Talk like a Man: The Devil's in the Details


Vision 72


Talk like a Man:

The Devil's in the Details



Kelly Eileen Hake

Copyright © 2013, K.E.Hake, All Rights Reserved




In this first of an ongoing series for Vision, I'll be examining some of pitfalls of inter-gender communication. These are gleaned largely from the social anthropological approach popularized by linguistics professor Deborah Tannen in her best-selling book You Just Don't Understand! Men and Women In Conversation.


To save on any confusion, I should probably state this assumes heterosexual character communication, and even then a lot depends on upbringing and personality, which create the core character. As we review some of the most typical differences between male-female speech, and the motivations behind them, it is important to keep in mind that these models do not always hold true. Some women will use masculine communication styles, and some men adopt some of the more feminine practices.


Article 1: The Devil's in the Details


It may seem like an over-generalization--and, as explained in the above disclaimer, generalities are precisely what I'm targeting--but men don't sweat the small stuff. Not the way women do on a daily basis, at least. Males embrace a more 'no fuss, no muss' outlook than females, and their communication style reflects this. When a man says "nothing fancy" he means it. Moreover, his idea of what falls under 'fancy' might be vastly different than that of his female counterpart.


Here's a real-life example, taken from my early days as newlywed:


My husband's sister was going to drop off his mother, for us to take out to lunch. Since this would be the first time his family came into our home, I understandably wanted to make a good showing. Unfortunately, with a full-time job, a three-four hour per day commute, and a novel contract to juggle, my housekeeping would've had June Cleaver tottering on her high heels, asking for a drink.


So my husband gallantly offered to help. He would take care of the kitchen--which he does well, since he's a chef--and the bathrooms. His exact words were: "I'll even clean the bathrooms. But nothing fancy."


I gleefully and gratefully accepted his offer. Cleaning the toilets and wiping down the sinks, counters, and mirrors would suffice! Scrubbing out the tubs, mopping the floors, and attacking the base of the toilets could wait. So I started scurrying to vacuum, dust, wipe down the dog and set out the hideous wreath his mother gave us. Then, about ten minutes before the scheduled arrival, I ducked into the first bathroom.


And cringed.


As it turns out, my husband's definition of cleaning the bathroom included the following: denude sink of the worst toothpaste globs, scrub inside of toilet.


That wad of dog hair pulled from the drain this morning? Still perched on the side of the tub. The mirrors sported a stylist spray of toothpaste and soap spots. The rim and seat of the toilet remained untouched. Hairs from his shaving sprinkled the counter. The trash desperately needed emptying...


When I let out a dismayed squeak, hubby popped his head in the room, looked around, gave a short nod, and fixed me with a somber stare. Then he reiterated, "Nothing fancy," before ambling off down the hall.


The misfire came from our very different definitions of what 'fancy' entailed. Nor is this an isolated incident. My husband and I have worked our way through several such scenarios, and hear the same from other couples trying to navigate the gender gap.


What I say is stereotypically feminine. The words encapsulate a lot more than they actually say. For now, I'm trying to be more specific, at the same time teaching my mate how to decipher tricky words like 'fancy' by asking for clarification. On the other hand, my husband utilizes the more typical male-speak. He's straightforward in what he says and what he does. I'm learning to accept, expect, and respect that about him.


Nevertheless, my details become his devil, and this time around, our mismatched meanings faced off like a Montague against a Capulet; neither of us was wholly wrong, neither of us was wholly right, and a lot of mess lay in between!


But life is messy, and sometimes, we need to complicate interaction between characters. Why not try using some details to bedevil one of yours?


You Just Don't Understand! Men and Women In Conversation

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

ISBN-13: 978-0060959623