It’s Not About the Nail ~ Except When It Really Is

I was going to post about something else today, but I just have to comment on this video that’s been making the rounds. It’s well done, but does it really describe the different ways that men and women communicate?


I’ve heard comments all the way from “how true – that really hits the nail on the head” to “how demeaning to women.” There’s obviously a nail in the picture, but the woman seems completely unaware. The man quite reasonably sees the solution. Are women and men really like that? Is our communication really that simple and stereotypical?

My own experience is that for both men and women, sometimes I just need to listen. When my husband has a tough day, he doesn’t want or need me to fix it. When a church member – man or woman – has family issues, I can’t fix things by pulling out the figurative nails. I need to be present, listen, and pray. For both men and women, it’s often not about the nail; in fact, my trying to pull it out would only do more damage.

At other times, for both men and women, actually it is about the nail. When I’m having a stressful day, actually I don’t just want someone to listen – please do deal with my nail by making me dinner, offering to run that errand I really don’t have time for, helping me fix the latest problem with my laptop. For the man or woman with family issues, sometimes both want and need more than listening – they want practical help in setting appropriate boundaries, finding a good counselor, and other problem solving.

Instead of relying on stereotypes that may or may not apply to particular individuals or situations, I think communication is much more personal. In premarital counselling, I tell engaged couples – you’re not marrying a stereotype, you’re marrying this particular man, this particular woman. So don’t try to communicate with a stereotype. Know who you are, and know your partner.

The art of communication is, well, an art. It’s not a formula where all men are x and all women are y, or the other way around. The art of communication is knowing when to listen, when to speak, when to be silent, when to lend a helping hand. As I see it, for both women and men, it’s not about the nail – except when it really is.

How do you see it? Please leave a comment:



Categories: Church and Ministry, Spiritual Practice

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7 replies

  1. I found this video critical of both sides of that conversation depicted. The male in the video obviously didn’t understand that sometimes his partner just wants a sense of presence, to “talk it out”, to express emotion. I fail at that more often than I’d like to admit… my wife processes stuff out loud and, most of the time, doesn’t want a “fix” but just a listener. And, I’ll confess, at times, as “male” as I may be, I’m the same way… there are times when I don’t want advice, I just want someone to walk it with me.

    But on the flip side, there are times when those who need to talk it out (myself included) need to understand that there are those of us outside of the darkness behind your eyes that can very easily see the problem and how simple a solution it is. Now, this does not give us license to say “Just shut up and pull out the nail” but if we see the solution so clearly (“Doc, it hurts when I do this” “Then don’t do that.”) sometimes it may actually be beneficial to listen when you’re told “You have a nail in your foreheard”.

    But, as you said, it’s not about a quick and easy set of rules to figure it out, a nice neat package of do’s and don’ts, it’s about being in relationship with the person. If you have a good relationship with healthy communication, you’ll know when to keep your mouth shut… but you’ll also know that the person telling you to pull out the nail isn’t trying to be insensitive. There’s a mutuality that makes it work when each side is willing to give the other grace, love, and consideration.

  2. …”So don’t try to communicate with a stereotype”…such a great point, April! I think this explains a frustrating dynamic I’ve experienced more than once, from either side of the conversation. There are so many Christian (and non-Christian) books out there that promote people relating to each other as stereotypes, and not just male/female, but leader/learner etc. I used to listen to Focus -on-the-Family a lot, and that was an underlying message I often seemed to get out of it: “people are stereotypes”. I’m not saying that was their intent goal, but it was a message I heard repeatedly in the past…but that aside, there are lots of good things they do too 🙂 .

  3. Thank you for taking this on. It’s a common joke, and there is a *very* generalised basis behind it. But it just reinforces so many bad stereotypes that can very easily stop us from actually looking for what our significant other needs.

  4. (sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have named Focus specifically…they have lots of guest speakers)

  5. I suppose communicating with each other might be simpler if we could reduce it to a formula where all men are x and all women are y, or the other way around. But for me, communication is more of an art form – at times messy and unpredictable, and always full of possibilities.

  6. That vid is priceless.
    And the issue, super, super stereotypical, but this is really how it works, in most cases.

    I’m not that keen on the stereotyping, but the video is well done and a great discussion starter. – April

  7. In the Christian Century Blog Network, this post was one of the top 13 of 2013. See here for the others on the list: http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2013-12/most-read-network-posts