Relationships – Guy Lingo Decoded
Men have always been comfortable with telling a white lie or two. We unpack why relationships are pregnant with empty promises
It’s often said that we, men, choose not to communicate effectively with our significant others, simply, because our egos get in the way. For example, if a guy says to you “I’ll change the light bulb later” but never gets around to doing it, it simply means that he’s not in the mood to do so. Or, if he knows he’ll stay out with the guys until late but instead tells you, “I’ll be back home in five minutes”, he doesn’t have the guts to tell the truth because, well eeerrr, all hell will break loose if he does! Men just don’t own up. A simple, “Babe, I’m extremely tired, I’ll do that later,” or “I’ll be home much later” could prevent so many unnecessary spats.
This upsetting behaviour stems from one party not understanding what the other party is trying to explain, and both are not able to communicate in a way that is understood by the other, which often leads to frustration, says Ziphozonke Bhelesi, a Durban-based psychologist. “I could simply say ‘Leave me alone’, which means I really want to be left alone at that moment because I’m upset, yet a man could interpret that differently and think I’m saying I want out,” she says.
Bhelesi says woman tend to take things literally and seriously. As much as women say to men, “Be honest with me”, the truth is they’re hoping men won’t say something hurtful. “Something as simple as ‘Please be honest, do you like my cooking?’ could create a rift or even a fight. Men feel that they can’t be honest with women because we were built to feel, and men know that being honest usually opens up a can of worms,” Bhelesi says.
She makes an example of the isiZulu idiom that says ithemba alibulali, loosely translated as ‘hope/ faith doesn’t kill’. “Women hang onto empty promises because they hope that the guy will, in time, learn to stick to his word,” Bhelesi says, adding that women can, in fact, programme themselves to stop caring so much. “When a woman talks herself into not caring anymore, it’s because she knows that there’s nothing left to fight for,” she says.
ARE MEN REALLY FROM MARS?
According to a book titled You Just Don’t Understand, by linguistic researcher Deborah Tannen, there is a huge difference between how men and women communicate their thoughts and feelings. Tannen uses the term ‘genderlects’ to describe the different approaches. Women use ‘rapporttalk’ — a communication style that focuses on social and emotional connection, while men choose to use the ‘reporttalk’ style, which focuses on exchanging information with little to no emotion.
This difference is one of the main reasons for miscommunication between the two sexes. Tannen strongly believes that men and women differ in the focus, or driving force, behind their communication. “Men converse with a focus of achieving social status and avoiding failure, whereas women focus on achieving personal connections and avoiding social isolation,” she says. Ironically, men and women perceive the other gender as being more talkative.
Both ways of talking to each other are actually true, as many studies prove. Men speak more in public settings about current topics, while women dominate private conversations in relationships. This is a direct cause of how we’ve all been raised. Men dominate conversations to establish status, which women have been socialised to accommodate.
Tannen believes that if both genders could understand the different styles of communication and adjust, many fights could be avoided. “Communication has and will forever be effective when it is done in person, where one can see and understand the other in their body language. And, both sexes need to reach common ground of understanding what form of communication works best for them – one that they will be able to understand and maintain,” Dr Nonjabulo Mzilikazi, a Durban-based psychiatrist, emphasises.
“Having dealt with [many cases of conflict] in my profession, I feel like if there is love and understanding in a relationship, and knowing what we want the end goal to be, then we can definitely work around [our differences]. But, on the other hand, trying to overcome this is way bigger than us humans,” Bhelesi claims.
She reiterates that love is indeed patient and when it comes to communicating in a relationship, couples really should be patient with one another. “Men tend to avoid dealing with conflict, whereas women want to resolve matters immediately. But, the way they are perceived to be resolving it, can come across as being critical, judgmental or naming and shaming,” she says
There seems to be another challenge: listening and hearing are the biggest problems between partners, which often results in miscommunication, says Paula Quinsee, a relationship expert. “Sometimes, we are listening but we are not really hearing what the other person is saying because we’re either distracted or not fully present in the moment. This results in not giving that person our undivided attention and listening clearly to what they are saying,” she says.
IS THIS WHY MEN LIE SO EASILY?
Men don’t lie intentionally. They really just don’t want to hurt women’s feeling, so they, instead resort to being dishonest and sometimes switching off their cell phones to avoid being scolded. As to why women still take men’s statements or words literally, even with all the broken promises they have endured, Dr Mzilikazi says women seem to be wired to give others the benefit of the doubt. “Well, we women are generally hopeful. I think it’s in our nature to want to believe that ‘someday he will change’. This has gone as far as taking men’s statements literally, even after they’ve proven several times that they cannot keep to their word,” she says.
“Hope, in most cases, is a result of a woman being in love and failing to imagine her life differently. Another factor to consider is how men are actually good with words. They know what we love hearing, and what they need to say to get us to continue trusting them,” she says.■