How Men and Women Communicate Differently - How To Win a Man's Heart

Get Free Tips and Insights on How To Attract a Man and Keep Him Without Manipulation, Losing Your Dignity or Giving Ultimatums...

August 8, 2017

How Men and Women Communicate Differently

Differences in communication style have been well popularized in recent years. However, it’s important to understand these styles in some detail in order to be clear when a misunderstanding is occurring because a couple is not bilingual. While there are many books written about gender differences, here are some concepts that are rarely considered, and which underscore the nuances of Male-ese and Female-ese.

Verbal Tennis:

Women’s conversational style is like Verbal Tennis. One hits a topic over the net, and the other hits it back. The couple stays on that topic until one hits a new topic across court, and the other person responds to the new topic. What each one says is a response to, an example of, or a story based on the other person’s comments.

This can cause problems because in Male-ese, there is no obligation to respond with the same topic. Men hear a woman speak and assume she stops when she has finished with what she wants to say (see Conversation- Purpose). So the man feels he is free to start another topic. He does not understand that in Femaleese, women expect a back-and-forth flow of conversation on one topic before moving to another.

Sharing Ideas:

In important conversations, men want to have their ideas shaped and well formulated before speaking. To do otherwise, risks their sounding vague, that is, sounding like a loser (see Winner/Loser). This is very different for women, who often clarify their ideas while speaking. Men may describe women’s style as verbal meandering, and they’d be right. Often women hear what they are saying while speaking, adjusting their comments as they go along.

Therefore, it is usually wise for a man to not assume that the woman means every sentence she says. A man should wait until she is finished, until she has arrived at the point she wants to make.

Sharing Feelings:

Men and women are famously different in regard to sharing feelings. Men generally are uncomfortable, while this is a strong suit for women.

Men often feel vulnerable in sharing their personal feelings. And, that vulnerability makes them feel weak, less manly (see Winner/Loser). They are not usually skilled in being closely in touch with what they feel, so expressing it – even when they want to – does not flow easily.

Men have an array of techniques for avoiding personal conversations. They may start an argument with a woman to abort any closeness. They may withdraw, physically or emotionally, falling asleep in the middle of a woman’s sharing, or turning to the newspaper or computer.

For women, sharing personal feelings is a pleasure and a sign of closeness (see Conversation- Purpose). They want to tell men stories or experiences that have meaning for them. And they feel close to a man when he can expose his feelings and vulnerabilities. For women, this is a turn-on, the best aphrodisiac (see Sex-Female Aphrodisiac, and Sex- Pre-Foreplay).


Men usually express their concerns and preferences in a direct, definitive manner. They like something, they want something, they say it.

Women express their concerns or preferences indirectly. It may come out as a question. Rather than saying, “I want steak for dinner; how about you?” they might say, “Would you like steak for dinner?” Instead of, “I’m hot so I’m turning on the air conditioner,” they ask, “Are you hot?”

Put this together with how men do conversations (see Conversation- Questions), and a man will hear the question about steak (or temperature) and answer yes or no. He may not ask her in return what she would like (see Communication Style- Verbal Tennis). This can leave the woman feeling as if he doesn’t care what she wants. And that can lead to her feeling he doesn’t care about her (see Blame-Personalize).

Another way women are indirect includes asking one question but really meaning something entirely different.

For instance, “How do I look?” might translate to “Do you love me?” This is not a conscious maneuver; women rarely know they are doing it. The trick for men is to be alert to the woman’s “question behind the question” (see Miscommunication-Question behind the Question.)

Being indirect is also a problem between women – even though both speak Female-ese. Often friendships develop problems or end because the women were not clear enough about their issues – they either never spoke up or did so indirectly.


Women and men have very different styles of listening. Men’s ability to listen closely may be heightened by not looking at the person to whom they are speaking. Looking at the other person may distract them from hearing what is being said. Men listen quietly, without giving verbal or nonverbal indications they have heard the other. It is enough for them to listen. They assume you know they are listening. When talking with other men, they trust they are being listened to, even if the conversation is interspersed with a discussion of sports or car repairs.

Women not only need to see the person to whom they are talking, they give verbal and non-verbal indications they are listening. Without receiving those indications, they do not feel they are being heard.

If unaware of these gender differences, men and women assume the other listens in their own gender style. This can cause anger and disappointment without the couple realizing why.

Voice Level:

Men’s voices are usually deeper than women’s. So, when they get anxious or stressed, as in an emotional discussion or argument, their voices get even deeper or louder. It’s an indication they feel frustrated or worried or even scared, but women often hear the raised voice as shouting and may feel threatened. Women, especially those raised by a loud or cruel father, may overreact to a loud voice.

Here’s an example of how voice level differences can lead to a misunderstanding. In an argument, if the man feels his point is not being heard, out of frustration, he raises his voice. The woman tells him to stop yelling. This increases his frustration, so he yells louder, which reinforces her complaint that he is yelling. This cycle can keep escalating with neither of them feeling understood.

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Karen Gail Lewis’s book: Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary and has been published with the author’s permission.

About the author

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis is a marriage and family therapist (39 years) and author of numerous relationship books — on marriage, for singles, about adult siblings.  Her latest is Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary .

For 17 years, she has run Unique Retreats For Women, weekends for self-growth and fun.  She is available for phone consultations.

Go to her website and get a free article about Clues for Understanding Male-ese and Female-ese.