Ryan Chartrand

I love intellectual sparring with the opposite sex.

I’m not exactly sure what started this (bad habit? guilty pleasure?). My training in the art began sometime in elementary school. The boys didn’t appreciate having to share the playground with my 8-year-old attempts to start mental tennis matches.

I’ve improved my rapport with guys since then (I think). My guy buddies know it’s just good clean fun; but others must wonder when they see us in a verbal duel. The way I see it, with nothing but one’s wits on guard and a (mostly-unsuspecting) male opponent, a little antagonism in communication is so much more interesting.

Oftentimes I find that it’s an effective way to wake up said opponent. A snide remark – clever, though not vulgar nor permanently injurious – can work like a defibrillator: it can jolt awake an otherwise humdrum conversation.

However, while a cerebral contest is as effective a pickup as a good cuppa joe, it doesn’t work if you have a serious point to get across (and really, what compares with coffee?). Communicating with the opposite sex can be just plain painful sometimes.

Many members of the psychological literati roll their eyes at the whole Mars-Venus deal (I recommend John Gray’s book for rec reading, though not for research); but there is certainly some truth to the idea that guys and gals speak different languages.

The research shows that a primary communicative gender difference is that females are generally more well-versed in verbal skills than males, with a more extensive emotional vocabulary with which to describe their feelings. Male vocabulary and thinking structure tend to be more concrete and goal-based. Most of my personal experiences agree.

The so-called keen female emotional awareness comes in handy for my roommates, who both work at the campus children’s center and spend all day talking with kids about how they feel (“Ouch, that hurt your feelings, didn’t it?”). They need that emotional radar to read the kids and to teach them how to express themselves without yanking each other’s hair.

In contrast, more than one guy friend – bless their hearts – comes to mind when I think of that frustrating monosyllabic affliction that has stricken their communicative capabilities. Sometimes there aren’t any syllables involved at all – just a series of grunts, whistles, and clicks comprising a foreign language that still stumps my universal translator

Research aside, we can’t doom all males to inherent inadequacies in mushy-talk, and leave all females to emotion-laden dictionaries.

For example: my boyfriend at times seems far more adept at expressing an emotional state than I, though I have pages and pages of pop-psych “understanding yourself” reading under my belt (most of his reading consists in computer science manuals and political satire).

In contrast, one of my girlfriends rarely-to-never engages in talking about her feelings; in fact, she always feels “fine.” If there’s a problem, conversation goes straight to how to solve it, all emotions aside.

Communication style, be it XX or XY, depends on the individual – meaning, it’s up to you to get your point across as well as you can, and to accurately translate that foreign tongue spoken by the other gender.

So – though I don’t object to the idea – instead of dishing out an exorbitant fee on self-help books (because we didn’t spend enough on textbooks this quarter) to help you understand the other half of the population, why not try to make it easier on both sides?

Though we may adamantly deny it, it’s shocking how many of us expect an object of affection or significant other to read our minds. Even if you’re convinced that the universe says you two are meant to be, you can’t expect him or her to be clairvoyant. Instead of assuming he or she thinks and understands the way you do, err on the side of caution: be as blatantly clear as possible.

Frustrated because he’s parked in front of “Age of Empires II” instead of listening intently to your bad day? Irked because she’s chattering about drama at work instead of seeing that you’ve had a hard day too, and want to relax by overtaking other global dominions?

Be clear, honest, and tactful. Show that you understand and respect his or her wishes, but you also need some help to get what you want too. Compromise. Let him lead his Nordic army for a while, and let him know politely that you’d like to talk either before or after. In exchange, give her your full attention while she’s sorting through her feelings, and then you can go back to leading your army to victory.

Frustrated because she’s so hard to read and you’re afraid you’ve crossed the line into just-friends territory? Irked because he’s been a little too friendly and you’ve tried to hint at your disinterest without annihilating his ego? Tell him/her how you feel. Being succinct can save you both a whole lot of heartache.

Men and women do share one thing, if not language: the desire to understand each other. We may never completely master the opposite sex’s weird lingo, but with practice, you can have a good working take on the dialect. They’re trying to understand you too, so take it easy on them. In the meantime, I’ll try to be the bigger person, and “refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.”

Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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