Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why Guys Have Trouble With Conversations

When in it comes to relationships, one of the areas many guys fall short in is conversation.

Here's the problem: In the workplace most men use three primary tools to communicate - the fact-giving tool, the fact-finding tool and the take-charge tool. While these are effective tools in that setting, they are not particularly helpful for building relationships.

We will look at the communication tools that can help make you a success when it comes to your relationships, but first let's take a look at the three communication tools found in most men's internal toolboxes and examine their weaknesses when it comes to personal relationshps.

Let's start with the fact-giving tool, the one most of us guys seem to specialize in using when it comes to our relationships.


The fact-giving tool is the ability to communicate the facts and nothing but the facts. This is a wonderful tool in the workplace when dialogue must be succinct and efficient. The problem - as we've suggested - is that too many men rely on this tool in their personal relationships. When we guys do that, then something like the following usually occurs.

It's been a long day on the job, and frankly you're beat. You park the car and head for the front door, where your wife greets you and says, "Hi, Honey! How was your day?"

"Fine," you answer, and suddenly you can sense a scene taking place right there in your own home.

After greeting your wife, you continue past the front door and into the kitchen, where you hope to find something cold to drink in the refrigerator. Your wife trails you, still trying to engage you in some meaningful conversation. She hasn't seen you all day, and she's ready to talk.

"How was your meeting?" she asks, hoping for a lengthy, detailed answer.

Instead, you open the refrigerator, pull out a pop, and say, "Fine." 

This conversation continues the same way through dinner. Your wife asksyou pointed, open-ended questions, hoping to hear what you are thinking and how you are feeling, and the most you can relate to her is the basic facts of what happened at work that day. When the meal is over, instead of conversing with your wife you plop down in front of the television. You release a comfortable sigh, which an hour later will be replaced with snoring.

It's the communication of the facts and just the facts. Many guys limit their communication to functional communication - or fact giving.

The Kind of Conversatin Few Men Will Have

Let's examine the differences in the way many men and women communicate, using the following conversation as an example. As you read this, ask yourself if you can picture you and your buddies talking this way about anything.

Two women meet, and one notices a change in the other's hairstyle.

"Wow, Janice, did you get your hair cut?"

"Yes, I went to Classy Styles! It was amazing," She does a slight twirl and waves her fingers dramatically at her hair. "Don't you just love it?"

Studying each tendril of Janice's hair - the same way she might search for a lost contact lens - Janice's friend sucks in a deep breath. "It's absolutely to die for! It's so much better than when your other girl cuts it. And the style! I can't believe how thin it makes you look."

Janice wrinkles her nose. "You're sure it doesn't make my neck look too long?"

"Too long?" Her friend gasps. "Definitely not. You look like a model. Just the way it curls under and the extra shine. It'll make you feel better too. A new haircut always does." Janice takes another look. "What shampoo did she use?"

"It was a salon mix, but she sold me a bottle anyway."

"You're kidding! It smells heavenly, and I can't believe the shine. You couldn't have a bad hair day with that shampoo."

"So you like the cut?"

"Definitely. It's you, completely."

"The stylist said it would help my shoulders look slimmer."

Janice gasps again. "She's right! I hadn't noticed it until now. No doubt about it." Janice's friend frowns. "I was just thinking that my shoulders look too broad lately. What's the phone number for the shop? I need something new too. A fresh look, a different attitude. My hair's been looking mousy, and it's about time I made a change for the . . ."

It could ggo on that way for an hour and neither woman would get bored with the topic of Janice's new hairdo. With men, however, there would be a different version of this conversation: the fact-giving version.

The Fact Giving Version Take two men in the same situation as the one above. If one notices that his friend got a haircut, he might say something like, "You got your hair cut."

To which his friend would say something profound like, "Yep."

He might ask his friend where he had his hair cut and how much it cost - after all, those are facts guy can use later on - but beyond that, the conversation about the haircut would be over.

Now, we know what you might be thinking right now: Of course these two guys didn't get into a length, emotional conversation about the haircut. Most guys wouldn't even notic anothe guy's haircut unless it involved some sort of mistake.

Our point is that most men communicate using the fact-giving tool, and that includes the times they talk about things they may really care about. For example, let's say there are two guys who enjoy fishing. If one of them bought a brand-new rod and reel combination, he would simply state that fact to his buddy. No lengthy discussions about the emotional implications of a new rod and reel combination or whether this will or won't affect that guy's self image. Just the facts.

"Hey, I got a new rod and reel."

"Great. Let's try it out sometime."

And that would be the end of it.

Women were asked in the survey about the fact-giving tool as men use it in their relationships:

  • "He doesn't want to share his heart with me."
  • "He tells me things that sound like a news report rather than loving thoughts."
  • "I feel like his boss, like he's checking in with me rather than sharing with me."
  • "He doesn't have time for me."
  • "He's become shallow and uninteresting, given only to factual answers."

Are you gaining some understanding here, something that could help you understand the woman you love? We want you to understand that your wife isn't mad at you, doesn't hate you, and isn't bored with your company. She's simply hurt because you're using your fact-giving tool in the wrong situation. To remedy that, you will need to reach for some entirely different tools. 


If you are like a lot of guys, when the conversation betwen you and a loved one gets to the point where the woman sighs and says, "Honey, I want to talk. . ." usually the first thing out of your mouth will be, "About what?"

That's the fact-finding tool in action.

In the words of Joe Friday in the movie Dragnet, we guys want "the facts, ma'am, nothing but the facts." And as soon as the woman runs out of facts, we become bored and uninterested.

For instance, if a teenager wants to talk about her day, most of us guys will listen through the part about getting an A on the science test and having an English essay on South America due next week. But when she veers into dissertation about her friend Mindy and how Mindy thinks it's okay to have lots of friends but Cassie doesn't like Mindy and what will that mean for the coming school dance - well, most of us guys will tune out. 
Here are some hurtful things we guys who use our fact-finding tools are likely to say if a woman launches into a lengthy discussion about something that doesn't involve facts:

  • "What's the point?'
  • "Is this going somewhere?"
  • "How long is this conversation going to take?"
  • "What are you trying to say?"
  • "We're moving into relationship stuff, aren't we?"
Obviously, these questions don't help our relationships. In fact, they can be quite damaging. This is why, when it comes to talking to their loved ones, many guys need to make use of internal tools other than their fact-finding tools. 

(From Gary, Greg and Michael Smalley's "Men's Relational Toolbox")

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