“You just don\’t understand!” is a complaint that could originate from either gender. Despite the escalating divorce rate, the truly amazing fact is that couples get together and stay together at all; at least where communication is involved. Women tend to use communication to develop emotional bonds with others. Men use it to obtain a goal, so after it\’s achieved there should be no further need for communication. This leads to women feeling that men are detached, and men feeling that women are inquisitors.

Both men and women can be caring, combative, task-oriented, and/or romantic. In communication, women seek commonalities while men are more competitive. These differences can result in miscommunication. This gap between men and women is largely a result of nature, not nurture. They are wired differently. Women\’s brains are better at verbal duties while men\’s brains perform better on visual-spatial and mathematical exercises. It\’s no surprise that women prefer to talk and men would rather do than say.

According to Melissa Dittman Tracey, there are five main communication differences between the sexes:

  1. Women\’s brains are always “on.”
    There is more neural activity in the female brain at any given time than in the male brain.
  2. Men just want the facts.
    Men usually ask fewer questions to stimulate conversation in their work relationships and often end conversations more abruptly than women.
  3. Women focus on friendship first.
    For female salespeople, they tend to build relationships when they sell. They don\’t tend to go into a transaction focused on the final outcome but wanting to build rapport and learn more about the client first.
  4. Men take it one task at a time.
    Men tend to like to focus on one task at a time, whereas women\’s brains are more geared to multitask.
  5. Women remember the little details.
    Females can generally remember more physical and relational details than men.


Meanwhile, Susan Sherwood, PhD, maintains that there are 10 specific areas within communication that the genders differ:

  1. Nonverbal-Women are more demonstrative while men are more conservative.
  2. Body orientation-Women appear more physically engaged, but appearances can be deceiving.
  3. Arguments-Men are more direct and less concerned about feelings, while women often approach issues in a more circuitous fashion.
  4. Apologies-Women apologize more, hoping to create or sustain connections. Men view apologies as a loss of face.
  5. Compliments-Women use these as a way of connecting with others, while men are more likely to offer evaluations and advice.
  6. Problem solving-Men prefer action and desire immediate results; women discuss problems and feelings, and look for common experiences to share with others.
  7. Negotiation-Women prefer discussion, their goal being agreement. Men feel that this is manipulation. They are more direct and want speedy results.
  8. Chatterbox-Surprisingly in the long run men and women talk about the same amount. The differences are in the subject and goals of the discussions. Women talk more to family and close friends, exchanging support and experiences, while men\’s goal is to exchange information whether at work or in formal or social situations.
  9. Interrupting-Women interrupt to demonstrate concern. Men interrupt to try to control the conversation.
  10. E-mail-Women send e-mail regarding relationships; men may be seeking information, influence and respect.


Women need to know that a lack of communication on a man\’s part has more to do with their different wiring, not because of a lack of affection. Men tend to express themselves better through actions more than words. Working to earn money in order to take care of their families is men\’s easiest expression of love. By the same token men need to understand that women express themselves through verbal communication. Their feelings need to be acknowledged as opposed to explained away.

Seems to me that a deeper and more empathetic understanding of how men and women express themselves can lead to a greater understanding between the sexes.

Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.