Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Failure To Communicate

I got this comment on my blog recently, and after a lot of thought I decided it deserved its own post.  Since I'm slowly breaking out of my summer hiatus (don't worry -- I haven't been sitting on my ass eating bon-bons, I've been writing 15-20k word a day) I thought this would be a good way to ease back into more regular blog posts. So, let's begin:

I'm a late 20's woman, in a very young relationship (under 2 years). In reading this post and thinking back to things my bf has said, I can see now that this communication "disparity" you explained is a problem present in our relationship. 
It is leading me to feel unappreciated, and though I know there will be phases like this from time to time, this feeling shouldn't be as pervasive as it has been for me. 
The thing that gets me about this post is that you're saying men aren't aware of these "other channels" of communication....yet you are describing an awareness of them very articulately in this post. My bf has stated things or responded to nonverbal cues enough for me to know that he is aware of more than one layer of communication when we're talking with each other.

OK, so far this is fairly straight-forward: the lady has recognized the problem of a communication discrepancy in her relationship and acknowledges that it's causing problems - at least on her end.

But there are a few errors in perception that the commenter makes that I'd like to point out.  First, the fact that I, a 45 year old man who has been on a solid Red Pill diet for a few years is aware of the role subtextual communication plays and your 20-something boyfriend is not shouldn't surprise you.  Expecting a man to understand that before he even understands his own sexuality is a stretch, and one that assumes far too much about men and how they communicate.  Just because he has responded to nonverbal cues doesn't mean he's aware of them . . . or understands them in context.

It's one thing if a person is unable to understand or is unaware of these other channels, and quite another for a person to have awareness and just choose to ignore it or tune it out. In my experience the latter is what a lot of men do. 

Uh . . . no.  Again, you are assuming that your boyfriend is both aware and able to understand these channels like a woman does, and that's as unfair as assuming you know who's in the World Series this year just because you went to a baseball game once.  He might be vaguely aware of them, but he doesn't understand them and he's not cluing in to them the way . . . well, the way one of your girlfriends would.  Your dismissal of his lack of understanding as him "choosing to ignore" it is as unfair of you as it would be of him if he looked at you like an idiot when you didn't know who was playing in the World Series.

You are expecting him to react to your non-verbal cues as a woman would.  That's just wrong of you to expect.  Let's examine the next part, and I'll show you why.

I find it insulting on my part to assume that a man can't understand what I say if I don't put it in words. 

Let's look at that again: "I find it insulting . . . if a man can't understand what I say . . . if I don't put it into words."

There's a cognitive disconnect here that underlies most couple's failure to communicate effectively.  You are expecting him to understand what you're saying . . . when you aren't saying it.  Essentially, you are asking your boyfriend to read your mind.  And then getting pissed off when he doesn't.

Would you be willing to subject yourself to that same pattern?  Should he find it insulting if you don't understand everything he doesn't say?  Think about that.

Because men are intelligent too, and most have plenty of social and emotional intelligence, more than enough to pick up on all that women are communicating when they're conversing with them. A prime example of this is when a man pisses his woman off, and even if she hasn't said anything, the man knows when she's mad, knows he's "in trouble", and gets proactive about trying to fix the situation. 

And here is where you are utterly off-base - not about how most men react to a woman being pissed off, but about their understanding and motivations.

Men can tell a woman is upset if she's not saying anything, but that doesn't mean he knows the details.  It's a common danger sign, and we know it: when you stop using your big-girl words, we know you're pissed off.  But a man in this situation isn't being "proactive", as much as you'd like to think that.  He's being reactive . . . and he's guessing.  Let's see how you view his "proactive" approach to a woman being pissed off at him:

The man starts cleaning up around the house, or buys the woman flowers, or tries to treat/appease her in some way, even though she never said she was mad. If she didn't say anything, how'd the guy know to take action? He knew because he understood the non-verbal communication. So guys know how to read more than one method of communication......they just pick and choose when to act on that awareness. 

If he's running a BETA program, sure.  Let's assume he's not a Red Pill dude, for a moment.  And then let's follow your logic: So that means that because you've seen a baseball game, and know you're supposed to cheer when everyone else stands up and cheers, that you understand the subtleties of the infield fly rule and the designated hitter issue, right?  Really?  Or are you just standing up because you see everyone else do it and you think that's the proper response?  

That's the difference between "proactive" and "reactive".  More, it demonstrates an appalling lack of understanding about how men communicate.  Men are far less contextually-dependent in communication, and rely far more on, y'know, actual words.  Words that mean things.  In and of themselves, without layers of context that add noise to the signal-to-noise ratio.  Because your silence may mean you're pissed off, and he might get that, but since you haven't given him any other real data he's going to flail around trying to figure out what got sand in your vagina this month.  

You could just tell him, get it out in the open, and discuss it.  But then your house wouldn't get cleaned and your vanity wouldn't be flattered with flowers.  And you would feel like he "failed", if he doesn't figure out your subtle cues on his own -- he would if he loved you, right?

