In western civilization, men tend to be analytic, problem-solving thinkers, while women tend to focus more on relationships and on the feelings of others. Of course this is a generalization with many exceptions—women do solve problems and men do care about relationships and feelings. (And don’t expect me to enter the nature v. nurture debate on this topic.) Given the standard qualifications and disclaimers, the tendency remains.
When Jill tells her father about trouble she is having with friends at school, Dad’s inner tendency is to suggest some solutions to those problems. If he is wise, Dad will keep those solutions to himself. Jill didn’t approach Dad seeking solutions. She wants two ears and a shoulder. If Dad can be supportive of her feelings and understanding about her situation, Jill will receive what she wants and needs. If Dad cannot help but blurt out, “Have you tried this?” he may lose future opportunities to know what is happening in Jill’s personal life.
As always, though, Dad has to perceive when he should act like a typical man and when he should keep his solutions to himself. Jill spends Saturday night at a friend’s house and goes to church with that friend Sunday morning. Jill’s grandmother has agreed to pick up Jill at the friend’s church and bring Jill home at half-past-noon. At 12:50, Dad’s phone rings. Jill gave Grandma the street address of the church (not the name), and Grandma’s GPS says that address does not exist. Grandma has driven up and down the street several times, and she has seen nothing that even looks like a church. She has phoned Jill, but Jill is not answering her phone.
Grandma does not want a sympathetic ear at this moment. She calls Dad looking for a solution. Provided Grandma is not panicking (and she is not), Dad does not care how Grandma feels. All his attention is focused on solving the problem.
Grandma has only a GPS, but Dad has access to Google. He types in the name of the street and adds “church.” He learns that there are three churches on that street. He lists them to Grandma with the street numbers, and the third one matches the number Jill had said to Grandma. Dad is able to click on a picture of the church at that address and describe the building to Grandma. It’s a storefront church in a strip of stores set back from the road. Dad describes the building next door which is closer to the road and easy to spot. Grandma is able to find the church and find Jill, thanks to Dad’s help.
(Fortunately, the church service was longer than expected. Jill has not been sitting outside waiting for Grandma to arrive.)
In western civilization, men have to use their best judgment when to find a solution and when to just listen. Sometimes women say of the men in their lives, “He never even listens to me.” He’s listening, I assure you, but part of his mind is processing the information you are giving him and looking for solutions. He does that because he loves you, and because he’s a normal man. Give him credit for that. J.