Excuse me for interrupting but . . . sometimes that seems to be the only way I, as a man speaking with two or more women, can be heard.
Now, whether I have anything worth hearing is another story and, in the end, you’ll be the judge. As a preface, please be assured that this is not a complaint since, for the most part, I find women’s conversations interesting and often, depending on the topic, bordering on fascinating on many levels.
Also, trust me (I know, why should you?) that I actually know how to participate in conversations and do so in other settings every day. Still, I suffer from a condition that makes me(n) feel like outside observers or unwelcome guests.
The condition is “verbal non-interruptus”, which is experienced by many (perhaps most) men even if they don’t notice or, as I have recently discovered, don’t care about it. In your next conversation in which women make up the majority of the active participants, take a listen for yourself and see if I am right.
Often, I can’t find an opening when attempting to join in a conversation with two or more women. I have spent a fair amount of time trying to understand this phenomenon (often in my silence during female dominated conversations). My observation is that women often seem to use a conversational style that is diametrically opposed to the way I was taught to converse, though admittedly, it is a style that works for them (though perhaps I should say for “you”).
Let me explain. My style and that of most other men I know is that (except when involved in a heated discussion or argument- there is a difference . . . sometimes), one waits until the other person has completed a thought and then offer words of wisdom (at least they are from my point of view when I speak, though apparently not to most others). Turns out, however, that my “male” method is not shared by women.
My observation (non-scientific, lacking any control group, limited in size, etc.) is that women tend to talk over the final words of the speaker so there is no pause. In a conversation among men, this would be interpreted as interrupting and being rude, impolite, aggressive or a host of other negative terms.
In a female-based conversation, the overlap (apparently not viewed as an interruption) seems to be fully acceptable. Somehow, women are able to hear the final words of one woman speaker at the same time as hearing the words of the next woman speaker, and it all works and flows.
The challenge for the male “participant” (though I am not sure that is the right term) is to find the opening to say anything. (Ah, I finally understand the meaning of the saying one “can’t get a word in edgewise”.) Now, for those of you who are thinking that I (and other men) should simply learn to speak in women’s time (or learn to simply listen and learn), please be assured that I have tried learning to speak in the female mode repeatedly.
It turns out, however, that most often one of the women conversationalist somehow knows that this is happening and either is a millisecond faster than me, is on the right frequency to be heard or the women in the conversation actually are more interested in her thoughts (possibly one of the first two options and definitely the last). Fascinating (at least to me).
My solutions for now are two-fold. One is to continue listening, observing and learning while trying to hone my skills (though the advice I get from my male friends tends to be . . . stay away, why do you care, what interest is it to you). The second aspect is to think about writing in a forum where I can be heard or at least not notice when I am not. So, if you have gotten this far, thanks for letting me interrupt.