The Triple D: A Peek into “Guy-Speak” (or Stop Hinting!)

The “Triple D” column has stood for “Disastrous Dating Don’ts” and “Dynamic Dating Do’s” – it depends on the day and what’s been going on that week. Friends are coming out of the woodwork with their dating stories because word is finally getting out about this blog. All the Triple D posts can be found under Dating for Dummies.

Earlier this week, on the way home from work, I was talking with Clair (of the Tool-Tilting Coffee fame). With her dating like a mad woman and me writing about dating, it’s a topic that’s bound to come up often.

So we were discussing Married Maurice of the aforementioned blog and I asked if he was still chasing her down like a dog. I actually heard her roll her eyes.

YES. I haven’t returned his calls or answered any of his notes—“

I interrupted her to remind her that she had called to thank him profusely for the first flower delivery he sent her, the day after the Tool-Tilting debacle.

“Well, but since then I haven’t responded at all. He doesn’t seem to be taking the hint.”

I’ll admit it, I pounced. Well, OK, I unloaded a bit.

I told Clair what I’ll tell any of the rest of you ladies that read this blog – married, dating or single – DON’T HINT TO MEN. It doesn’t work. Mostly it just pisses them off because they don’t get it, so they sit around wishing you’d just say what you’re thinking instead of hinting around.

If you don’t believe me, go read some of the Man FAQ at Big Ugly Man Doll. Here’s what he says about hints.

Seriously. Let’s talk guy-speak (and I expect some of the males to weigh in on this…if you’re reading this and you’re not a guy, go get one and make him give an opinion).

Women bond over problems. Men bond over solutions.

As a woman, I’m aware that the reason why I feel so much better after speaking with my girlfriends is (a) they rock and (b) they help me sort through the debris to discover how I really feel about something. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my own opinion, it just means I’m A GIRL. This sharing and caring is our bonding process.

Let’s put it another way for all of you that need hard data.

I heard a psychologist give a speech about the amount of words people use in a given day and some interesting statistics were thrown around:

  • Humans have a number of words that they need to utter each day to feel healthy psychologically. These totals hold pretty steady from day to day and are not cumulative. For example, you don’t save 3,000 words from the day before to use today; it’s a one-shot deal.
  • Men start each day with about 9,000 words.
  • Women start each day with about 15,000 words.
  • Everyone uses about 6,000 words at work.

Are you doing the math here?? That means when a woman comes home from work, she still has NINE THOUSAND WORDS crowding her mind, while a man has only THREE THOUSAND. I think men and women would fight a whole lot less if all parties understood this.

The fact is, all that talking on the phone with the girlfriends is a positive thing. (No, Honey, I’m not trying to justify last month’s phone bill.)

These chats lower the leftover Word-O-Meter for the female half of the relationship team. Otherwise, you have a woman hounding her man to “talk to her” when he gets home from work when, really, he just wants 15 minutes to decompress in his man-cave.

My brother asked me once why his wife “needed to tell every freaking girlfriend she has the same story.” He was annoyed because he thought it took too long and was inefficient. “Why can’t she just gather them all in the same room and tell them at the same time.  Or I can get her a conference line…”

“Shut up.” I told him. “She needs to use her words and you need to let her. Trust me, you’ll have a happier marriage if you let her tell the same story six times.”

Do you know he actually tried to sound put-upon for having to listen to it? Like he actually listens to his wife (I’ve watched him miss entire conversations). My comment was something like, “Sure you do, Boo-Boo…you big LIAR.”

So back to men and women and the disparity in their number of daily words. Any of you with children, especially if you have a mix of genders, already know what the researchers have discovered:

  • When little girls play together in a room, 90% of the sounds that come out of that room are words.
    Example: “Barbie, what would you like to do today? Oh? Uh-huh…yes…OK. We’re going to go to the store. Let’s put on the purple hat and the white boa and drive the pink car over to the market. When we get there, we’ll…” You get the picture.
  • Conversely, when little boys play together in a room, 30% of the sounds recorded are words. If you aren’t raising boys, you might be thinking, “What do they do with all that dead air?” I said WORDS.
    Boys make noise when they play, but it’s more like “Eeee-oooo….SCREECH! Ka-BOOM! Aa-aa-aa-aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. May-day, May-day. Eeee-ooooo-rat-tat-tat-vrooOOOOOM.”

