Do men and women really give advice differently?

by phil on Wednesday May 11, 2011 4:20 PM

I have a gripe with the way we talk about male/female differences. An oft-repeated theme from Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus is how men like to solve problems while as women like to be heard. That to me, translates as men like to get things done while as women want to talk themselves to death. I always react to this as as presenting women as weak.

Disputing this idea offers a good lesson in how to give advice to anybody, regardless of gender. Both men and women want solutions and both men and women want to be heard. But more importantly, they want something in the middle, which is just a sound board.

This occurred to me when I was griping about work to a friend. Half my motivation for griping was to hear the way in which I talked about the problem. My thoughts had been bottled up and distorted for a week, and placing it in the medium of conversation helped filter and distill my mind. My second motivation was to simply get her reaction. If she reacted sourly, which she did, then I'd know my thinking was off-base. Her body tensed and she took a shrill tone of voice, which gave me pause about how I was handling the problem. However, she then proceeded to just talk about how she would handle it. I thought to myself, "You've barely even heard all the crucial details, how can you even know what to do next?" I would've preferred if she simply gave soft advice, maybe asking questions that started with "What if..." or "What happened when you tried..." Fortunately, we had to leave, and I was spared from what felt was going to be a lecture. She protested, "But I didn't give you any advice yet" and I responded, "Trust me, I've already gotten a lot out of this."

I think half of why we confide with friends is because talking is thinking. We also do it to get a reaction from someone who is not knee-deep in the same problem. Also, nobody wants to be told what to do. Both men and women have pride and want to own the solutions to their problems.


JB78 said on December 20, 2011 7:41 AM:

As a man, I've had this problem often in my relationships. It seems that conversational triggers are different for men and women. Often times, my girl asks me how my day was and it wasn't great, but it's under control. She then proceeds to give me all kinds of unsolicited advice, many times silly for lack of understanding the situation, about what I need to do to fix that part of my life. I am now stuck in a position where they make me think about a bad but already resolved issue much more than I want and then, I need to validate them for caring so much to have given such "great" advice.

Guys don't do that. They know from conversational clues immediately when I want advice and when I am just saying something sucks but I already know exactly how I will deal with it.

How can I change my speech patterns so that these girls I care about stop giving unwanted advice?

Phil Dhingra said on December 20, 2011 11:54 AM:

Hmm, I wonder if the trick is to present parts of your life in very vague and ambiguous terms.

How was your day?

"Eh, you know, same ol' same ol'" which is hard to problem-solve on.

JB78 said on December 27, 2011 10:01 PM:

Haha, thanks, I'll see how that works from now on. :)

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