Guest Blogger: Sylvia Scheubeck

Why don’t we understand each other although we’re speaking the same language?

It might be necessary to know that Rachel reads a book about “finding oneself”. The wind, she talks about, is the power to raise her up again and to enjoy her life. Ross doesn’t know what she’s reading and only get Rachel’s output, which he associates with their past as a couple.

Both are talking about the same thing, but create two absolutely different pictures of that topic in their mind.

As a prejudice against men, that they are always thinking about sex, Ross definitely fulfills this cliché. On the other side, Rachel wants to be understood and supported in her development.

Deborah Tannen explores this phenomenon of not understanding each other in her text “Can’t We Talk?” (condensed from: You Just Don’t Understand). She mentions that conversation often means a contest for men. In this contest they frequently feel offended and try to defend themselves to gain the upper hand again. Whereas, women see a conversation as way of exchanging confirmation and getting (emotional) support. As a result, the man doesn’t give a hand at all! He feels insulted and the woman thinks, he is selfish and doesn’t want to help her. Conflicts occur. This is exactly the way how Ross’ and Rachel’s conversation will end. He misunderstands her and she feels offended that he doesn’t take her seriously. But he does! The only problem is that he does not understand her intention.

As a consequence of this misunderstanding, the woman complains. Complaining is something a man can hardly cope with. He interprets her wanting him to find a solution of her problem immediately. But that’s not her intention. She only wants his support and some helpful words to bear her problematic recent situation. Rachel expects Ross to sympathize with her new “way of finding herself”. But he sees that as an allusion to sex. So, his immediate idea to solve the problem would be having sex with her, which seems to be a fancy solution for him at all! In return, that makes her feeling that he regards her as a sex-symbol and isn’t interest in her feelings, problems, etc. And again, both have good intentions and really want to help each other, but the opposite person misunderstands the message and everything ends in a mess.

That is often the way conflicts occur, because intentions of one another are misinterpreted. So, it might be useful not to draw the wrong conclusions immediately. If something is not clearly expressed at once, it might be helpful to ask what is really meant. That probably makes communication between men and women a lot easier, not free of conflicts, but easier…

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2 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Sylvia Scheubeck

  1. kelly olney says:

    As a young man I agree with your point of view. I don’t know why we (men) have such a sexual mind set, but we do. I can’t lie sex is on the mind of myself and other males i’m sure for a good portion of a single day. I have been in similar situations as Ross and the outcome has resulted in an argument of some sort. Especially through text messages, bbm, etc. it is very easy to misinterpret what a woman is trying to say. I personally feel that there are insatnces where women are not straight forward about whatever it may be that they’re trying to say. Some women will only give you hints that they want sex because it would be unlady like or slutty for them to just ask for it. It’s almost as if women beat around the bush a little too much. For example just picture of the next instance between the two, Rachel will be leading Ross on and this time he is much more cautious of what he says and how he acts. Basically resulting in Rachel becoming annoyed with the fact that Ross again is confused. What woman should take note of is, regardless the fact that men are “perverted”, our only true goal is to please women in anyway possible, so cut us a little slack.

  2. Michele says:

    Sylvie, i am glad you mentioned Tannen–we’ll be rading her in He Says/She Says.

    Kelly, you are totally touching on gender construction, something we discuss in my gender classes. you should take an Intro to Women’s Studies course–the things you are discussing in your post are all things we discuss in those classez!

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