I’m not saying these little boys don’t grow up to be men who talk to their partners, I’m just saying it’s a rare thing for a man to talk MORE than a female.

So, if the gals are bonding over problems, what are the guys doing?

As I mentioned earlier, men bond over solutions. If you’re staring at your screen blankly, wondering what that even MEANS, read on.

The majority of men you know would rather chop off their fingers than go to another man and say, “I’m having a problem with my (fill in the blank). What do you think I should do? Does that sound normal to you?”

Men are much more likely to say, “You know, I had a problem with my (fill in the blank) and I tried ‘X.’ I jury-rigged the thing but it’s still just limping along.”

Do you see the difference? Notice the past tense in that second paragraph? Unless, they’ve already tried to find a solution to their problem, most men aren’t going to ask for help. (Just look at them with directions. My husband is the only man I’ve ever seen ask for directions and I married him.)

Men bond with each other over the search for a great solution. The above snippet of conversation is usually followed by a trip out to the host’s Man Space (usually the garage, workshop or office).

I call it the MacGyver Complex – there seems to be some lust inside the male species that makes them long to solve the problems of the world with two pieces of twine and a coat hanger.

Please understand I don’t intend this as a male-bashing post. None of these observations is a negative or a positive, really. Men and women are just wired a bit differently and it seems like that fact gets forgotten. A lot. Particularly by women.

Men need to have their communications be direct and to the point. If that means you have to talk to your girlfriend for an hour to figure out what your point IS, then do that before you bring it to your guy. That way everyone walks away happy.

So, we’ve circled back around (at last). Don’t hint. Hinting falls into the category of Subtext and most men, particularly men over forty, aren’t trained for it (though I have a list of potential exceptions to this rule below).

A definition of Subtext, for all the non-writers:
sub·text/ Noun: An underlying and often distinct theme in a piece of writing or conversation.

Guys who pick up on “hints” often have some of the following in common:

  • Children of passive-aggressive parents, who inherit the behavior of avoiding conflict at all costs, pick up on non-verbal cues like crazy. It doesn’t mean they always take the right message from them, but they’re on the lookout. The downside of this is if there is ANY conflict in the room, they will absorb it and try to diffuse it.
  • It seems that children of alcoholics or abusive parents, male or female, can take the temperature of a room in a heartbeat. They had to in order to survive.
  • Boys who grow up with multiple older sisters or really interactive moms.

Another growing exception is the Millennial generation that is swarming the workplace right now. These are kids who were raised by women who came of age after the sexual revolution in the 60’s and after the women who fought their way into every area of business in the 70’s.

The Millenials have been raised by women who were born in that time and who were raised by those pioneering women that fought for gender equality but, for the most part, the moms of the Millenials didn’t have to fight for these rights themselves. After hearing about what their mothers went through, these moms made damn sure that equality was the byword for their children.

Young girls and boys who are growing up now simply don’t understand why things like female CEOs and astronauts are any kind of a big deal to their parents. The gender lines have (finally) been truly blurred since the 1990’s (hence the term Metrosexual which was coined back in 1994). The communications are much more blurred these days too with young boys more trained to “girl-speak” than older generations have ever been.

Equality between the sexes doesn’t typically enter our young people’s minds…it just is. (And amen to that!)

What are your thoughts on all this? Do you think I’m living in Crazy Town and am completely off base? Or do you think there are differences in the way men and women communicate? Do you agree that the gender lines are actually starting to blur? What do you think the ramifications of this might be?

Have a great weekend!

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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15 Responses to The Triple D: A Peek into “Guy-Speak” (or Stop Hinting!)