(That's the moral equivalent of the dude who's upset because his woman still doesn't sleep with him when he knows she knows just how badly he wants it . . . you'd do it if you really loved him, right?  That's what's going through a dude's head, even though you may have a thousand legitimate reasons for not wanting to have sex.  Fair?  No, of course not.  But it's the same level of un-fair as you are putting on him with this complaint.)

So instead of just saying "hey, you fucked up and forgot X", you sit back, stay silent, and let him emotionally twist in the wind without additional input, waiting for him to read your fucking mind about what is bothering you . . . because you'd rather use a female mode of communication (non-verbal) that doesn't give him the data he needs.  Because when it comes to relationships, women find the ability to screw with a dude's head by making him guess and act like an idiot terribly empowering.  

Why?  It's a shit test.  If the dude can read your mind and know why you're mad, he must somehow be more "in touch" with you . . . which is bullshit.  Your subtle silence and non-verbal communication might be great for a conversation over Sunday brunch with the girls, but when it comes to your relationship you are purposefully communicating with your man for the purpose of putting him at a disadvantage. You are giving him a test you know he'll get wrong.  You are screaming at him in a language he does not know, and then getting angry at him for not knowing it.  He might know it exists, like I know Mandarin exists, but that doesn't mean he understands it or knows how to speak it. 

And you know this.  Coming right out and telling him unambiguously means (in estrogenland) that you have FAILED, because he didn't read your mind the way he would if he truly loved you.  The problem is, if he could handle the non-verbal communication you are throwing at him at a conscious level, then he'd be a great girlfriend for you, not a good boyfriend.  You are holding his masculinity against him and punishing him for not knowing.  It's unfair and myopic of you.

It's unfair for you to put down women for how they communicate when as men you can understand those multiple channels and just choose not to expend the effort to communicate in that way/those ways. 

Firstly, I'm not putting down women for how they communicate.  I'm calling out women who, like you, are under the impression that awareness means understanding, and lack of understanding means willful ignorance and deliberate rudeness.  Men do not communicate in a multi-channel system.  They are "WYSIWYG", and all of your wishes to the contrary won't change that.  Assuming he's being willfully rude by ignoring you is actually you being willing to be pissed off at your man because he's a man, and he's acting like a man, and nothing less.  

If I'm misunderstanding something about the communication thing you explained, I'd really appreciate you clarifying that misunderstanding for me. I want to be fair to my boyfriend - he is wonderful in many ways and I voice my appreciation for what he does as often as possible. 

Do you?  Or do you just believe you do?

I'm not being facetious, here, or purposefully insulting.  I'm calling this out because plenty of women feel that they are being "fair" to their men, when they are not.  Plenty of women feel that they "voice their appreciation in many ways", but the fact is men only know a few ways to communicate, and if you aren't on that wavelength then your appreciation is missing him as much as a love poem in Mandarin would.  

Men understand straight-up words: "I appreciate you doing that for me, thank you, that was very thoughtful," and men understand actions: dropping to your knees and worshiping him, for instance.  Men do not understand how you telling your sister what a wonderful guy he is on the phone because she's in a bad relationship and you aren't is "appreciation".  To us, it sounds like bragging, pure and simple.  The fact that I understand that that's how women voice their appreciation doesn't help -- I'm exceptional.  The poor schlub you're with certainly doesn't, and even if he was aware, he would not be understanding.  Why?  Because he's a dude.  Which, apparently, you aren't happy with:

But there are a lot of times when he pulls this "I don't understand what you're saying because I'm a guy" crap on me. I'm trying to understand if he's really incapable of understanding or just choosing not to. I have more evidence of the latter than the former and your post just reinforces the latter. In which bf's only half listening when it's convenient for him, and why shouldn't I feel unappreciated when someone's choosing not to invest the effort to listen to me? 

Actually, I think you probably think you have more evidence, but when examined from an objective and impartial perspective you probably would find that he really is incapable of (or at least unfamiliar and likely uninterested in) your non-verbal communication.  And since you are using it to compel him to read your mind (read: guess about your feelings until he gets it right or you give up and actually speak real words to him on the subject) he sees it far more as manipulation, not communication.  

And this is where you start to fuck up your relationship, like so many women do.  Because they're in relationships with men, and "only half listening" means that they are, indeed, being men and communicating like men, not paying attention to the thousand subtle clues, cues and context-dependent hints you enrich your communication with like your girlfriends do.  

So go ahead and feel "unappreciated" because your dude isn't a woman.  When a woman feels unappreciated, she issues shit tests to force a man to "appreciate" her.  And when you issue shit tests, the only valid way for a man to respond is to ignore them . . . which is what you're complaining about.  If you continue to feel "unappreciated" enough, you'll talk yourself out of the relationship . . . or he'll find a less complicated, less demanding, more understanding girl.  

And then you can turn instead to the thousands and thousands of men who are sensitive enough to understand your subtextual cues . . . and like dick as much as you do, if not more.

