Translating Mom-Speak and Dad-Speak

By: Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac.

Sometimes it seems like Eric and I are speaking different languages. For example, when I think we're just talking about how we're each feeling about something, he thinks we're trying to identify some problem and solve it. I end up feeling like he's not really listening to me, and he ends up feeling frustrated that we're not getting anywhere.

In relationships, women generally tend to focus on feeling connected, while men are sensitive to status and dominance. For instance, a mother could think her husband will welcome her knowledge because he wants to come together with her in raising their children. Yet he could interpret her parenting tips as condescending or controlling.

Similarly, in conversation, women emphasize the process of being together, concrete consequences for specific people, and feelings, while men tend to emphasize tasks and outcomes, impersonal perspectives, and information.

Each gender style is valid, like it's valid to be Italian or Swedish. Skill with the other gender's style lets you shift gears effectively, depending on what's needed. It's completely alright and often necessary! to ask your partner to communicate with you in a way that's closer to what you need as a woman.

For example, a man who is skillful at "mom-speak" can:

And a woman who is skillful "dad-speak" can:

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, M.S., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 13 and 16. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the first and second authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at or email them with questions or comments at; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.

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