Q. Why is your advice more helpful than my husband’s? The only somewhat helpful thing he said when I was worried about getting passed over was that if I do good work then my boss won’t think I’m a loser. He says I get too worried about work and then blames me with comments like, “well you told her you thought that your co-worker was stressed beyond what you would want.” He then went on to talk about the college bowl games.
A. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is a great book about how men and women often need different things in communication. If I tell a woman about a problem, she will offer me validation and sympathy. She may self-disclose about a similar problem to make me feel better, but she won’t jump to telling me what I’ve done wrong or what I should do. A lot of men don’t realize that what you are looking for is emotional support and reinforcement, not a “how to” because you are clueless. Women need to know that their feelings are an appropriate reaction to the circumstance. You need that before you can tackle the problem. (Why women need outside validation of their own truth and can’t do this for themselves is worth thinking about.)
Men really do want to help and so they give you what they would need—the “right answer” and a bowl game on TV. They think, in their misguided way, that maybe you need them to point out what you missed. That would calm them down, but for most women it makes us crazier. DON’T tell me I’m WRONG. Understand how I FEEL. Men don’t seek understanding as much as action—once they figure it out, they can put the problem in a box and get on with their life. Meanwhile, we stew until someone says, “You can handle this!”
Given that some of men’s pragmatic advice can help, especially if a male point of view might be different than mine, I usually do have a brief discussion with my husband. I appreciate his dispassionate wisdom and don’t let his implied “objective assessment” (feels like blaming) get to me. Then I call a friend or my sister so someone will say they understand—that buoys my sprit and boosts my confidence.