(Actually, I have to re-state that: most gay men in relationships communicate like men do, not like women, in my experience.  Despite the stereotypes, the rank-and-file gay relationships I am familiar with tend to be far more signal-focused than female communication.  While a few gay men do, indeed, understand the female art of subtextual communication implicitly, they also understand why it's utterly lost on even most gay men.  And why most men, even gay men, see it as "manipulative".)  


  1. HooYa! and AMEN! This is the very thing that my soon to be ex did all through our marraige, even though I told her a million times, to be blunt and blatant, she always teased and toyed, never quite saying what was really at issue. I just got to the point of "Well, when you figure it out, come talk to me, until then I will be......." Let me tell you, it never took long for her to get a head of indignant steam up and start testing me.

    Now I am a recently (within the last year)re-awakened RP Alpha. That said, I never let her get away with treating me like a woman, or girlfriend. Even my girlfriend, who is not the typical woman, and enjoys her "Beast" has made that mistake once or twice. Difference is, she apologized for it when brought to her attention, and she doesn't do it anymore. She enjoys the things that make us different and has stated many times if she wanted a girlfriend she would have one, but she likes her Alpha (Wonderful woman I must say)

    She states plainly her likes, dislikes, desires and passions, so I have a clue, and can act on them accordingly and doesn't get pissed off that I may not agree or dislike those things. I am allowed to be me with no consequence of pain. It is a wonderful thing for a man to experience, and I think I will keep her close!

    I teach high school and when I point out the differences in patterns of communication between women and men, my guys are amazed, and the girls more often than not think men should think and communicate as they do, just because they are female. It takes a few hours to get them to understand what you wrote down in minutes, and I don't do it as well as you did! Funny that when I discuss racial communication patterns I don't have this problem, until we get to the male/female aspect then it starts all over again.

    SO.... I guess I am saying great work and you nailed it
    Da Sarge

  2. Dude needs to next that cranky, demanding bitch pronto. She demands all communication be 100% in her terms, angrily refuses to meet him 1% of the way towards the middle, and thinks she appreciates him?

    She has zero appreciation or respect for him. He needs to leave, or treat her like last month's garbage until she snaps out of it and starts earning his respect.

    Don't tell her she's wrong: she doesn't care. She's getting away with being a bitch, so she thinks he deserves her bitchiness.

    The only answer is for him not to tolerate it. Then she will suddenly value his perspective. I've been there.

  3. It's like Rollo said yesterday: "Virtually every conflict between the sexes comes back to the rejection of the legitimacy of the male experience."

  4. That whole comment was Feminine Solipsism 101.

  5. Good Heavens.

    What an immature young woman.

    Guys, always date much younger women. You need the years of experience to learn how to handle children.

  6. Funny . . . I am a woman, and I communicate bluntly and straight forwardly. Meanwhile, my fiance uses body language and beats around the bush, and I totally don't get it. :|

    I don't really see this as a male/female thing, just a "different people communicate differently" thing.

    1. No, you just have to know the 70-30 rule. Any given female or male behavior will occur in any given male or female population on a rough 70-30 split; that is, around seventy percent of the time women rationalize their way through their day (or seventy percent of the women do it), while only thirty percent of men do it (or do it thirty percent of the time).

      You and your fiance just happen to be in the 30 range, not the 70 range for your genders. As these sorts of opposites often attract, it's not unusual. But it's also not common enough to be considered a "different people" thing. If 70% of women do it, then I'm going to call it a feminine behavior. If 70% of men do it, it's a masculine behavior. And any given person can vary as well.

      NAWALT isn't a great argument in this case.

    2. You don't even have to use the 70-30 rule. The more likely scenario is that, exactly like the woman in the article, she merely BELIEVES that she communicates bluntly and straight-forwardly (when in reality she is anything but) and then sees her fiance's failure to respond in kind (i.e. his failure to respond to non-verbal cues) as "beating around the bush." 70-30 is simply way too generous--in my 44 years of bachelorhood, I've yet to encounter a single woman who "communicates straight-forwardly like a guy." I will acknowledge, however, that a significant minority of my male acquaintances do communicate passive-aggressively like women. I chalk that up to modern feminist inculcation though.

  7. Man I got to say I love you, I have been there. Those silences are the worst, or the fact that she (my girlfriend) always ask for help to me and do whatever the fuck she wants, but hey, if I tell her to figure things herself, criying and you don't love me any more, while I DO everything to try to demonstrate I really do, but it really doesn't matter, if she sais I don't I don't. Women always thinks they know how we feel or think better than us, and well obviously not.
    It's like if she ask me, are you angry? when I'm just serious thinking about something, no I'm not angry!, yes you are!, no Im not!, yes you are!, well now I'm do getting angry!, see I told you you were!. Oh... The frustration. Sometimes it will get to the moment, you just will want to simply throw the relationship away to stop taking bullshit every single day.

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