There is a widely accepted stigma that women talk more than men on a daily average basis: The urban legend says that women speak 20,000 words per day, while men only speak 7,000. It’s fun and easy to believe, yet almost all documented research shows that both genders speak around the same amount of words on a daily basis. What actually has been proven is that each gender tends to focus their speech on certain aspects- Men’s conversations are more information and task based, being more direct; women’s are more social based, encompassing more topics all at once.
Since men aren’t quite as in touch with their feelings and able to express themselves as easily and clearly (not to mention the fear of coming across as weak or too sensitive), men often are silent on issues that truly matter. The lack of a man’s words at times when they are most needed creates a canyon of unfinished business, causing some things to never begin and some to never end. While if he uses the wrong words, he may find himself at the bottom of that canyon.
Boy meets girl, man meets woman. Either way. Whether on the playground or randomly in line at a concert, a guy has to find a way to entice a girl with his words. From a cheesy pick-up line to a clever ice breaker. In almost every interview I’ve ever watched where a girl is asked what top 3 qualities she is looking for in a guy, more than looks, money, height, even religious beliefs, “he has to be able to make me laugh” seems to be the most reoccurring. And later down the road it’s the man that is expected to say those famous words, “Will you marry me?” A lot revolves around a man’s willingness to speak.
I find it interesting that God “spoke” the world into existence. Then one of the main jobs He gave Adam was to name to the animals. John the Baptist’s father lost the ability to speak until he named his son John. And it was Joseph that fulfilled predictions of the Old Testament when he named Jesus. When Jesus began healing people at age 30, he often simply spoke, and the sick were healed. He also caused the storm to stop by simply saying, “Peace, be still.” But what happens when a man doesn’t speak, or instead uses his words negatively?
A familiar concept is a grown man with no ambition, or a man who goes on to live a life of crime, because his father told him as a child, “You’ll never amount to anything. I wish you were never born.” Sounds like something from a melodramatic movie, but it happens everyday. And how many grown women look for love in all the wrong places, having a pattern of attracting men who don’t respect them, as they try to find a man to answer the question “do you love me?” because she never heard her father say the words “I love you”? A man’s words alone have the power to curse or bless his children. That’s powerful.
Last week I saw a Friends rerun where Joey starting acting more feminine because he got a female roommate. At one point in the episode Chandler senses Joey is upset and asks him what he did wrong. Joey responds with, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” I laughed along with the pre-recorded audience because I recognized from watching a lifetime’s worth of sitcoms that it’s the man that has to constantly apologize for the stupid thing he said. And of course, he usually doesn’t know which specific stupid thing it was.
Joey’s next phrase: “It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it.” Again, a token situation that is not at all foreign. A man’s words can get him in a lot of trouble. When a man speaks it tends to be more direct, specific, and matter-of-fact; it’s understandable that a man is more likely to hurt a woman by what he says, rather than the other way around. A woman tends to have a gentler, more discrete way of saying things.
As the half-Jewish actor Harry Connick, Jr. puts it in the movie P.S. I Love You, guys don’t really have a filter on what comes out of their mouths. They do, but it’s not too good. And I think this accounts for the term “dirty old man”. As men get older, the filter often works even less.
When I plow through another person unintentionally with my words, when there were words someone needed to hear me say that I didn’t say, and when I say something that is flat out wrong or invalid, I will use my words to sincerely apologize for my mistake. Better my apology when I mess up, than my silence, denial, or apathy.
“No filter in my head, what’s a boy to do? I guess he better find one soon.”
-John Mayer (“My Stupid Mouth”)
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: