Episode 6: Helping Men and Women to Communicate at a Deep Level

Listen Now
RSS: Subscribe
RSS: iTunes
It's no secret that men and women frequently have trouble communicating. Trouble at home. Trouble in the office. Don't you wish you knew the secret to dealing with your boss' or spouse's anger? Wouldn't it be great to know how to use your feelings in your communication rather than be lost in feelings or be feeling-less? Chip's guest is a communications expert. A former radio journalist and reporter in Germany, since 1998, She has been an international communication and media coach, teaching women and men the secrets of what she calls "mindful communication." In her work with high powered corporate women and national media personalities, She helps her clients be authentic and honest while also appearing polished and powerful. Join us for some really useful lessons in using your feelings and your honesty to improve your relationship.

Transcript

Helping Men and Women to Communicate at a Deep Level

Announcer:  This program is intended for mature audiences only.

[Music]

Chip August: Welcome to “Sex, Love and Intimacy,” I'm your host Chip August. Today on the show we’re going to be talking about how men and women communicate.

[show snippets]

One of my coaches, name, just told me what I'd really like to tell the person to really just dot, dot, dot off; [laughing] like shove it, you know. And of course she realized she can't say that, but then we go over her process but then I asked what does that really feel like if you really imagine telling that to your boss. She said, “Wow that would feel good.” And I tell her, okay, find other words…

…For example if your woman, and if you live or work with a man, it's always good to give clear statements to the person. If you see garbage is full, don't say, “Oh my God it's smelly and here” or you say, “The garbage bin is full again.”  Tell them, “Honey, would you be so kind and take the garbage out for me now.”  If you want it now, tell him now.  And usually men do it because it's a form of showing appreciation or love for the woman because that's what lots of men define themselves about; doing something for other people…

…In Germany, well, our communication culture is not that fantastic actually.  Of course were cultivated people but when it comes to communication, we are still learning.  And I think the States are far ahead of us when it comes to that…

[beginning of show]

Chip August: It's an interesting time for me. I’m actually in Germany right now. I'm in Düsseldorf and I’m sitting with our guest. Shen is a communication coach and a former radio journalist and she leads workshops and seminars and trainings in presentation communications--and especially what interests me--communication between men and women.  So first, I just want to welcome you. Welcome to our show.

Hi Chip, thanks for having me.

Chip August: It's a pleasure. It's absolutely my pleasure. 

Now we've been talking a little bit before the show started and we've been talking about things like women's rhetoric and mindful communication, and couples’ communication. So those are things I hope we’re going to talk a little bit today because I think our listeners really want to know a little bit more about how men and women communicate and how they can communicate better.  So I notice that women's rhetoric [playfully stumbles] --I don't know rhetoric, women’s rhetoric--I'm not sure everybody knows what that means and I think in the States that kind of doesn't sound like a good thing.  So tell me [laughs] what is women's rhetoric and what you do with women and rhetoric.

I lead a couple of... let me put it in another way… I lead a seminar which is called, “Successful Rhetoric for Women.”  It's actually a seminar about women who need to communicate in their job just like everybody else and it's about actually communicating with coworkers or with a boss.  The way that women communicate is so different from men's communication; they've got different patterns, they’ve got different needs in communication. 

When women talk with one another or with a man they always have sort of something else going on while their talking than a man.  They have all these feelings that come up in any moment and men sort of don’t.  And that's why women feel it --they just feel a little bit more-- in the process of communication.  It makes them feel a little bit more vulnerable maybe, for example when the boss shows up and talks to them in maybe an angry way.  And then lots of women have no idea how to cope with, (A.) the feelings and (B.) with what he just told them.  So they need to find some way of coping with that situation.  Sometimes that's hard and women especially if they haven't learned how to cope with it. 

In Germany, well, our communication culture is not that fantastic actually.  Of course were cultivated people but when it comes to communication, we are still learning.  And I think the States are far ahead of us when it comes to that.  So what is interesting is when I teach them how to give feedback to one another--constructive feedback--or when I teach them how to cope with feeling-wise with funny situations all of that usually is very new to them

Chip August: Okay, so my experience, my life experiences that many, many, many women that I have worked with and met, and had a workshops, it seems like when I think they would be angry, what a witness is, they're actually in tears and sadness.  Is that your experience also?

