Gender Communication: What men and women really mean when they say “I’m sorry”

Gender Communication

How good are you at working with the opposite sex?

I get asked often, “How do I better sell, communicate with, and build relationships with the opposite gender in a selling or workplace situation?”

Here is what I have discovered, we both want the same things, we both have similar goals, we both have the same jobs these days, but we tend to communicate differently.

What’s different is the set of expectations we have based on the same set of “words” or “criteria” that we use to communicate them. It’s the unspoken expectations that cause conflict between men and women.

Men and women can say the exact same thing, but have completely different, polar opposite expectations of what those words mean.

“I’m sorry.”

It’s a common phrase that we use, but the expectations of what that means, of what we hope will happen as a result of saying that between men and women is, well, it’s just entirely different.

The majority of men told us (in a recent research study) that when they say they’re sorry the expectation of what they hope happens as a result of saying that phrase was very simple. “I’m sorry,” resulted in conversation over. Meaning – “I said I am sorry, can we please move on.”

As a man, you’ve already said you’re sorry, conversation over, let’s move on. It’s that unspoken expectation that you have that us women do not.

So let’s talk about women. When women say, “I’m sorry.” Really what they were expecting to happen next was is, well, “Now it’s your turn to say it.” Right?

My unspoken expectation is that my husband, my friend, my colleague, my client is then also going to say, “Hey, I understand and I’m sorry too. If I contributed to any of that miscommunication, I want to apologize as well.”

It’s that law of reciprocity, right? If I say it, I want you to say it. But that’s an unspoken expectation.

Men say it, conversation over, let’s move on. Women say it, it means conversation begins and I want you to feel the same way that I feel. Totally opposite. That’s what causes conflict.

It’s not that it’s hard for men and women to work together, it’s not we they want different things, it’s just that we speak very differently about the exact same things and without explaining them we have very serious unmet expectations.




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