Again and again I hear the same complaint from my male friends: “Women need to come with instruction manuals!”
From self-help books to cliché romance movies, there seems to be much confusion over “what women want.”
I’m here to help clear it up for you. Boys, here’s some truthful advice to better understand the women in your lives.
But first, a quick caveat: It is both dangerous and impossible for me to make overarching statements about a gender as a whole. Every person has circumstances unique to them that determine how they behave in any given situation. My intent here is not to pigeonhole the dialogue to “men do this” and “women do that,” but to address the fact that, overwhelmingly, there are common shared interactions between many men and many women. And these experiences could easily be avoided.
I’ll be upfront. Women (in America, at least) are often culturally socialized to be passive-aggressive and manipulative. But it isn’t because we are women that we do this — it’s because certain women are taught to behave this way.
Sure, there are certain times in our lives where hormones play a role in this: puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, post-natal, menopause, and that’s just the top of the list of times that we experience chemical imbalances. But biology probably isn’t the forefront reason we behave in a way that confuses the heck out of men.
So what is the problem, then?
For starters, have you tried asking her?
It sounds overly-simplistic, like telling someone with computer problems to hit the power button. But the truth is most men experiencing confusion are simply not opening up lines of communication with their girlfriends/fiancés/wives/sisters/etc. Saying things like, “Oh, she’s just being hormonal” or “You know how women are” instantly remove any chance at communicating that something may actually, genuinely be causing her to respond in a certain way.
And you have officially cut off any chance of learning what that is by writing off and delegitimizing her behavior. Instead of assuming she’s on her period, ask her what is wrong.
Or perhaps even worse is when men do ask but do so in a way that is. “Why are you always emotional?” “Why do you always drive me crazy like this?” These questions aren’t questions at all — they are blaming statements disguised as questions, hurtful and manipulative by design. Saying stuff like this will just upset her more, and she has every right to feel upset at this.
Library science is heavily focused on conducting “reference interviews,” a technique that is heavily researched and pulls from scientific studies of human behavior. When conducting these interviews, librarians begin by expressing (verbally and nonverbally) that they are willing, open and welcome to communication. They then gather as much information about a problem as possible. And then, well before they ever respond with advice and resources, they confirm their grasp one the problem is correct.
How can you know what a woman wants, thinks, knows, or desires unless you confirm it? You can’t, and yet so many guys skip over this important step in understanding the women in their lives.
You want an instruction manual? She’s your manual!
That’s the big secret to understanding women — sincerely and effectively making an attempt to be understanding! That doesn’t mean you haven’t been attempting already, but if you haven’t figured it out yet then you probably haven’t been trying in effective ways. It’s time to take a more open, honest, and compassionate approach.
As for what women really want? I believe that most women have a list of pretty much universally shared desires and needs from the men in their lives: to feel safe from harm, to be meaningfully interacted with, emotionally supported in times of need, admired, respected, valued, appreciated, given freedom to develop who she is as a person and sincerely listened to.
It’s by no means a conclusive list, but it is a pretty easy one. Small and easy everyday actions go a long way here, like saying “thank you” after she does something for you (even if it’s something small that you don’t think requires a thanks) or giving her your shoulder in a time of need (instead of giving her a mouthful of advice or scolding).
But you’d know that, if you’d just ask her.
Senior Anna Mitchell thinks she knows stuff about man and woman — one of which she is, and one of which she adores. Love notes and hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org