Absolutely, yeah, it's the same experience that I have.  When I do an exercise with women, for example, we work with communicative rhetoric.  Like, let's say a coworker comes in and starts giving them feedback in a destructive way; I find that lots of women have big trouble expressing their anger. They sort of don't dare to really say, “Listen the way you talk to me, that really sucks I don't like it, okay. Don't talk to me like that”.  They have trouble doing that, because they just didn't learn. 

What I realize is that they either go into tears, which is not a good look in business because then people say, “Oh look at her she just puts on a show.” Because being vulnerable is not a good look and showing the vulnerability.  Or they start smiling. Actually, they do not feel like smiling at that moment but that's just a protection mechanism that they learned. That sort of works for them. Well they don't feel good out of the situation afterwards.  They usually fill empty and very exhausted but at least they haven't lost face.  There's a different way you can learn how to cope with a situation like that. If I tell them look you neither need to cry, nor do you need to deny your feelings by smiling. Then they say, “Oh really, is that so?  What is another way? What can I do?” A big plus is that they actually learn that there’s a way of expressing it and saying something --they're allowed to say something!  That's pretty new to them.

Chip August: Okay, now you’re talking about this all in terms of business and of course what caught my interest was that this seems like a relationship work to me. This seems like yes, I hear how this happens in business, but I think this happens a lot between husbands and wives, between lovers. Do you find this all applies to relationships and love and intimacy issues?

Absolutely. Well if you have a relationship with somebody at work it is sort of the same that you have with a friend or maybe with a lover or your husband or your wife… and with any family member.  In Germany I found--or in Europe-- people think that it's a different ballgame if you're at work or if you are at home.  Now I know that in the states, people do mix these events.  When you have a party –I don’t know if you have a birthday or something coming up-- than you usually invite people from work. In Germany, you don't do that.  Well, you invite people if you're friends with them but usually not your boss or anything. That’s sort of a no-go. You wouldn’t do that--but only if you invite a lot of other people from work as well.  And in the States you sort of mix it a little bit more and you mingle and its fun.

When it comes to communication, people sort of try to separate this out as well.  What I hear a lot in my work from people is like, “Oh well, you know I would try to talk differently to my husband. I would never talk to my boss that way.” Yet when I asked them is that really so? Do you really do that?  Are you sure?  “Well yeah, I use different words with them but actually I sometimes mean the same.” Or sometimes women tell me, “You know sometimes, my boss, oh God, he so reminds me of a man in my private life; a father, a son or a husband,” or whatever. So slowly, but surely during the process of the seminar they find out that there's not such a big difference actually.  And it sort of surprises them.

Chip August: Yeah, I get it, relationship is relationship and there is a... I see the parallels. I see the parallels.  So, alright, so I'm a man—and I think you know that [laughs] -- my experience is really frustrating. I get angry about something. I’m trying to express my anger.  I'm trying not to yell at the woman I'm talking to, but at the same time I definitely want the person to know that I'm angry. And I look and they seem so hurt.  They seem so shattered, that, then I think, “Oh, I can't tell us person anything. I just better shut up.”  How do you coach women? How do you help women do this? How do you help men and women through this? 

That's a very typical situation, [laughs] that you just showed here. Yeah, what do I teach them? Well first of all when somebody behaves in a certain way, while anger is a very good example because I haven't really found out if it's a woman-thing in general; or if it’s a western civilization kind of thing, but anger is something to be treated in a very particular way.  Women have a hard time coping with it. Maybe because --or probably because-- they didn't really learn how to cope with it.  Because when you are angry as a child it's not a good look; you’re not ladylike, as a woman.  Hopefully during your time when you get older, you find a good therapist [laughs] or situation or friends that help you out of this mess.

