In his novel, Something Happened, Joseph Heller wrote “I try my best to remember on what terms (my wife) and I parted this morning, or went to sleep last night, in order to know if she is still angry with me for something I did or did not say or do that I a no longer aware of. Is she mad or is she glad? I can’t remember. And I am unable to tell. So I remain on guard … “

Consequently his routine around her begins by being on guard, walking on eggshells, and hers is to speak out more, sooner, longer and wait for him to “get it”, to respond. When he doesn’t, she escalates her attack, gets more specific and detailed, motivated to get him to finally respond. He gets overwhelmed and tunes out sooner, longer and more frequently.

You see something gradually changed. The tenderness left.

And tenderness is the lubricant in male/female love relationships. Early in a relationship men and women are innocent until proven guilty. We literally don’t see what we do not want to see and focus on what we adore. Later, after repetitive “passive men and wild, wild women” episodes of friction, each person is guilty until proven innocent, from the beginning.

Because that is what we grow to expect of each other and act out to prove each other right.

The rules now? Whatever he does is now never enough. Right or wrong, he is always wrong. And so is she.

But we can change the script we have with the opposite sex- in love and in other situations. Men aren't born passive. Women aren't born wild. We just have that effect on each other … too often.

When and why does a conversation become one-sided, or dissolve into conflict, and how can you turn it around and stay sane?

Here's some gut instincts research-based insights on:
- why things often go sour between the sexes, followed by
- four suggestions for smoother, more satisfying ways to stay connected:

At work, the man is often active, articulate, assertive, and usually successful in his conversations, especially with other men.

But at home he can become inactive, inarticulate, and withdrawn.
He becomes passive with his wife – especially in certain situation.

Yet even when the woman works outside the home she tends to communicate in a more active way at home - and instinctively wants the same style from her mate.

His apparent passivity drives her crazy.

In the face of his further retreat, she goes wild.*
Then he becomes more still, and escapes at the first opportunity.

In personal relationships women often want too much talk, as men sees it.
She feels resentful, complains, keeps asking questions, talks more, may even act bitter.

He feels he can’t meet her needs and ends up feeling guilty and sulks.
They both end up blaming each other.

He thinks: If only she’d shut up.
She thinks: If only he'd talk to me.

Here’s four ways women are more likely to engage men in the positive, lively conversation we crave:

Suggestion #1
“Stop Talking Sooner”
Or, less politely, "shut up sooner. As a child my mother washed my mouth out with soap for saying “shut up” yet that’s sound advice for women in trying to connect with men. Women are usually immediately aware of our feelings, able to express them, usually comfortable in explaining, and asking, and elaborating... in considerable detail.

Our verbal agility can inadvertently create a wall, as women, if it gets us out of sync with men. At times, in personal, social and work situations, men and women will get closer if the speed of the conversation and the amount of words slows down.

When women feel that men are not listening, we tend to “rise” to the occasion by raising our voice and verbiage. That is we tend to say more, faster, more intensely and at a higher volume. It is as if we are thinking, “What I said and how I said it did not work so I will do more of what did not work, and expect a different outcome.”

Our pace in conversation is faster and more multi-dimensional. We rush past and around most men.

We need to allow a man to respond, a point at a time, at his pace, without interrupting or finishing his sentences.

If the strongest complaint women have about men is that they do not listen, then we must work hardest on leaving the time for them to speak.*

Suggestion #2

While women prefer to talk, face-to-face, men pefer to sidle, standing side by side. Research shows that both women and men like each other more and get along better when standing or sitting side-by side.

Suggestion #3
“Get Moving”
Any woman who wants better relations with a man should “walk it out”: talk while walking to the meeting, around the block, etc.

Further, when men and women are walking or eating together their body motions become more similar so they get more in sync. Even vital signs (heartbeat, skin temperature, eye pupil dilation) become more similar) so we are more likely to feel a natural, easy kinship.

In motion we tend to experience the best, rather than the worst side in the opposite sex. That's good news. Yes?

Suggestion #4 “’See’ the Situation Their Way”
Women crave longer and more continuous eye contact than men.
To help men feel more comfortable let go of that unremitting eye gaze. Glance away sometimes as a man is inclined to do while thinking.
His glance away does not necessarily mean avoidance so don’t act as if it does by a your harsh tone, words or glance.
He may be trying to gather his thoughts.

Some Further Peace-Keeping Suggestions for Women and Men:

• It is harder to argue when you are holding hands.

• Know that showing appreciation and attention, especially when you least want to show them and the other person most needs them, will always bring you closer than asking for them.

• First look to the other person’s positive intent as you hear what what is said.

• Saying less often gets you more of what you want from him.

• Looking directly and warmly at her, rather than away, often brings out the part of her you most enjoy.

• Making and keeping an agreement usually helps the other person feel more safe, respected and cared for in the relationship.

• First try to act in a different and positive way before you verbally ask for a change in someone else.

• Don’t interrupt, especially when you most want to.

• First answer the other person’s question. Answer it directly, without preface, qualifiers, countering, secondguessing, answering questions she or he did not ask or raising other points first.

• Do not answer a question with a question, including questioning that person’s question of you.

• Find out whether the other person feels you’ve answered her or his question or otherwise responded adequately before you move onto your question or another point or topic.

• Showing resentment and resistance will most likely escalate the hardening of sides between you.

• Rather than describing what you don’t like, ask for a specific change.

• Be willing to make a change before asking for one.

• Don’t ask for more than one change at a time, unless you want them all ignored.

• Know that the more changes you ask for the more resistant you’ll face, and the more likely it will be for you both go to your heads to think, rather than to your hearts to feel.

• Use factual language and few words to describe what you want changed.

• Use emotion-laden language and more words, to describe what you like in the other person.

• Women: Say and move less, especially when you want to do the opposite

• Men: Give her more eye contact. If you don’t feel comfortable answering her right away, tell her so directly. Then tell her when you will get back to her with a response.

• In the middle of your hottest moments of discussion, remember what you most like in the other person and take the time to express it.

• Of course all these apparently wise pieces of advice are much easier to offer than to live by.

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal reporter, now connective behavior and quotability speaker, and author. Anderson’s TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.3 million views. Her ideas have been cited in 18 books by other authors. Her TEDx talk is on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown, and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs, Her pbooks include Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. Anderson serves on the advisory boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin and World Affairs Council Marin. Discover more at her blog, Moving From Me To We, at Say it