Linda: There is usually one in the pair that can process information more rapidly than the other. Often, it is the woman who can move through a conversation quickly, in touch with her emotions, and having confidence in being articulate in expressing her feelings and needs. When I work with couples, I attempt to reassure the man to not be embarrassed about asking her to slow down and give him smaller pieces at a time, so he won’t choke on the barrage of information. I refer to the brain research about women having a better switchboard where the two hemispheres of the brain can speak to each other with greater ease.
I site the two books by Louann Brizendine M.D. a neuropsychiatrist who is both a researcher and a clinician at the University of California who wrote The Male Brain and The Female Brain. She says that when men understand that a woman’s brain is a lean, mean communicating machine, they will develop a serious case of female brain envy. Bringing a bit of humor to a challenging situation certainly helps. I also mention the research done by Brizendine that found that women speak an average of 20,000 words daily compared to only 7,000 words for men. This means that on average, women talk nearly three times as much as men. This reference too is designed to normalize the situation, and to put the dilemma in a wider context.
When the person who is overwhelmed with too much information asks their partner to slow down, and they respond by managing their anxiety, more attention is available on both sides. As the tension that has been promoting the run away conversation subsides, more real listening and understanding can take pace. For the rate of speed of the communication to slow down, it can be helpful not only to ask for smaller bits of information at a time, and to offer gentle assurance by saying things such as, “I’m here. I’m listening. I want to give you all the time you need to express yourself. I’m committed to working this out. Take your time.” The anxiety that is frequently pressing the other person to hurry to get all their key points made can calm down.
With the slower rate of speed of the communication, the speaker can look more deeply into what the essence is of the message they way to convey. Looking more deeply allows the speaker to take ownership of old wounds that have left them with heightened sensitivity, unmet needs that have let them hungry, and own up to their fears of not getting their needs met. By taking ownership of their own strong feelings and needs there is a loosening of the attachment to being heard right now, and having needs met right now.
With the lessening of attachment, the listener doesn’t feel demanded upon and can more easily hear their partner with openness. They have a chance to get in touch with anything that may be getting in their way of deep understanding. They have a chance to own up to anything that may have inhibited their ability to open more fully to the message that is coming their way. Both partner have a chance at a big win.
Once the level of urgency is lowered through slowing down, a more meaningful conversation can occur. With the newfound calm, deeper listening can take place, and a feeling of connection that is soothing and satisfying. Such an interchange leads to compassionate understanding that paves the way for positive, lasting change and a relationship that thrives. Now isn’t that worth slowing down for?