Hopefully you find out that it's totally okay to show your feelings --well, in a appropriate way. If you're angry, it's not really a good idea to tear the place apart where you're at.  But it's totally okay to look into your partners eye and say, “Look, what you just said, or yeah I hear you say such-and-such, that really makes me angry.” So expressing feelings is okay. So the first thing I teach them is expressing feelings in general is okay or you can just find a way that it's appropriate. 

Then the next step is usually when somebody reacts angry to you, in general, it doesn't have anything to do with you because the person just follows a pattern that he learned in that particular situation.  You did something that is totally normal to you, but it ticks the other person off.  But most of the time it's not your intention to tick the person off. You just do what you think is okay; you just follow your pattern.  So it's important to know that; to realize that in the second that it happens, that takes a lot of practice.  Sometimes I think maybe that’s harder for women to learn, than for men.  That's very important to know, it's okay to show your feelings; find an appropriate way; find the language for it; find a language that is constructive and not punishing or destructive or accusing. And do it the way that makes you feel good; so practice it. 

Of course practice active listening.  Listen to what the other person says when you have finished.  And then just stick with a constructive way, even if the other person gets funny and/or starts to get destructive.  And always realize that the person usually doesn't do it to hurt me, he's just following a pattern in most cases. That’s also something we call combative rhetoric --where people learn how to really find your weak point and really hit you there.  There's also constructive ways of talking; constructive ways of communication to meet this.

Chip August: I want to talk more about this communication side of it. I want to talk more about, well how do you learn that language…but I feel like we ought to take a short break to support our sponsors. This is Chip August and we're talking about communication and particularly communication between women and men. We'll be right back.

[music]

[commercial break]

[music]

Chip August: Welcome back, this is Chip August. You're listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” We’re actually in Düsseldorf, Germany. My guest is an expert on communication, women's communication; men’s and women's communication; communication at work.  And we were just talking before the break about women not really knowing the language to speak, so the feelings are there, they know tears but they don't really have perhaps a handy language to say.  It's easy for you to say, in the example I’m feeling angry, but I notice that for a lot of people it's hard to actually find the words.  How do you help people do that?  How do you help people find that communication?

First of all, what I like to do with them is for themselves to acknowledge their feelings, to find out okay, I realize that I do have all these feelings when I'm in certain situations where I need to communicate. Then the question is; what do I do with these feelings once I realize them?  So, what I do then is okay, what would you like to say then? And then they say then well actually, if I get angry for example, one of my coaches, just told me what I'd really like to tell the person to really just dot, dot, dot off; [laughing] like shove it, you know. And of course she realized she can't say that, but then we go over her process but then I ask her, “Well what does that really feel like if you really imagine telling that to your boss.” She said, “Wow that would feel really good.” And I tell her, “Okay, find other words.” 

And then she tries, okay, what could I do? Then I just try to tell her try to describe your feelings. Why don’t you say--I just make a suggestion-- why don't you try to say…state an observation, I hear, for example, you just called me honey, or something, like a coworker or somebody who comes back from the break.  Well honey, have you got any phone calls for me or whatever, and you don't want that. And you don't want to be called honey. So what you could do is to stand it state an observation and say, look, I just heard you call me honey and then state the feelings. Tell them how you feel about it. That's a tough one for the women at first to say, well, it really makes me angry. Usually they come up to me and ask me can I really say this? Can I tell them, well, you make me angry? Don’t I get fired for that?  Well I don't know of any case, so far, that people have been fired because they said what they feel in a situation when they’ve been put down really. Then they practice. And then the second or third time, they feel okay this is not as hard as I thought it would be. So they sort of get comfortable with that and then they should tell the other person what they really need and what want them to do.

People who know a bit about nonviolent communication probably know that model; it's from Marshall B. Rosenberg. In doing my job --I've been doing this for 10 years now-- I came across a lot of communication models. I really like the nonviolent communication by Rosenberg. It's a model that I lean on and what I've taken out of it is something that I call mindful communication. Because I don't want people to think that they are actually being violent while they are, for example, criticizing somebody. In fact they are violent, but if you tell them, “Hey you're being violent when you talk to a person or if you're being violent while you give feedback.” Then they sort of back off and then they get confused and insecure and they don't really know how to handle the situation then. So what I do… I sort of took that out of the Buddhists’ philosophy-- that being mindful, and that's something that Germans can use in a very good way. They can do something with it, they love it and it's a good idea for everybody. ‘Oh yeah’, let's be more mindful--even if they find out, boy, it's really hard work.

