Communication Problems | Kim Smith On Handling Them

Kathleen Mills

Kathleen is a creative and gifted therapist who has extensive experience in helping children, adolescents, and adults with a variety of issues.

SUMMARY: Kathleen Mills is joined by Kim Smith discussing communication problems between the genders.

Episode #37 | Kim Smith of Life Tree Counseling talks about communicating with the opposite sex

Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
Kim Smith-Life Tree Counseling


Phillip Crum: So it is time once again, Miss giggle box

Kathleen Mills: Hi Phillip, how are you?

PC: for the 37th edition of It’s Just Coffee. And today Miss Kim Smith is with us, but before we get to her and hear her words of wisdom, tell me what’s new with Lifetree. Anything new or cooking? Hurt anybody? Write anybody off? What’s going on?

KM: I haven’t run anybody off. They’re still coming and they still have smiles on their faces, which is awesome. I love it because it jazzes me.

PC: Who’s on fire over there?

KM: Who’s on fire over here is right here. It’s Kim Smith – licensed professional counselor. And she is sweet as she can be and as giving and such a servant’s heart.

PC: Well tell me what Kim specializes in and what are we going to talk about today?

KM: Kim, what is your specialties? Our specialties?

Kim Smith: Well, I see all kinds of folks – adults, I can see kids, adolescents, but I have been seeing married and not necessarily just married, but married and not married couples. We are going to talk about some communication issues today between men and women – the differences in the way they communicate – biological and environmental I guess basis.

KM: So you’re going to help explain the differences of communications between Phillip and I and why they go awry?

KS: I don’t know if I can ever explain that.

PC: It’s a 30 minute show.

KS: I’m just kidding.

KM: Phillip needs an extra 30 minutes then. That’s what I think I heard him say.

KS: That’s funny. I was going to tell you, Phillip, if I start rambling on here – just remember, it’s because I’m a woman. That’s the reason.

KM: Yay! You’re outnumbered, buddy.

PC: Yeah, well. Two to one.

KM: You know what? That’s a good point; the rambling. Girls are good at that.

KS: We are. And that is because women process thoughts differently, or actually I shouldn’t say process them differently. I should say we speak while we’re processing a thought. And I will start to tell my husband a story, and I see a lot of agreement from Phillip over there. I’ll start to tell a story and I may trail off in a different direction that I didn’t really expect when I’m talking to my husband, and he’s looking at me like, “Does this actually have a point? Or-“

KM: “Where are we going?”

KS: “-where are we going?” Exactly. I always thought it was just me and I thought I inherited that ability from my mom because she does that, too. But no – I found out no, it’s because I’m a female and women actually process while they’re talking. So we start talking and we’re still processing that thought while we’re talking.

PC: That’s interesting because when I’m thinking, when I’m processing, I’m silent and my wife is talking and processing for me.

KS: I do the same thing. Exactly. Men, on the other hand, they process the whole thought and then they say it. And so my husband will be in the middle of saying something and he’ll stop. And I think he’s forgotten what he’s going to say, or that he just doesn’t, can’t find the right words to say what he wanted to say. So I’ll finish his sentence for him or I’ll say, “Oh, you’re talking about this,” and he’ll look at me and say, “Are you going to let me finish the story or are you going to finish it for me?” So no, I mean I’m partly right – he is thinking of what he’s going to say, but he’s finishing that thought before he actually opens his mouth.

KM: Is being intuitive on both sides to understand that difference, don’t you think? Or, no.

KS: It can be. I think that helps if both genders are able to understand the way each other communicates on that level. Because you cut the other person a little slack and you allow for them to communicate in a way that’s natural for them. Another difference is that when women communicate-

PC: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. I want to get this one.

KS: You want to know more about that, huh?

PC: I want to know why women think they have to start talking before they have actually thought.

KM: Formulated a-

PC: And yes, I’m looking at you. Why is that women abhor a vacuum; silence?

KS: I don’t know that it’s… and I broke the silence when you asked that question, right? I didn’t even think about it. I just started talking. I don’t think it’s…

KM: (Laughing) I’m sorry, y’all. I wish you had a camera in here because all of us are going, “Uh oh.”

KS: Ah, Phillip. You’re going to get some letters and emails, aren’t you?

PC: I don’t care.

KM: And you’re not going to give the email address at the end of this, are you?

