(Check out the first part of this article here: “He Shuts Down and You’re Shut Out.”)
Women often say that men are “off in their own world,” or “acting like they’re on another planet.” What they mean is that men don’t tune in to conversations about feelings. When a woman senses that, she’ll shut down as tight as a new pair of jeans. She isn’t getting the response she needs, so why share? If men figure out how we communicate and what women want, we can all come down to Earth.
Women learn a couple things early on. We learn to connect with girlfriends by sharing secrets, and we learn that nice girls don’t feel anger, let alone express it. Media expert Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor at Georgetown University says that little girls use secrets to cement relationships.
“Women regard (intimate) conversation as the cornerstone of friendship. So a woman expects her husband to be a new and improved version of a best friend. What is important isn’t the individual subjects discussed, but the sense of closeness, of a life shared, that emerges when people tell their thoughts, feelings, and impressions,” Tannen says.
Experts say that when men communicate, they hand over information. That’s about it. When women communicate we’re handing over info, but we’re also building connections.
But what’s going on when we won’t talk? If your lovely woman isn’t talking, it might be more about old baggage than it is about you. Most of the time, women have a pretty easy time letting people know how they feel. Here’s what the pros think makes some women clam up:
- Previous abuse, emotional or physical
- Unresolved childhood issues surrounding parents
- Poor self-esteem
- Lack of closure in past relationship
- Fear of being hurt or abandoned
- Feeling disempowered
These issues can make us stop trusting – we conceal our real feelings. Some women fear rejection – we worry that our feelings will seem silly. Some might not want to burden their busy man. Many of us feel angry and don’t know why. Anger can cover other feelings. A report from the BBC says that when women conceal their true feelings, for whatever reason, all those feelings can quickly turn into anger, and lots of us are afraid to talk about anger.
Little girls learn to conceal anger, and from puberty on women get harassed about how hormones play in to our emotions. Past experiences can make us afraid to trust or share. If we’re afraid to say we’re mad, and we aren’t sure what else we’re feeling, how can we talk to you? If everything we feel is chalked up to hormones, because that’s just easier, how do we get things off our chests? Why bother?
When men talk, you present headlines, and then maybe, answer who, what, and where – and you’re done. Women are wired exactly the opposite way. We want you to know backstory, details and headlines as a gift from us to you. We give our time, feelings, thoughts… and then data. If we fear that you’ll shut us down in mid-thought, we don’t want to play. To have a successful relationship and really cool conversations, both sexes have to give a little, take a little.
Men, can learn to slow down, accepting a little more detail. You might mellow, react more patiently, and come to a style compromise. Encourage your partner to trust your responses. Invite her to relax and do it her way. Teach yourself to pay attention and make eye contact.
Women could learn to cut to the chase a tad sooner, give important points first, and ask how much detail is comfortable. If your woman has old issues she hasn’t dealt with, and who doesn’t, she might think about some counseling to work through it.
When she feels safe and comfortable in a moment with you, she can stay in the moment as you welcome her need to talk. Then, the sexes are much more likely to live in harmony here on Earth, without anyone having to be off in another world.