Why Guys Don’T Express Their Feelings
When I was in high school, my father used to tell me that he loved me every morning when he woke up and every night before he went to bed. He would say this with such conviction that I felt his love for me almost as if it were real. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized what an impact those words had on me.
I’ve always been the type of person who talks through her emotions. This has helped me process them better than most people. However, I never really understood why my dad did that. Why didn’t he just come out and say “I love you,” like other dads do? The answer lies in the way we are raised by our parents.
Many studies have shown that girls learn to be more expressive when around their mothers, while boys typically become more expressive when around their fathers. What this means is that women are usually given more opportunities to open up emotionally to friends and family members. Men, however, are often not encouraged to talk about their feelings. In fact, they’re sometimes discouraged from doing so. Additionally, men often tend to shy away from vulnerable conversations.
“Men don’t necessarily feel comfortable opening up and sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings with others,” says Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a psychologist and author of How Men Really Think. “They may feel uncomfortable talking about sensitive topics or being perceived as weak.”
Vulnerable Conversations Versus Complimentary Ones
There are two types of communication — complimentary conversations and vulnerable conversations. A complimentary conversation is one that helps solidify relationships with someone. Examples include telling your partner how much she means to you during sex or complimenting her outfit. These conversations build closeness between partners because they focus on positive things. They help strengthen the bond between couples. On the contrary, a vulnerable conversation is one where you share something personal. An example could be saying, “I’m going to miss you when you go back to college next year.” While these conversations can make us closer to our significant others, they can also cause tension among couples. Because of this, some people avoid having them altogether.
According to Greenberg, there is a distinct difference between the language men use with their wives and girlfriends compared to the language they use with their male friends. For instance, when asked if they want to grab dinner at a restaurant, women will respond, “Yes, let’s go!” Unlike their female counterparts, men are less likely to ask their male friends directly, “Do you want to hang out?” They’ll instead say things like, “Sure, sounds good,” or “Yeah, give me a call.”
This isn’t due to sexism; rather, research shows that men simply aren’t very proficient at communicating their wants and needs in the same way women are. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, women are far more adept at picking up verbal cues than men. Researchers found that women picked up non-verbal cues from both sexes. But men only picked up non-verbal cues from women. As a result, they found that men made decisions based off what they thought the woman wanted and needed.
Although women pick up on men’s non-verbal cues, they still play a vital role in helping men express themselves. If a man feels hesitant to open up, his girlfriend should encourage him to do so. She can even try practicing with her boyfriend beforehand to get ready for the difficult conversation.
Dr. Michael J. Ross, founder of Life Coaching HQ, agrees that women play important roles in encouraging their partners to communicate openly. “Women are generally more sensitive listeners, which makes it easier for her to draw out information from him,” he says via email. “She then uses her understanding of what he is trying to convey to support him in finding solutions to whatever problems he may be facing.”
However, Greenberg argues that although women act as facilitators, their efforts shouldn’t take all the credit. “A lot of times, guys are too embarrassed to tell their girl everything they need to say because they think their relationship won’t change if they admit certain issues,” she says. “But admitting problems doesn’t mean that you are incapable of fixing them yourself.”
If you find yourself struggling to communicate feelings, here are five tips designed to help you start expressing yourself without fear.
1. Be Honest With Yourself
Before you begin to speak your mind, you must first figure out exactly what you’d like to say. Once you decide what you want to discuss, write down what comes to mind. You might be surprised at how different your ideas sound once they’re written down.
2. Speak From Your Heart
Once you know what you want to say, take a few deep breaths to relax your body. Then, sit comfortably and look into a mirror. When you speak, keep eye contact with the camera. Try speaking slowly and clearly. Consider pausing after each sentence.
3. Take a Deep Breath Before Speaking
Take a moment to breathe deeply. Once you do, you’ll be able to calm your nerves and stop worrying about how you’ll deliver what you want to say.
4. Start Off Sensitively
Don’t rush into the conversation. Instead, state your main point before moving onto another topic. Tell your partner how much you care about her and what you hope to accomplish together.
5. Ask Questions To Make Sure You Both Understand Each Other
Ask questions throughout the conversation. Do not assume that your partner knows what you meant.
Avoiding conflict and becoming a stronger couple starts with communication. Use the following list of common phrases to help you master effective communication skills.
How can I be helpful to you today?
What can I do to help you complete this project?
Are you happy with your current work situation?
How do you prefer to receive money? (checks, cash)
Can I ask you a question?
Could you please repeat that?
Is there anything else I can do to help?
These examples show how easy it is to create powerful conversations. Next time, consider asking your partner, “Would you like to hang out sometime?” to see what kind of response you’ll get. Remember, not everyone likes to communicate using the exact same words. So, if you find yourself stumped when talking to someone new, remember that communication is a two-way street.
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