I’ll admit it; as a woman, I am guilty of this. Whether it be in an argument with my significant other, a conversation with my mother, or a disagreement with my boss, I sometimes repeat my initial statement or question multiple times. Lately, this has become an issue of concern within my relationship and that will be the main subject matter of this post. My S.O. ends up feeling frustrated and angry because I constantly repeat myself and then I get upset that he’s upset with me for doing so and I feel he isn’t hearing my concerns.
So after another conversation today, this came up again. Why? Because in the conversation I was repeating myself again. This got me thinking. I know why I’m repeating myself when I speak to him and I told him as much. Yet he still couldn’t see how to address why I’m doing this. This brings me the point of this post: WHY do women do this and WHY don’t some men understand it?
First, we’ll look at why women do this. For purposes of this post the repeater will be called the “questioner” and the person being asked will be called the “respondent”. The very act of repeating oneself indicates that the questioner doesn’t feel they’re being heard. More accurately put, listened to. When a woman (or anyone) feels that their issues aren’t being addressed or their questions aren’t being answered, they do what most people would do, ask or state it again. This is cause for a lot of frustration for the respondent, as well as the questioner. One of a few possible things is happening here…
- The respondent simply isn’t answering the question being asked.
- The respondent is responding with how they feel or what they think about the issue but isn’t actually addressing the questioner’s initial concern.
- The questioner isn’t properly representing what they want answered, which is in turn confusing the respondent.
- The questioner is aiming for a specific answer (regardless of whether it’s the right one) and the respondent isn’t giving them what they want.
- The respondent isn’t really listening to the questioner and the questioner senses that, so they repeat themselves in an attempt to be heard and understood.
What it all comes down to is a breakdown in communication. This is of course, if you leave out the questioner who’s just looking for the answer they want and not getting it. If that’s the case, you’re in a no-win situation and have other problems. As for the the rest, again, the problem is in the breakdown and this can lead to a world of frustration for both parties. The questioner needs to be sure they’re properly representing their problem so the respondent can best answer it. The respondent needs to be sure to really listen to (not just hear) what the questioner is saying and address their concern before moving on to their viewpoint. A question or issue that isn’t asked or delivered in a clear manner rarely gets resolution. A respondent who isn’t listening or is but is only focusing on their side of the problem can’t address the questioner’s concerns. And that leads us to what? Repetition and frustration.
This is so common in women because on average, we’re more emotionally motivated than our male counterparts. Our need to be heard and understood runs just as deep, if not deeper, than our need for an actual answer to our question. So when a man hears his S.O.’s concerns his brain immediately goes to “What’s the bigger problem? How do I fix it?” These are the questions they then answer; even if it’s not the question that was asked. In the female mind this translates into “He must not have heard me/been listening. Maybe if I ask it in a different way, he’ll address it.” So we ask again. And the respondent gets frustrated, angry, or exasperated. I don’t mean to sound sexist but the Emotion vs. Logic breakdown between men and women is an age old fight. There’s years of studies, articles, and even books about this very topic. Men seek logical, real life solutions while women are more focused on the emotional aspect of it all. While a woman focuses on how the recent arguments in her relationship feels and how to address the emotional side of it, the man focuses on what situations are causing the arguments and how he can resolve them. So we have two people who have two similar but different goals. One person addresses healing the emotional side to reach resolution. The other addresses the fixing logical, tangible side in order to reach resolution. Both people have the same goal: to stop the disagreement. But they’re going about it in such different ways that both end up feeling like their concerns are left unaddressed.
I realize this may not cover all situations but, this is a very common one in our world today. I’ve seen amazing couples break up because of this. I’ve seen people get their feelings hurt. I’ve seen women make themselves appear to be emotionally unstable by repeating themselves and I’ve seen the men become so exasperated with it that they’re red in the face with steaming pouring from their ears. Why? Because we don’t know how to effectively communicate our needs to someone who is motivated differently than us.
