, he'd never make eye contact for any reason, why would you expect it? And if there had been an answer like that, I'd have chosen it. What has "he's concentrating" got to do with it? Whether he's concentrating or not, I still wouldn't expect eye contact.

I blew the number of email users worldwide, too (on the high side), and I'd have said women talk more than men, and I thought women talked more in social settings (though it's true I also believe they talk more at home).

Grim, I thought the same thing when I read the choice of "offering criticism" as a motive for a compliment. The author of the quiz struck me as naive on that one.

Eric, I'm with Cassandra on the question of the relationship between emotional and irrational. Emotions can be highly appropriate and reasonable, so I don't classify them as automatically or inherently irrational -- more a shorthand for something that could also be supported in detail with "rational" facts. Also, I've noticed that women tend to include anger among the emotions, while many men apparently do not. You often hear men say something like "I'm not being emotional, I'm just really pissed off."

I agree with Cassandra also about automatic apologies. They just don't seem to be an issue for women, who often mean some combination of "my bad" and "I regret that this bad thing is happening, without thinking very hard about whether it's mostly my fault." Women don't tend to worry about whether they're accepting blame for which there might be huge long-term consequences, so they don't fight tooth and nail to avoid being backed into a corner where they're forced to apologize: they just apologize. Every woman knows she can give and receive apologies casually with other women, but to watch out if she ever needs a guy to acknowledge that something was a mistake and shouldn't be repeated: she's risking a conflagration, an ego meltdown. Maybe women are more inclined to think apologies are appropriate for inadvertent lapses, and not only for deliberate crimes? A women would apologize for stepping on your toe even if it was obvious there was no way she could have avoided it. (In fact, if she had done it deliberately, she'd shift into something way beyond an automatic social apology, something more like formal confession and remorse.)

Posted by: Texan99 at September 16, 2012 04:34 PM

Emotion, by its nature, is illogical--irrational.

Emotions are irrational by definition, but they can actually serve an important logical function: they can root some kinds of actions. You can represent many emotional issues logically. To use the annotation we were looking at over at the Hall, for example:

(∀x)(Fx⊃Gx)
Fx: "x desires a cookie"
Gx: "x seeks a cookie"

But x, whoever he or she may be, could be on a diet. Dieting is a rational thing to do, so we see that the rational and irrational interact in a way we can represent logically:

(∀x)((Fx&~Dx)⊃Gx)
Fx: "x desires a cookie"
Dx: "x is on a diet"
Gx: "x seeks a cookie"

You can add as many other conditions as appropriate. Still, the fact that the emotional desire is emotional doesn't mean that it can't be part of a logical algorithm.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2012 05:49 PM

Everything I ever needed to know about reason and logic I learned from watching "Star Trek" as a child.

Amanda: Logic! Logic! I'm sick to death of logic!

Spock: Emotional, isn't she?

Sarek: Quite. She has always been this way.

Spock: Why did you marry her?

Sarek: At the time it seemed the logical thing to do.


So there you go, sportsfans. Sure, excessive displays of emotion can be "irrational", but then again, it is what sometimes defines us a human beings.

Such emotional outbursts as,"... but as for me, give me Liberty, or give me Death!"

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 16, 2012 11:32 PM

As far as emotion/irrationality, a person can feel strong emotion, admit it, and still behave rationally.

Certainly. But the question, unless I misremember it, posited acting on that emotion, not acting with rationality despite the emotion.

The question asked why men tend to ignore feelings during an argument, not whether anyone acted on them. The "why" is the interesting part, to me.

At least 3 of the questions about men were pretty significant causes of friction or misunderstanding early in our marriage. As one question noted, women generally face each other when talking. If another woman faces away from you, she's blocking you out or avoiding the issue you're trying to discuss.

Men, on the other hand, generally don't face each other when talking. My sense is that this is because it's less confrontational. Because men's lives typically include far more experience with aggression, they're more likely to interpret anything uncomfortable as aggression. It's a rational response that's probably well suited to interactions with other men, but it's poorly suited to intimate relationships with women.

A woman sees a man not saying much, not facing her, and not looking her in the eye when she's saying something that's important and the logical takeaway (from her frame of reference) is: "He's shutting me out. He's not listening."

And sometimes all of these things are true. But it's also quite possible that he just processes things differently. It's hard to switch gears from the way you interact with 98% of the people you know and let down your defenses. It took me a long time (and some reading on my own) to learn that my husband wasn't shutting me out - at least not all of the time. He just perceives arguments as more unpleasant and threatening than I do. In his experience, they're more likely to escalate than they are in mine, so this makes perfect sense. I can't apply my own way of thinking to him because it's a bad fit.

