We use the same vocabulary, so why is it so easy to misunderstand each other?
Learning a new language can be quite challenging. The good thing is that when you are learning people make allowances for bad communication because they understand you are not speaking your mother tongue. They try harder to understand. I remember watching an interview with Matthew McConaughey talking about his relationship with Pamela Cruz, and admitting that it added to the fun trying to understand exactly what Pamela meant sometimes, especially when a little emotion crept in. It was fun because they both accepted that although they both spoke English, it was not the most expressive language for Pamela as she is Spanish.
My first husband was Iranian and had lived in Germany for several years before we met. My father was German, so initially German was the only language we had in common. My German was not fluent, so we had to spend a lot of time finding the right words. We found we had the patience to do this and came to an understanding because it was important to get it right.
When we think we have a common mother tongue, we immediately fall into the trap of thinking we speak the same language. We don’t take the time to fully understand the meaning of what is being said, we make assumptions based on our own frame of reference, our own history and don’t take the time to really understand the other person.
How we Differ, the Mars/Venus analogy
Martians tend to take things literally. If you complain about your job to a Martian they will immediately offer you advise on how to find a new job. If you feel overwhelmed at times and complain of having to do everything, they will list all the things they do and when they do them and feel hurt that you would accuse them of not doing anything! Martians do not understand the Venusian need to vent. Venusians are able to talk themselves into a solution, they don’t need Martians to do anything but listen. Martians on the other hand, are programmed to solve problems, so listening without acting is very difficult for them.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t expect Martians to think or react the same as a Venusian. Because all our communication is clouded by our own frame of reference, we take everything too personally. Martians do not take things so personally, nor do they worry about the same things as Venusians, and the last thing they want to do when they are worried about something is Talk about it! They will think about what worries them and sort out a solution on their own, they do not need the constant questioning of the Venusian.
If a Martian can’t figure out a solution immediately, he will go and do something else to take his mind off the problem. This is called going to his Cave. Cave activities include watching TV, working on the car, playing computer games etc. This is not avoiding the issue to a Martian.
Whatever you do, don’t follow him! Don’t pace up and down outside the “Cave.” He won’t come out any quicker. When he does come out and tells you everything is fine, don’t keep questioning him. As far as he is concerned everything IS fine.
Venusians have completely different ways of dealing with problems. They need to talk about what is bothering them. When a Venusian says everything is fine, it might not be. What she needs is to be asked a few more times, before sharing the problem. Asking equates to caring on Venus. So when a girlfriend needs to talk, the Venusian will coax and encourage her to do so. Martians don’t do this as they would never dream of intruding on a fellow Martians cave space by asking personal, probing questions. They take each other very much on face value. If a guy needs help, he will ask! Venusians are always looking for the deeper meaning, the real feeling.
Morning conversation between two Martians:
Hi John, how you doing?
Fine, how about you?
You don’t look so great today.
Didn’t sleep so well last night, nothing a strong coffee won’t resolve
Great, see you later
Morning conversation between two Venusians:
Hi Jane, how you doing?
Fine thanks Mary, how about you?
OK I guess
You don’t sound so great, what’s the problem?
Well I didn’t sleep very well last night so I am a bit tired.
What are you worrying about?
Well, there are a few things on my mind……………
They will now spend a further 10 minutes or more discussing the cause of the problem, until they feel both feel better. Mary feels validated because Jane has listened and Jane feels validated because she has been able to help Mary feel better. In all likelihood the problem has not been resolved, but it has been aired. Just talking about something and not finding a solution is insane to a Martian. It drives him nuts!
A problem shared is definitely a problem halved where Venusians are concerned. Not so for Martians. But because we have these fundamental differences, it is very hard to understand each other. When a Martian does not probe for the deeper meaning or emotion, Venusians feel that he doesn’t care and start to withdraw emotionally and physically. When Venusians constantly probe for something deeper, Martians feel they are being interrogated and not trusted.
How can communication be so difficult when we are using the same words? We need to learn each others language. Take a breath and start really listening between the lines. If you give a Martian a little more cave time, he learns to trust you more and will open up more. If Martians learn to probe and listen more, the Venusian feels more loved and valued and will respond more lovingly.
In the past 10 to 15 years the characteristics of Martians and Venusians have merged in men and women, especially in the workplace. Women have learnt to be more Martian and men are learning the value of Venusian characteristics. Most EQ competences are more familiar to Venusians, and the human face of management now requires not just the technical expertise, but the emotional as well.