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May 09, 2005



Interesting activity. I'm always a little surprised when the "women want to be listened to, men want to fix" stereotype is confirmed, because my approach to both talking about my problems and hearing about other people's seems closer to the supposedly "masculine" side of things. I do "vent" once in a while, but most of the time if I bring an issue up with someone, it's because I want to hear their input on it and get their advice-- I sometimes interpret "just listening" as not fully participating in the discussion and not caring about what I have to say, because I assume that if they were really involved, they'd be offering their own commentary.

Similarly, when someone else comes to me with their problems, I react either by going into problem-solving mode and trying to work out a solution if it's something I feel I can help with, or going on the "What do you want me to do about it?" defensive if it's something that's out of my control. Admittedly, the more emotional the person I'm talking to is about whatever issue they're discussing with me, the more likely I am to take the latter approach, which usually makes things worse because then they feel attacked and things just go downhill from there. It's a habit I'm working on breaking, but it's hard to do. I guess I understand a bit of what the boys in your group seem to be going through, even though I'm not one.


To be fair, we often have girls who agree with the boys on this one too!


It takes just a tiny bit of humility and respect to think: hey, the solution I'm about to suggest is incredibly obvious and clearly my friend realizes that all she has to do is XXX, thus if I suggest it to her I'm not only implying she's too dumb to think of it but possibly also that she's too dumb/weak to do this thing that is very simple to put into words but might not be so easy in practice, so hmm, maybe that's not my role here!



Oh, I just have to jump right in the lion's den here...

I know too many women who will not act until encouraged. I know too many men who act without first venting. I know the reverse. I think, and Hugo will go this way on his own soon enough, that this is a systemic issue as well.

Girls may be inclined to discuss before acting. But they are tought to seek permission or someone else to do the labor. Men are tought to be strong and act. Feelings are inapproriate where hard decisions are concerned.

Yes, these are stereotypes and I am more than likely propagating the thing I would undermine, but as I hospital chaplain, I see this every day. In the most horrid of situations, the woman is catonic, or hyperemotive and the men make decisions. Yes, I also see women make the decisions. But this is most often when there are no men around.

We have been tought this.


What is the sociological/biological benefit?


It's not that simple, Tara. As I said above, some people (including me) are looking for advice and input when we talk about our problems. Sometimes when I talk about something I'm going through with someone, that person's suggestion is something I haven't thought of, or something I've thought of but needed to hear from someone else in order to convince me it was really a good idea. I can understand how someone who just wants to "vent" and be passively listened to might find it disrespectful and arrogant if their confidant starts spouting advice, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was intended that way, and it doesn't mean that all people would interpret it that way. I certainly wouldn't-- again, as I said before, I even tend to expect it when I'm discussing my problems with someone.

I think it's more constructive to characterize the situation as a matter of miscommunication instead of laying all the blame on the person who dares to try to help someone they care about by offering advice. Sometimes it's honestly hard to tell whether or not someone wants "listening" or "fixing," particularly if they are emotional (hearing someone cry or get really angry has a tendency to awaken protective or defensive instincts in people, making them want to take action instead of just staying quiet and listening-- even if listening is the most effective action to take at the time, it's not usually the instinctive one). I still have these miscommunications from time to time with my partner, and we know each other extremely well. I would never presume to say that someone should just know whether or not it's "their role" to offer advice in any situation-- that's expecting a level of hyper-empathy that's unreasonable in many cases (not to mention a certain degree of mind-reading).



I've also seen what you've described. But what I'm most familiar with is women making decisions because if "their" men make decisions, the decisions emotional ones rather than well-thought-out.

I think the talking about things is a part of the decision-making process. Things seem different once you write them down or hear them verbally than they seem when they are thoughts milling around in your head.

One of the things I've found to work well when teaching our kids good decision-making process is to have them write or talk it out, then go over all the things that have been written or said, and the reasoning/feeling behind those things. Once this is done, they start seeing things more clearly. Then they can make better decisions.


Generally if I refrain from making a decision because there is a man around, it's only because I know he'll be insulted if I interfere on his terrority. Men who don't care don't cause me to dial down my intelligence, but there are plenty of men who still get pissy if they aren't in control.

I have a lot of sympathy, though, for the urge to be a "fixer". For one thing, I am one. You feel sort of helpless when someone complains to you and you can't even offer a suggestion, even though you know it's going to come off as arrogant.

La Lubu

Funny, I come from a background where both men and women "vent" (loudly! often!) as well as "fix things". I'm a "fixer". If it's a solvable problem, I've either already fixed it, or I'm working on it, and most likely you'll never hear about it. I "vent" about the unsolvable problems. Most of the time when I vent about something that really isn't going to be fixed, just dealt with, the listener recognizes that....it's pretty much self-evident. But every now and then I'll run into a "super-fixer" who will dive right in with "helpful" (albeit complete nonsense) suggestions, and that is somewhat maddening. I sure wish the "super-fixers" (those that seem to think violating the natural laws of space-time is feasible, it'll just take a little longer!) would devote their time and energy into say, world peace, or renewable energy, or ending racism, or...

Amanda (another one)

As someone who both has a lot of "fixer" instincts and who often feels the need to just vent and receive hugs, I've found that the whole fix/vent thing can usually be circumvented with decent communication. All I have to do is say "Honey, I need to talk about this and have you listen, but I'm not ready to do the solving part yet." And, because he cares about me, he listens. It would be nice if he could magically intuit whether I was in search of listening or advice, but that's not very realistic. It's really not difficult to just ask for what I need, and trust that my partner cares enough to provide it. I discovered this during a post-college relationship; it might have been nice if this sort of thing had been included with the other relationship advice I got from adults as a teen!


I am firmly on the female/venting side of this debate! I think what bothers me about the fixers isn't so much the advice as the fact that the fixers do simply want to "fix the problem and move on." I may know perfectly well how to fix the problem but I may be upset or frustrated that the problem happened in the first place.

It's not my spouse's tendency to want to "fix" the problem that is annoying (although it can be annoying if it implies that I am incapable of fixing my own problem). It's his desire to "move on" right away when I am still frustrated and upset and looking for some empathy. I guess I am a living stereotype!

Ron O.

We tell each other when we are venting too. Yea, sometimes it would be nice if we could read each other better, but then we wouldn't talk so often either.

I'm generally a vent and move on person. I don't like dwelling on my own problems and struggle with having sympathy for those who need to stay in the vent stage longer.

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