As a man I never how to respond to a woman when she says her feelings are hurt. I mean, if it was your arm or any other form of physical discomfort I got you but your “feelings?” I’m not sure how to process that.
A woman telling me her feelings are hurt usually means one of two things: I either did or said something I shouldn’t have. Problem is nine times out of 10 I’m unsure of which. Beyond that men just don’t deal in feelings so we’re not sure how to “solve” the issue of hurt feelings. Sure, we could say “sorry” but that rarely does the trick. (You also have to know what exactly you’re “sorry” for but that’s another issue.)
It’s not like when someone falls and bumps their knee and I can just rub the pain away. When a woman’s feelings are hurt there’s this unknown spot deep inside of her that my hands can’t reach but still needs to be rubbed to ease the pain. It’s a disheartening and uncomfortable situation to be in. Trust me I know.
This all boils down to the contrasting differences between how men and women communicate and express themselves. Little girls are taught it’s okay for them to cry and to express themselves emotionally. Meanwhile, as boys we’re taught to be tough and showing emotions is a sign of weakness—especially men of color.
As we grow into adults and the sexes start interacting with one another these contrasting ideologies of how to act wind up having adverse effects on our interpersonal relationships. Expression is a big part of communication, but how can men and women communicate effectively if our ideas of how to express ourselves are completely different? With neither side understanding the other confusion and sexism form. Women get labeled “emotional” like it’s a bad thing and men are seen as “insensitive.” Meanwhile both sexes are merely living up to the societal roles they were taught growing up.
I’d like to think of myself as a man who’s in tune with his emotions (most of the time). I have no problem expressing myself—more so in my writing than anything else—and I’ve been known to wear my heart on my sleeve. But even I have a hard time processing the concept of “hurt feelings.” I deal in facts and the rational (Please note: that’s not to say women don’t/can’t I’m just stating my personal thought process) so when approached by a problem I just want to solve it and move on. Emotions are not that simple—especially a woman’s.
Faced with the prospect of “hurt” feelings oftentimes leaves me at a loss for words. There’s nothing I can do physically and “sorry” isn’t some magical fix-all word I can throw at the problem (I’ll try it in vain though). I, like most men, have no clue how to alleviate the pain inflicted on a woman’s feelings. Perhaps, I’ll buy something like flowers or chocolate since women like that kind of stuff… But that’s just trying to solve an emotional problem with a physical solution again. Since that won’t work most men are forced to go back to the drawing board and offer up their apologies for whatever it is they did. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we don’t know how to process a woman’s expression of pain.
What does it mean when a woman says “you hurt my feelings?” Do you think men process that statement differently than women? Is it harder for a woman to hurt a man’s feelings? How often do women try to explain to a man what it is he did or said that actually hurt her feelings? How often are men open to listening and taking the issue seriously? Do most women think men are insensitive? Is that insensitivity tied to how boys are raised and their learned ideas of what masculinity is? Do you agree that the root of the problem is that men and women just communicate differently?
Speak your piece…
BONUS: While the site was down due to technical issues I worked out a deal with the ladies of What Would a Man Do [WWMD], who featured me on their site for the entire week as we discussed the idea of the Independent Woman in a five-part video series. Be sure to click here to watch the clips and be sure to “like” the WWMD fan page.