So we have the answer to both of our questions. We know why women do this and why men don’t get it. It’s not that the female is a broken record who’s mentally incompetent or has something else going on and it’s not that the man doesn’t care how the woman feels or isn’t listening. Both people are trying to reach resolution but they are taking different roads leading to the same destination. The problem lies in the fact that being on these different roads can so deeply upset both people that they never reach the destination. While this is happening it always feels like a much bigger problem. The man thinks the woman is actually having other issues because he thinks he’s answering her concerns and she isn’t getting it. The woman thinks the man isn’t listening or doesn’t care how she feels because she’s “clearly stating her concerns” and doesn’t feel they’re being addressed. So how do we resolve this?
The only way that makes sense to this writer is compromise. We have to meet each other in the middle for the sake of protecting what matters most: the relationship. When it comes to this all too common breakdown in resolution seeking methods, neither person is wrong. Neither person is lacking care for the situation. Neither person is stupid or insane. Both sides are completely valid. They’re just different. I believe we can resolve these issues if both questioner and the respondent try to understand a few things.
For the questioner: try to realize that the respondent is listening to you, they do care, and they do get it. They’re just trying to fix the practical side of things because they think that resolving the subject of the disagreement will stop the negative emotions it caused in you in the first place. They aren’t ignoring your feelings or views and they do matter to them. But they see these things as a direct product of the disagreement, while you’re probably worried that they show a bigger underlying issue. That issue being that the respondent isn’t concerned with your feelings, regardless of the disagreement at hand. Im here to tell you that unless you’re dating a complete dick, they are. No one wants their feelings invalidated and when we feel that’s happening most people tend to get defensive and aggressive out of fear of being hurt. This only leads to bigger arguments (that probably never needed to happen in the first place). You repeating the same questions and focusing on the emotional aspect can in turn, make the respondent feel like you’re the one not seeing the tangible problems that they’re concerned with and that leads them to believe that you don’t value their opinion either. Just as much as them being focused on the practical aspect makes you think they don’t value yours. Just breathe, relax, put yourself in their shoes, and realize they’re trying to stop the negative feelings by resolving the negative situation. That is a sign of someone who cares, not someone who doesn’t.
For the respondent: try to realize the questioner isn’t out to drive you crazy. They aren’t mentally impaired or insane. They know what caused the disagreement just as well as you do and also want resolution. But how the disagreement was argued or talked about and the specific things that were (or were not) said are effecting them just as much as the situation itself. They hold onto this so tightly because if that feeling of not being heard isn’t addressed then they end up thinking their opinion or emotions aren’t valued and to them, that can be seen as a bigger problem than whatever caused the disagreement in the first place. The questioner is hearing the answers you’re giving them and taking them into consideration. However, being as they’re more focused on the emotional side of things, what they need to know is that you’re listening to their emotional concerns as much as they’re listening to your practical ones. It makes perfect sense for you to be more focused on the tangible thing that caused the argument but try to understand that we all have complex emotions and if someone who loves you feels you don’t value them then they’re going to become scared and search for proof that you do care. This often comes in a series of repeated questions that most likely revolve around whether or not you value their opinion or emotions, whether or not you’re listening, and how much you understand.
We all have that intrinsic need to feel valued and understood. There’s nothing wrong with this. The questioner repeating the same questions over and over again may seem like something that’s pointless, that the respondent doesn’t need to concern themselves with, or that’s only purpose is to be outright maddening. But if the respondent tries to see this habit as the questioner’s attempt at searching for understanding, validation of their feelings, and/or love then it’s easier to not get as frustrated. The same applies when the respondent is focusing on the actual situation, not the emotions. They aren’t doing this to hurt you or throw your feelings aside. They aren’t trying to be cold and callous. If the questioner tries to see that the respondent’s constant focus on the main issues is their way of trying to resolve everything it will make it easier to see that they do care and are just handling it in the way that’s most natural for them.
Taking different roads to the same destination will still end in both people getting there, IF they don’t allow their differences to derail the whole journey.
by Ashley Hebner
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