Once I was aware of how he perceives things, I worked hard to change the way I act and talk so he gets the message I wanted to send. I'm still not terribly good at it because it's really hard for me to put myself in his place. I don't have his experiences. But to the extent I *am* able to do it, we can talk about things now that once would have ended badly, with both of us walking away feeling misunderstood.

Same with apologizing. I think T99 nailed it here:

They just don't seem to be an issue for women, who often mean some combination of "my bad" and "I regret that this bad thing is happening, without thinking very hard about whether it's mostly my fault."

That's EXACTLY how I view apologies. Sometimes we need to admit fault (as much for our own self respect as anything else) but often we just need to acknowledge that regardless of who's at fault, something went tragically wrong.

In my mind, if I care about someone and if something I do has offended or upset them, OF COURSE I'm sorry. My actions caused distress to someone I care about. It really doesn't matter who's right and who's wrong most of the time (unless I'm being attacked, in which case I get defensive just like everyone else on the planet). The idea that apologizing makes me "subordinate" is so foreign to my way of thinking that it almost makes my head explode.

In some objective reality, I'm either subordinate or not. My personality is either dominant, subordinate, or hopefully (because that's where most healthy relationships exist) roughly on a par with the other person's. I can't pretend my way out of that reality by refusing to do anything that *might* possibly let the other person score imaginary points on me (that I don't even care about!).

Arguments and misunderstandings aren't contests. There is no "winner" if you genuinely value the other person's friendship or love. And if feeling like a winner or always coming out on top is more important to than the friendship or relationship, there's something very wrong.

Apologizing doesn't take any thought, really: only awareness that somehow, your words or actions caused distress to someone you care for. Or that you've broken some rule you set for yourself. If neither of those things has happened. there's no reason to apologize.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 17, 2012 07:14 AM

I will say, I fail to see how the gender neutral questions about honeybees and how many people worldwide send email had to do with the differences in how men and women communicate. I will also say, based on how the answers were written, I've got a suspicion the author was likely a woman. And these were also sweeping generalizations. "Men send email to appear as experts". Really? I know for a fact that I've sent emails to show sympathy and apologize and communicate things other than "look how smart I am". And I also missed the one about who plays in bigger groups, boys and girls.

However, I also think there was a large number of valuable points in there as well, especially for men. Women are not interrupting to challenge your authority (generally speaking). But a man who constantly interrupts (not just a few times, but many) is probably challenging your authority or asserting his.

My sense is that this is because it's less confrontational. Because men's lives typically include far more experience with aggression, they're more likely to interpret anything uncomfortable as aggression.

We're confrontational, it's true. Body language can be used to express aggression. The closest I ever came to fighting in a bar came while my wife and I were dating. Some friends of mine, my wife (girlfriend) and I were at a bar. And one of my friends had brought an Air Force guy who was TDY at our shop as well. He bought my wife a drink, and I didn't have any trouble with it. He then bought her another and delivered it to her while looking me in the eye. I told my buddy that unless he pulled the zoomie out of there right quick, there was going to be trouble. My wife had no clue why I was so angry. All my buddies (who saw) knew immediately why. He was challenging me directly, in as blatant a manner as he could.

Posted by: MikeD at September 17, 2012 08:42 AM

My problems with the quiz were mainly:

1. overgeneralizations: "Men" and "women" don't all do the same thing all the time for the same reasons. But generalizations can be helpful sometimes and since it's a quiz, I overlooked that.

2. The wording on the male answers wasn't terribly tactful. I actually thought the substance of most of the answers generally matched up with my experiences but the answers were worded in such a way that they seemed to impute less than flattering motives to men instead of pointing out that, "Hey - the way they see things/do things makes a lot of sense in the right context."

But I agree on the honeybees and email questions :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 17, 2012 09:28 AM

I only got 9 correct. Including the honeybees and the number of e-mailers.

I already knew I didn't understand women; now I guess that I don't understand men (or boys) either.

Seriously, boys form larger groups? Not in my high school, they didn't. Not in the hallways and not during recess.

But as has already been noted, the questions had a lot of internal problems, and one of the things that irked me was that in 4 of the questions, the explanation used words that were not in the permitted answers. Maybe that's the engineer in me, as well as the attorney--words have precise meanings (even if many words are fuzzy, i.e., they're **precisely** fuzzy) and are not to be used willy nilly interchangeably.

Posted by: Rex at September 17, 2012 10:39 AM

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