What I also teach them is to give constructive feedback to one another--always in a constructive way--because as soon as you become destructive, the bridges are burned. Usually there is no way back. It's very tough to…what you say… to mend the relationship that is over, or a bridge that is burned; to build that up again.

Chip August: I just wonder so often I hear men say, ‘Oh, feelings, feelings, feelings why are these women always talking about feelings?  Can't they just be businesslike? Even I hear this with couples, husbands who complain can't we just have a discussion? Why do I have to hear about feelings?  So what do you say to men? What you say to the women about these men who don't want to hear about these feelings and what do you say to men?

I tell them that they have to put up with the situation [laughing] that the brain of a female and the brain of a male person just work in a totally different way.  Men usually use the left side of the brain all the time; it doesn't mean that they don't have the right side, they do.  [laughs] But they don't use it all of the time and the exchange of the sides --of the both sides of the brain--is not constantly working and so what we have on the left side of the brain we've got logic, mathematics we've got the five senses, orientation... yes, is that right?  I was just trying to think what it is in English. 

On the other side on the right side there's creativity, there’s social ability, there’s emotion, intuition and so forth.  When a woman is an action that means both sides are working all the time and the sides exchange information all the time.  So that means a woman has --I sometimes read that it's 50%, and sometimes I read that it's even more, like 70%-- more input that she gets during the day, than a man.  So whatever a woman does there's always a feeling involved.  With men that's obviously not the case.  I really wonder what that's like. [laughing] It would be cool if I be able to change places with a man for a day, that’d be nice.  But to just experience what it's like because it must be a very different experience.

Usually that's what I tell people, I tell them, look that's just the way it works and you have to put up with it. Why don't you try to see it as an addition to one another, rather than a shortcoming? Usually the big complaints of men, is that there's too much emotion, too much useless talk of women.  And the women's complaint is that, he doesn't hear me; he doesn't understand; he doesn't talk about feelings, right?  When I explain the function of the brains to them and they really understand. What I tell the men is, okay, if you have a secretary or a wife or whatever --it doesn't really matter—if you have a woman that you are working or living with, tell her about… if you have friction; a situation where friction is going on; tell her how you feel about things. Try that, try to get a connection to your own feelings and tell her about it. She'll love you for it. It makes things easier for her to grasp. 

Of course, if we're talking business --this is still a man's world-- and emotions are in the way in business; most of the time, not always but 80% it is.  What I teach women also is use that as a chance; use it to make life a bit more effective for you. For example, if you tell something, a situation that happened to you, tell it once. Not three times, just in different words. Women do that to make sure to be totally understood. There's this deep fear in a woman; that if she's not understood, she might be rejected. Or be thrown out of the group and 30,000 years ago that meant you won't be able to survive. The group doesn't keep you.  This is still in us, sort of. 

Try to understand that men don't have same input that you have. The vocabulary is a bit less and everything. So try to understand and make use of it. For example, if you’re a woman, and if you live or work with a man, it's always good to give clear statements to the person. If you see garbage is full, don't say, “Oh my God it's smelly and here” or you say, “The garbage bin is full again.”  Tell them, “Honey, would you please be so kind and take the garbage out for me now.”  If you want it now, tell him now.  And usually men do it because it's a form of showing the appreciation or love for a woman because that's what lots of men define themselves about; doing something for other people. If you get to learn about how men function and how women function, there's less misunderstanding going on.

I really love the books of John Gray, in this connection; “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” It's a big seller here in Germany. It helps me understand women and men in a better way.

Chip August: Okay, now I noticed in your example, when we were talking about a thing that made women angry --you use an example of somebody calling a woman “honey”, and then when you were describing a woman talking to a man, you had the woman saying, “Honey, take the garbage out.”  Does that land differently, men or women? Is it equally demeaning? Does it land differently… was that just a slip of the tongue?