KS: I’m kidding. No, I don’t think it’s so much that they don’t like silence, although I’m not really comfortable with too much silence. But I think that’s just me. I think it’s more about the minute the thought comes into our heads, we start spitting it out. And then we start processing it. So I might say to my husband, for example, “I started vacuuming the house today and, oh yeah, and before I get to that part of the story, I went out in the yard and I saw this rabbit and then, oh and anyway…” And my story may not be about anything… he may have just asked me, “Where did you put my shirt?” And somehow that part of the story turns into everything I did in the last 30 minutes. So I start to answer but go off on a little tangent.

PC: You have a lot of rabbits at your place?

KS: A ton of rabbits! Yes, we do.

PC: Yeah, its interesting. The silence thing. You just can’t stand it, can you? It’s funny, though. Two guys – the silence is preferable when two guys are talking. You know? Especially if they’re not the same age. But it doesn’t matter. If somebody that I know and respect approves – he just looks at me after I’ve done something – and just nods, gives a quick little nod or a wink and a nod or something, that’s worth volumes because I know what he’s thinking. I know what he’s… I know what that looks like in text form. I don’t have to hear it. That was it. That’s all I need.

KM: Men like their silence. They really do.

KS: Well, and part of that is due to the fact that men communicate to relay information and facts typically. Women communicate to relay emotions and feelings, and so women tend to communicate I guess more when they’re together. If you’re talking about a group of women talking, it’s because they’re finding a common bond communicating with one another, finding commonalities and opening pathways to that emotional communication. Whereas men don’t really feel that need. They communicate effective- er, I should say to be efficient and to get a point. Or to establish a status most often. So they tend to need fewer words to do that.

KM: Men like the bullet point version of the story.

KS: They do.

KM: My husband’s like that all the time. I’ll be going through a story and he goes, “Just tell me the point! What’s the point?” Let me tell him the story first!

KS: I … that sounds like a very familiar conversation to me, too. But let me tell you: that can cause a struggle sometimes in relationships between men and women because when women talk about emotional things, to men – men tend to want to be fixers. Their idea of when you’re telling me something, it’s because you want a solution from me or you want me to fix it. And most of the time, women just really want to just talk and vent and get those feelings out. And so if the couple doesn’t understand that…

PC: That’s like teasing a dog with a pork chop.

KS: It really is. It really is. And I’ve actually heard-

PC: And I like pork chops.

KS: I’ve actually had couples say to me that the guys will be like, “You know, it drives me crazy because I need to do something about it,” and I try to explain to them, “Maybe you’re doing something is actually just to listen. That is your fix. That’s what is needed at that moment.” So that’s really a hard concept for them to grasp a lot of times because that’s not in their nature.

PC: Because tomorrow it’s still going to be broken and I get to hear about it again and if you’d let me do something about it yesterday, I wouldn’t have to listen to it again.

KM: You’re the king of the castle and you want to make your queen happy.

KS: Right. Right. And so that’s a definite difference there. And so a woman might – and what I suggest and what I’ve had to learn to do – is say, “You know what, just before I start telling you this: I’m not looking for a solution, I just want to vent. So if you just hear me through and let me rant, you don’t have to do anything or say anything. I just want you to listen.”

PC: You know, that’s exactly what has happened after 33 years at my house. She has learned to do that and she still gets mad. I mean, all I do is when she gets started with one of these stories, and she says, “I don’t want you to do anything,” I lay down on the carpet. I just lay down on the floor and she says, “What are you doing?” And I say, “This is probably going to take a while so I’m just getting comfortable.” And just let her go, but she still gets mad.

KM: She wants you to look at her when she’s telling you a story.

PC: I’m looking up!

KS: That’s too funny. Well, you know-

PC: What’s wrong with that?

KM: Laying down is not being a proactive listener, friend.

KS: Yeah, we do kind of want that emotional support of maybe, you know I’m here listening to you.

KM: Girls are kind of that way, aren’t we?

KS: We are.

KM: We really are.

KS: We are.

KM: We’re asking a lot sometimes.

PC: I can’t help it. I got to make faces or something while it’s going on. I can’t fake like I really…

KS: Care?

PC: … care about what you’re saying while the sink is dirty and you don’t-

KM: You are so honest. That’s awesome.

PC: Well, you know. That’s me. Mr. Honest.

KS: Well, women are guilty of something here, too you know. We tend to give men credit for being mind-readers. And how many times have you heard this? If you don’t know what I’m upset about, then I’m certainly not going to tell me.

PC: You don’t love me if you don’t know what I’m thinking! Oh geez.

KS: Exactly. Exactly.

KM: Good point, Kim.