  1. K.B. Owen says:

    What a cool post! Some of these I’d read about before (Deborah Tannen has written several books about male/female communication differences), but you’ve encapsulated it really well. I didn’t know that about boys and girls, but with my boys, it’s true that 70% of the “noise” is sound effects!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oooh, I’ll have to go read Deborah Tannen! Thanks, Kathy. 🙂

      My husband and I are both fascinated with gender interaction, which makes for really great, lively communication. It’s funny, we both were psychology majors in college and we both went into technology, a very male-dominated field.

      I love the little boy sound effects when they’re playing! I always thought I’d have boys since I understand them really well (brothers and all). It turns out I was meant to have a girl instead, possibly to make sure she is aware of guy-speak. Have a great weekend.


  2. amyshojai says:

    Whoa…brilliant post! As a writer (married 30+ years, no kids and NOT DATING) who writes characters who date and/or have kids this offers great bookmark-icity potential. Thanks bunches! I’d read that about the men/solutions thing but the other stuff (# of words used, LOL!) is new to me. Thanks Jenny!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL…thanks, Amy! You have kids, they just don’t talk. That sounds like nirvana to some parents. 🙂

      I love it when I put out a post with bookmark-icity. And I love your words, which communicate straight to the point, whether they’re in the dictionary or not!


  3. I completely agree!
    Comparing a man & woman’s conversation habits can also be compared to thought & production. Men think about one thing (most of the time that seriously is SEX) and women think about everything at once. It’s like we have a battle of characters in our head at all times. Men do one thing at a time, and most of the time it needs to be written down on a list because it’s not what they’re thinking about; whereas women can mutlitask like a champion.
    Don’t hint to a man – write it down and stick it directly under his nose. Why do you think women created The Honey-Do list?


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I know! Sometimes when we’re in the car, sometimes I’ll ask my husband what he’s thinking about and he’ll say, “Driving.” It makes me laugh EVERY time!


  4. Robin says:

    Great post. When I first started dating my now husband, I read “men are from mars, women are from venus.” Eye opening and enlightening on how to communicate. There are definitely differences and I even found an article about studies done by scientists to prove it.

    Are There Difference Between the Brains of Males and Females?”


    • Jenny Hansen says:


      Nice to see you here! I saw that link too but it wouldn’t open for me. There is a psychologist in my writing chapter that has given us talks about the differences between male and female brains. It was fascinating stuff.

      I have a friend that always says, “Women are from Venus and men are from Uranus.” (Say it out loud, it’ll crack you up.) I’ve definitely seen truth to the rubber-band theory they discuss in the book and the whole man-cave thing.

      Thanks for commenting!


  5. Catie Rhodes says:

    I think you’re right on the money, especially the part about children of passive aggressive parents. Most people don’t take the time or effort to take into consideration how different upbringings effect different people.

    My husband, the child of nutty parents, reads something into everything. He’s easily the most introspective man I know. However, I still have to tell him exactly what I mean because he doesn’t always put the right spin on my words.

    Thanks for the really cool insight.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thank you for visiting, Catie, and for adding to our comment discussion! My husband’s mom was crazy passive-aggessive and I didn’t really understand what that meant until our pre-marital counselor weighed in and explained it to me.

      He said the reason why sometimes we’d have fights that made no sense to me is that passive-agressive people avoid direct conflict at all costs. In their attempts to do this, they are busy managing all the vibes and stress in the room to try to avoid the fight. So, if I was going off on something, my husband was getting stressed out to try to fix/minimize my source of stress when, really, all I wanted was for him to listen to it.

      Feelings are extremely scary for the passive-aggessive person. If they feel it, they might have to express it, which equals conflict in their minds. Conflict means different things for different people but for him and his mother, it meant that someone would leave them or not love them any more.

      It has been interesting to have a counselor that (a) translated all this foreign language for me and (b) taught my husband how to feel his feelings.


  6. That’s why men die faster than women. They don’t talk a lot.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I think most women would agree that talking lowers the stress-o-meter. It would be interesting to hear what the over-forty males think about this. 🙂


  7. Sharla Rae says:

    You’re not crazy Jen. That’s why there are so many relationship books on the market! But when push comes to shove, all guys have only one question: Does this mean I don’t get the cookie? — or some version of this. Sharla Rae


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