Michael Bell on communication
I do a lot of listening to women talking in the gender language of the female, and I’m amazed as I observe how much access they have to their feelings. How do they know so much about themselves I wonder as I listen with interest and admiration and sometimes envy as these women soak their words in the inner worlds of their beings and speak them with fluidity and ease and confidence. I don’t know what my feelings are half the time, and if I did I wouldn’t bet a dime I’d be able to express them. Women seem to have an ability to communicate feelings with all their various gradations of nuance. Like in the picture above, women seem to know what they are about in ways I venture to say men just don’t know.
My observation is men are inexperienced when it comes to talking with feeling and about feelings. Men obeyed the social rules growing up as boys and never learned how to exhibit empathy or access the more gentle feelings. Men sit silent about how they feel. I’m a man and I don’t often feel exactly what’s going on inside. I feel anger, impatience and frustration too often, but those are not feelings. They’re automatic responses. I don’t know my inner world. I was never taught how to access my inner world. I remember this little league baseball game that happened when I was a kid. The game would decide which team won the pennant. I was pitching, and I was among the top pitchers, but we lost the game. I felt devastated and cried. Another baseball player saw my crying and yelled at me to stop, and that’s what I did, instantly, feeling embarrassed in front of everybody watching. I broke a social rule that boys don’t cry, and that’s an example of how social environments mold people into what they become. Boys are taught not to express feelings. If the male gender doesn’t get family and social permission in childhood to express feelings they don’t learn how to express feelings. I’m not a social scientist. I’m a gentleman with my own perspective making observations about the world the way he sees it. What I observe is that women live inside and share inner worlds with other women. Men live in the outside world of making mechanical adjustments to the environment. The landscape of creating and implementing blue prints for exterior projects is where men feel at home. I recall a woman telling me her husband plays cards with his friends from time to time. She told me if she asks afterwards how they were feeling he says he doesn’t know. That’s the point. Men don’t talk about their feelings.
When I was in 6th and 7th grades, the girls sat on one side of the classroom and the boys on the other. The teacher would ask a question and almost every time the hands that shot up rose from the female side. I felt a little ticked. I knew my friends were smart and had good answers to these questions. I wanted the teacher and the class to know I had an answer but if I raised my hand I’d get colored by the boys with the subtle tint of appearing too feminine. I was aware of this but I’d raise my hand. I wanted recognition for intelligence more than I feared being labeled a sissy.
Women are so much better at knowing and expressing their feelings than men that this divides the genders. Women share feelings with other women while men gravitate towards comfortable discussions about outside events in politics or what’s in the news. When women gather informally they don’t talk about politics or history. They talk about the people in their lives and share sentiment about how they feel affected. Men are mostly only able to talk about the outside world. They don’t speak the language of women. Since the women’s movement began four decades ago, women have become engineers, attorneys, scientists and politicians. They know how to speak the language of men. It’s not their native tongue, but it is a second language. So women can talk about the outside world with both women and men and share their inner feelings with both genders. Men can talk scientific theory with both genders but they don’t know how to share feelings with either gender. I’m painting with loud colors and broad strokes, I know, but to me it’s like an elephant in the room. Women are entering combat units while men don’t know how to express tender feelings and empathy.
How and when are men going to learn to speak in at least a rudimentary way the language of women? How are men going to acquire the nurturing and empathy characteristics women have that allow them to feel and share who they are. How are men going to deepen communication with women if the feminine aspect is so thwarted it doesn’t gets discovered in the first place.
Men are starting to learn. I think it’s helping that homosexuality isn’t hidden in our society like it was in the heyday of the Greatest Generation. There’s less peer pressure to act in the Marlboro man way that blocks access to feelings. Men are starting to learn by osmosis because they are realizing they need to know. The women in their lives are making a demand of it.
photo by shinazy
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