I have pulled this up from the "Different languages" discussion because a member has been showing it to men and women and getting very different reactions. What do you make of it. If the woman asking a straigh-forward question and the man being evasive or is the woman being aggressive and the man trying to avoid an argument, or what?
I'm interested that nobody has responded to this item so far. I'm wondering if that is itself a symptom of the taboo that I mentioned in a different thread in this group. My own reading of the cartoon is as follows:
SHE: I sense that there is something wrong with our relationship and i don't want it to be my fault so I'm going to imply that it is your fault.
HE: This feels dangerous. What's she talking about?
SHE: I can't understand you. That must be your fault. Why aren't you the way I want you to be?
HE: If you can't see me the way I am there's not much hope of us having a sensible conversation.
SHE: I'll push a bit harder, maybe I'll get the reaction I want.
HE: This is getting even more uncomfortable. I'll try a sharp put down and imply that she is being really childish.
SHE: It's not me that's being awkward, it's you.
HE: Now I just want to run away. I better be very careful what I say or I'll be in big trouble.
I think that the cartoon illustrates fairly well the different ways that (some - well, quite a lot of) men and women respond to emotional difficulties. Conversation of this type must be not that infrequent and does not really offer much prospect of mutual understanding because it is difficult for each party to sense how it is for the other, partly because they process emotions differently, and partly because the whole interaction is like a ping-pong game. Of course, we cannot tell what tones of voice are used. What looks rational in transcript can feel very differentaccording to how the words are pronounced.
Ah, I see that I had missed Adams' comment on the comment wall.
Can you help this man and woman?
What I notice and recognise in this cartoon is this:
A woman will often talk about the relational level in communication, the way something is said and the way someone behaves and how it affects her. The man is responding and talking about the content, about the subject that she has just been expressing. This leads to a big misunderstanding because they are not talking at all about the same subject.
I think this is a concrete difference between man and woman, a difference between styles of communication. When you are aware of this and accept the difference it can give the possibility to switch to another level and reach the other one so that both are talking about the same subject again.
So I looked at the cartoon again and I asked myself these two questions:
What response would she want from the man? I suppose a question….
And what could she say differently to keep the conversation going on with the man?
What is your suggestion?
Yes, I think that what Elja has just written is broadly right. Moving to a higher level may be the only way of finding a way our of this kind of snarl up.
If we speculate about what happened before this little sequence of pictures, it might have been something like this.
1. Something happens in the course of daily life that provokes an emotional reaction in the man. It could be anger, sadness, resentment, whatever. The man says a few words about what is happening for him. What he says is succinct, though perhaps not completely clear, and might even have been expressed as a sarcastic or cynical remark. [see footnote one]
2. The women picks up on the emotional content and immediately and enthusiastically responds by telling a story about her own experience of a similar or related emotion. This story flows easily and goes on for some time. [see footnote two] At this point the woman is feeling happy that her man has said something emotional and she has responded in what she believes to be the best possible way.
3. The man, however, is now feeling abandoned. It cost him something to say what he did. That effort has not been acknowledged. As far as he can see the woman is only interested in the sound of her own voice and he is wondering when she is going to stop. He resolves to himself not to make the mistake of sharing his feelings again. Keeping a straight face he resolves to humour her and nods at appropriate places in her story.
4. As the man is not responding the way a woman would, the woman tries harder. She launches into a second, third and fourth story. She is now feeling a bit resentful that, as she sees it, she is carrying the whole weight of the interaction. The man has, to her, become difficult to read. She has correctly picked up that he is just putting up with her and not having much fun. However, this seems to her most unfair. After all, is it not she who is making all the effort here while he is just sitting there with a blank face?
5. Now follows the discussion in the cartoon in which, to the man, the woman talks nonsense [see footnote two] and, to the woman, the man is thoroughly evasive and fails to provide her with the emotional support she wants.
FOOTNOTE ONE: In the brain of the man the left and right hemispheres are more sharply divided. Emotion (mostly right brain) is not readily associated with vocabulary (left brain). When the man is in his left brain he is concerned with other left brain functions, like logic, action, and humour. Men are, therefore, worse at expressing emotion but better at keeping logic and emotion in separate compartments. Men therefore stay closer to the literal meaning and use concrete metaphors whereas women are more expressive and less precise, a style that often annoys the man because the implied meaning does not necessarily coincide with the logical meaning.
FOOTNOTE TWO: In the brain of the woman there are a lot of cross brain connections. Emotions are readily associated with words and words with emotions. Furthermore, the vocabulary storage area in a woman is larger. Her capacity to tell stories of this kind, broadly factual, perhaps somewhat exaggerated as she warms to her topic, is a skill men seldom match. Among women, telling such stories serves an important function. They can sit over coffee for hours sharing in this way and it asserts friendship. It also provides a growing stock of stories that she can store in her vocabulary to repeat to others, thus consolidating cohesion in the female group and also providing the means for positioning vis-a-vis rivals.
DIAGNOSIS: Both parties started out in good humour and did their best but the result was a disaster. How could they avoid it? With some difficulty, I think, since each is simply being the way that is natural to them. If one or the other has some psychological insight he or she might, as Elja suggests, be able to move the conversation to a new level or might be able to get into the discourse mode of the other for a while. It seems unlikely, however, that this kind of scenario can always be avoided since it is a product of inherent differences. What provides satisfaction to one party is not the same as what provides it to the other.
Man: I am here for you.
Man: I’m not sure what I’m doing. Here or anywhere. I can’t help you if I can’t help myself.
Thank you, Charlene - very nice. Made me chuckle, though, of course, these kinds of misunderstanding do cause a lot of grief and angst.
Nice translation of the struggle from the two in the cartoon. Yes in this way the conversation will be much better i think.... thanks Charlene...
Thanks David. Yes, I found it a little funny in the vein of "human, all too human." And Elja I'm glad you see this as improvement. That is what is meant. Thank you!
Thanks Carol for chipping in with your research results. Yes, it is a bit of a minefield. Of course, as you say, in real life there would be further cues from tone of voice, but they can also be deceptive. What sounds like rejection can actually be fear. What sounds like criticism can actually be anxiety. Finding out what is actually going on underneath the surface may take time and sensitivity. However, talking about it is not a panacea because people then have feelings about the feelings that the other is expressing (all of them based on fantasy projection, anyway) so the whole thing can easily go into a tailspin.
When a man and woman having a misunderstanding like in the cartoon, the relationship don't have to be in a very bad shape. The conversation is stuck for a moment. A perfect example of a classic misunderstanding between a man and a woman.... My suggestion; notice that you are stuck for this moment and take a break for a couple of hours... It can make a huge difference...
Carol English said:
I wonder if this was what my friend Ron was getting at....