No, I just referred to different situations. The first thing I meant was when the guy called a girl ‘honey’ in a working situation and in the second situation it was in a private situation --like a marriage or friendship situation, something like that.  Like if you happen to call your spouse, ‘honey,’ that’s what I meant. Forget the ‘honey,’ [laughing] you can also say, “Please take out the garbage now. That would make my day.”

Chip August: Okay, so we've got men needing to just embrace that feeling and the feeling words are going to be a part of being with women; and women needing to embrace that for whatever reason men don't seem…the feeling thing isn't so strong with most men. Is there something that a person can do, an exercise? A thing they can do to just get better at both noticing their own feelings and embracing other people’s feelings?

Oh yes there is. There's one seminar that I do here in Germany, it’s called “Personality and Voice,” because these two things go together; you cannot possibly separate them from one another. It's funny, but the last couple of times when I did the seminar, I was confronted with groups of men. There were only men who had signed up. It’s funny but it was just the way it was.

What I do… there's this one exercise that I developed, that I really love.  I have a group of men sitting there, I have a flipchart and I tell them, okay,  lets just find a few emotions that can be expressed through your voice and let's just... I can't find this word to accumulate… to add up… let's just find a few emotions and write them down on the flipchart. And then they start. They say normal things like, okay, what can you express through your voice? It's like joy or maybe anger or sadness or happiness --simple stuff and sometimes we'll have, eight to ten emotions there… being surprised, feeling anxious or not really feeling anything or being sarcastic or whatever. 

So we take all the stuff, and the more emotions that are added the more the group gets in trouble later on [laughs] because what we do then is I of course want to do an exercise with them so that they learn how to express exactly these feelings that we just sort of piled up here. The first thing that I do is I asked them to find a place in the room --their own little space and to just say their name and maybe how old they are and what they do in one of those certain emotions. Say it in a joyful way; say it in a sad way say it in an angry way or whatever.  And they do that and first of all they feel funny but then after awhile it's okay. I want them to go through the whole list and later on I want them to tell me, to report back what was easy and wasn’t so easy.

Then after that part, they have to choose a partner and they sit down with one another or stand up, whatever they prefer.  They have to choose an emotion, but not tell a partner what the emotion is and then just hold a tiny little speech. It doesn't have to be long, maybe 20 seconds or 10 seconds whatever they choose and they just tell them what they have to say in the certain emotion they chose. Then the partner has to find out what emotion it is.  And then we switch.

So the next round means that the partner chooses an emotion and sort of commands the other person... do you say that... [laughing] and tells you, okay, you have to tell me something for 10 seconds in a joyful way or in an anxious way or whatever.  This is a very tough exercise for lots of them; for lots of people and I think it's especially for men. Well there's also a couple of emotions for women that are very hard to express for them. For example anger, that's always a tough one because anger is still not a good look.  In Germany you hardly ever hear anybody on the streets screaming or stomping with their foot or whatever.  If you see that, it's usually men; it's never a woman

Chip August: I think even in the States when we see people yelling, screaming, stamping their foot, exhibiting angry behavior, we assume that there’s something wrong with them. We assume it's a sick person or a broken person in some way.  Most of us will step across the street to avoid that kind of person. 

We need to take a short break here. I want to give our sponsors an opportunity to give us some support.  This is Chip August, you're listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy,” and will be right back

[music]

[commercial break]

[music]

Chip August: We are back, this is Chip August. We are listening to “Sex, Love and Intimacy.” My guest has been talking to us about communication and some of the differences between men and women. We’re coming down to the end of our time together and I just have a few last questions here.  One is that, if people wanted to reach you, if what you've said has kind of triggered something for them or if they're interested in doing work with you, how could they reach you?

Chip August: And are these workshops that you do and these events you do; are they all in German? Are they in German and English? Are they in English?

Whatever people want. Whatever people want. I do all of the workshops and seminars and the coachings; I can do it in German, as well as English

Chip August: And do you ever do this work in the States?

