~ By Dixie Andelin Forsyth
There was a man, let’s call him Jack. His wife told me he recently got a couple of text messages congratulating him on his recent graduation. He seemed pleased but didn’t respond to either one. He even told his wife, Amy he got the messages and it made him feel good to have supportive friends. When Amy asked why he didn’t respond back, at least letting the friend know he had received the texts, his first reply was that he didn’t think of it. He said “They didn’t ask me a question. They were just making a comment.” To Amy, this was obviously insensitive. Why didn’t he think about the person who had sent him the congratulations? She explained that they would never even know if he got the text or whether he was pleased. Why not at least send an emoticon?
Why do perfectly wonderful men do things like this? To us, thinking about other people and how they feel is so obvious.
Men tend to be more task, and less relationship oriented than we are. These are not absolutes of course, but so many men and women fall into this category, it helps to understand it.
To be task oriented means to be primarily concerned about getting something done, not constantly worrying about how people feel while accomplishing it. That’s why, when there was no specific question asked, Jack didn’t respond. It didn’t even enter his mind.
My husband Bob is a neuropsychologist. He works at several hospitals. When there, he has a number of people to see. There is always personal drama going on among the staff, not to mention, some of the patients. Someone is upset about what someone else said about them. Or, a doctor might be showing more attention to, and validating one nurse over another. Feelings get hurt.
The primary task of most hospitals is to 1. Take care of patients and 2. Make money. Worrying about side issues like how people feel while they are accomplishing these primary tasks is not only distracting, but could undermine the whole hospital and its survival. If Bob were to get caught up with the feelings of one nurse when he has patients waiting to see him, he couldn’t get his work done. He might help the nurse but wouldn’t be focused on his primary goal of taking care of patients.
Being task oriented is valuable. It gets jobs done. Most of us would agree that someone needs to put primary focus on accomplishing a specific goal. If they don’t, sometimes the objective is compromised. Men often say, “I’m interested in facts, not feelings.”
Some might argue, “Why can’t I expect him to be both relationship and task oriented at the same time?” Task and relationship leaders do different things, at different times, for different purposes. Also, there is a danger in trying to change anyone. You can only change yourself. So, what can you do?
Next time your husband does something insensitive, smile to yourself and be happy he is more task oriented than you. You complement each other. You may help him focus and encourage him (not command him) to let his friends know he liked the text. You add the relationship part. Together, you can be an incredible power couple. He will love you for understanding and supporting him. Help him feel valued in his role—don’t make him feel lesser.
Emphasize his strengths. You need each other. Fascinating women help balance men. It makes them happier—it makes us happier.