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…