Not yet, but I've done a whole lot of work in Europe.  I’m definitely looking forward to do this kind of work in the States. [laughs]

Chip August: I always like to leave my listeners with an exercise, or an idea of an exercise, that they can do with a partner at home. Something that might deepen their sex, love, intimacy; something that could help their relationship.  I'm wondering do you have, sort of a final thought or exercise you’d like to leave people with?

Yes, there's a nice little exercise that I really like.  Before you can get in touch with somebody or before you can be a good the sexual communicative partner, what you need to do is to really get to know yourself.  The better you know yourself, the better you are for other people, right?  So what I recommend to all of my students is that when you come home after a day of work or whatever, go in front of a mirror. Step in front of your mirror--it would be best if it was a mirror where you can see your whole body.  So you step in front of the mirror and you look at yourself and you just tell yourself the day that you just had. It can last for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, whatever. Whatever time you need. Take the time to just tell yourself your day. First of all, it's pretty healthy to tell yourself something [laughs] because, you know, you just get in touch with yourself after a long day.  And then try to tell yourself the same stuff again but in a different emotion. Tell yourself maybe in a joyful way and see how that feels. Look at yourself in the mirror and see how different you look; what happens to your body tension and body language. You may find out that when you talk to yourself in a joyful way, you feel less tension in your body. You feel lighter. Your body language is more open.

And then you might try to talk to yourself in an angry way, yeah, like [angrily] “My boss did this, and my coworker did this… and whatever. I could get through. I couldn't get the appointment I wanted” and you find out that you voice starts to be sort of different. Your body language sort of closes up a bit you sort of feel this tension in your body.  Find out where you feel the tension. What does it feel like? Is there a difference towards a joyful feeling? What happens if you talk to yourself even in another feeling, if you're being anxious or surprised or sad or whatever. Also observe yourself and find out if tough for you to express any of those feelings.  If that's the case keep on practicing.  Because what that does to you is you get to know yourself very good in that expression; in that feeling.  So whenever you have a conversation or whenever you're having a conversation and all of a sudden you're starting to feel angry or sad or whatever you can choose, do I really want to go there?  In this moment? Or maybe not, maybe I go to another point or to another emotion and not really sure the whole range of that moment. So it just makes you more aware of your own feelings and of your expression.

Chip August: Alright now you heard it here from the expert. You’re going to stand in front of a full-length mirror and talk to yourself out loud in all of these different emotions and see what you see.  Learn your feelings.  I love it.  I always think anything which has us get more and more comfortable with our feelings; with naming our feelings; with expressing our feelings, I think brings us to a more joyous life.  So I think this is a great idea and a great exercise.  I really am appreciating having you on the show.

Before we break, I just want to say to our listeners that I'm available to be reached. If you have ideas, show topics or just feedback on any of the shows that you’d like to send to me, you can e-mail me at [email protected]

Also, the folks at Frogz.com, [spells it], they make accessories for iPods and they gave me a whole bunch of free goodies. So I've got a basket full of things to give away and I was thinking if you would come visit my blog, which you can find either at the Personal Life Media website --that's probably the easiest way to do it-- go to www.personallifemedia.com and look for “Sex, Love and Intimacy,” and click on “Blogs.”  Look at my blog and then send me a good idea for a new blog or send me a really good idea for a new show and if you send me an idea I like, why, I'll send you an iPod case or some other iPod accessory provided free of charge by our friends at Frogz.com. It’s kind of nice to have a sponsor and I'm happy to spread the stuff around. So send me some of your best ideas. 

As we wind up our time with our guest, first I want to thank you very much for making this time available. I really appreciate talking to you. I love listening to your perspective.  Any final words you want to say to people?

Just keep on practicing getting in touch with yourself. And you’re able to really get in touch with other people and being real while you have a good constructive communication. Thank you very much for having me. It was a great pleasure.

Chip August: Well that brings us to the end of the show and I thank you for listening--for those of you who are listening. For text and transcripts of the show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network; please visit our website at PersonalLifeMedia.com [spells it].  And as I say keep in touch with me, Chip [email protected]. I’d love to your comments. I hope you listen in again for our next show.

Announcer:  Find other great shows like this on personallifemedia.com.