Joel Monka

I sympathize comepletely with your husband- my wife and I have had exactly the same conversations. Something else I've noted, also- I don't know if it's in the books you mentioned, but it should be. Men will hold a conversation with each other while working on something and not look at each other- but women assume you're not listening if you don't make eye contact. If you've never noticed it before, just watch for it in the future, and you'll see what I mean. I doubt it has the kind of implications in the workplace you describe, but it's an interesting phenomenon.


Husband, in the laundry room, calls up to wife: "Honey, do I wash this jersey in hot or cold water?"

Wife: "What's the label on the shirt say?"

Husband: "Vikings."


Another prove how gender specific education leads to misunderstanding and disadvantages. The world should get rid of it.

The Happy Feminist

Joel, Tannen addresses the eye-contact thing as well as lots of other issues. Another maddening one is recounting events of the day. Another fight my husband and I have is that he thinks I don't get to the point quickly enough. He wants to receive information in one line, such, "Lawyer A is mad at Lawyer B." I am then pissed because he doesn't seem interested in what I am trying to tell him. To me, "Lawyer A is mad at Lawyer B" doesn't convey the information. What is crucial are the nuances -- what Lawyer A said exactly, how lawyer B reacted, what they each said to other people about the situation, etc.

It's also annoying when my husband comes home and tells ME "Lawyer A is mad at Lawyer B" and then is incapable of providing the details of what they each said. He honestly doesn't understand why it matters what they each said exactly.

Sigh. Honestly, even though I read Tannen's books and she insisits that no style is superior to the other, I can't help feeling sometimes (don't tell anyone I said this) that men are just a bit thick. But no, no, that's wrong and a terrible thing to say. It is just that they are using communication for different purposes (albeit rather literal and unsubtle purposes).


I think your husband should have explained why he said “Yes.” to your “Do you mind…” question. However, sometimes at the end of the day I’m cranky, and could see myself just saying “Yes” too.

In the non-statistically valid world of my experience, women talk more – and more easily – than men do, at least among themselves. In mixed groups, some women but more men attempt to dominate the conversation. It’s a joyful experience to participate in a group discussion where people are more focused on what each other has to say. I belong to a mixed-gender church committee like that.

Conan O’Brien once remarked on a recently published study that showed that girls are more articulate than boys: “Well, duh!”

The Happy Feminist

I think my husband honestly didn't believe my question required any more than a one-word answer. I have certainly broken him of that kind of a habit, but it took a while. I have also trained him that when he wants to stop at the store, he needs to consult me rather than just pulling into the store parking lot.

Meanwhile, he has trained me to speak with him slowly and clearly and literally. "I NEED to go to the store. Got it?" Just as I would to a simple-minded child. (I am really just kidding about men being thick but sometimes that's what it feels like!)


My husband and I have similar communication problems. He'll say "What do you want for dinner?" and I'll say "Do you want tacos?" and he'll say "Why do you always answer a question with a question?" What?!?! To me, if I just said "Let's have tacos," I would be imposing my will on him without making sure it was ok with him. I was I never thought that it might just be a gender difference; I thought he was a little dense. :-p

Joel Monka

My wife and I have had the conversation Sarah describes many times, and I finally explained it to her in this way: Men are (at least in this sense) pretty straightforward. When we ask a question, it's because we really were seeking information. There was no hidden agenda here; this was not an opening of negotiations. I had no idea what I wanted for dinner, so I asked you what you wanted; I don't care. By answering a question with a question, you have just muddied the waters- did you mean that you wanted tacos, or did you mean that you wanted fish, but since you know I like tacos you were willing to go along with it? I'm a big boy, capable of speeking for myself; had I wanted tacos, I would have said so and the question would instead have been "Are you ok with tacos?". Now, do you have a preference, or should we just look at restaurants on the way home and see if inspiration strikes?

The Happy Feminist

"Do you want tacos?" means "I want tacos but I would be willing to consider other alternatives if you would rather not have tacos."

Now you know!

The Happy Feminist

I think the more classic male way would be to say, "We're having tacos!" which means, "I have decided what I would like us to have but you're certainly free to speak up if you object."

But when the woman hears, "We're having tacos!" she interprets it as, "I have decided for both of us and I really don't care what you think about it."

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