Q. When I talk to my husband he says he’s listening to me but when I ask him what I just said he hums and haws and usually can’t repeat the gist of our conversation. What should I do?
A. Studies at the University of Sheffield, with results published in the journal NeuroImage, have shown that males and females tend to listen differently. First of all, the female brain tends to use both hemispheres when listening. Speech sounds are typically processed in the left hemisphere (regardless of age or gender) and voice tonality is decoded in the right hemisphere.
The male brain tends to decode male voices in the left hemisphere. Female voices are more difficult for the male brain to process because it tends to decode those speech sounds in the right hemisphere of the brain, in a portion that typically processes melody lines of music. Thus the male brain may perceive female speech sounds as either a “melody line” or as “background music.”
What can you do? Knowing this information you can increase the likelihood of being “heard” by a male brain when you:
- Get his attention first
- Lower your voice pitch
- Keep your voice tones even
- Speak more loudly
- Allow inflections to fall at the end of sentences
In addition, remember that typical male speech provides the bottom line and then fills in additional information based on questions. When speaking to a male, give him the bottom line and if he wants more information he’ll ask questions. Save the “start at the beginning and tell the whole story” format for those times when you are conversing with another female—who presumably speaks and understands female speech.