KS: So men rely more often on facts to know what you’re thinking or wanting. And women assume if you loved me you would know what I wanted. But it doesn’t generally work that way. There needs to be some direction.

KM: Or the validation that us girls are so emotional that their king just needs to understand that and just take it at face value and just be…

PC: So what’s number two on your list? I cut you off earlier.

KS: No, that’s okay. I don’t even know where I was going with that.

PC: Was that like a negative? I cut her off? It just occurred to me.

KS: You made me forget everything I was going to say. No, I’m just kidding. No-

PC: Good, because I got more if you want.

KM: She’s blaming you for it all.

KS: No, you’re fine. But I was going to say, oftentimes when men communicate to women, like I said earlier, it’s usually to relay facts. And it tends to be less emotional in tone, and when women communicate they communicate in an emotional way because we’re just generally emotional communicators. And I say that, you know this is not true across the board. There are men that communicate more like women and vice versa. Women may have a more male-style of communication. But when men hear us communicate in an emotional way, they can sometimes perceive it as blaming or somehow put them on the defensive, and sometimes when men lack the emotional tone that women want to hear, then they assume that the male doesn’t care or they kind of feel shut out. So that can put kind of a wall up for both parties in that case.

PC: Yeah, put you on the defensive. Yes, usually when there’s a female approaching me at a rapid pace, usually with kitchen cutlery in her hands, that tends to put you in a defensive posture.

KS: You put a wall up pretty quickly in that case, don’t you?

PC: Yes.

KS: Well, and then there are some reasons I was going to say for the communication style differences as well. It is for a large part biological, but it’s also environmental in that we tend to mimic growing up the same gender, what we identify with. And so children grow up seeing men communicate this way, and women communicate this way, so they tend to mimic mom, dad, older brother, sister. And so we kind of learn that communication style as well. But there are some ways to bridge the gap. Both men and women have the ability to communicate in the style of the opposite sex. We just- it doesn’t come naturally to us and we have to work at it generally.

PC: Do you have to dress for the part? I mean, is there clothing involved here?

KS: There could be – if it helps you know.

PC: Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere!

KS: But you know, a female in a position of, for example, being in charge of a big construction project at a company may project more of a male-centric communication style because she wants to display control and also relay information efficiently and give the facts that are needed. But for example, a man leading a group therapy discussion may have a softer tone and be more empathetic and show more female patterns of communication because of the need for some emotional understanding and connection. So the ability is there, we just don’t often come by it naturally. But sometimes due to the misunderstanding men and women have with each other, they’ll put up walls and stop communicating entirely. Such as well, if he’s not going to listen or understand me then I might as well not even try talking to him. That kind of thing. Or if she’s going to get over-emotionally or overly-emotional excuse me about everything, I’m not going to engage in conversation because she’s only going to get upset with me, right? So I hear that a lot. So for relationships that are on solid ground, this can be frustrating but for relationships that are already struggling and having some difficulties, this can actually be pretty devastating because there’s already a wall up and that just puts more walls up. But in order to find the common ground, men and women both have to consciously make an effort to understand and recognize each other’s communication patterns.

PC: You have to want to in the first place.

KM: Bridge the gap. Yes.

KS: You do. You do. So, I guess like I said, when I try to talk to my husband about the way I feel, I will sometimes put it out there that, “Hey, I’m not looking for a fix. This is just for me to talk and rant.” And I just want him to listen and not tell me, “Well, you’re wrong about that,” or, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” I just want to be validated.

KM: Give him instructions on what you want him to do so he can feel like he’s doing…

PC: Give him a script.

KM: – he’s slaying the dragon. He is doing by just being.

KS: Right. Exactly. And I think that will help-

PC: That actually sounds like it will work in your head, doesn’t it?

KM: It does work in my head. (Laughs) It’s just whether you want to play the game or not, buddy.

KS: Well, and in that way, too, part of that bridging the gap is men understanding, “Hey, this is what is needed right now. This is what she needs.” And kind of wrapping their head around that it’s okay for me not to try to do everything to fix this.

KS: So likewise, men might just keep in mind that – oh I think I just said that. Sorry. Men keep in mind that women don’t always need a solution. But it also helps when women take some non-verbal cues from men about what’s going on emotionally with them. So men don’t generally talk about how they feel, but there are signs that something’s going on, whether it’s tight jaw muscles or

PC: Flying objects will do it.

KS: That could do it, yeah yeah yeah.

PC: When comes the part when I get to tell her how really dumb that is that she didn’t fix it a week ago, and I had to listen to it four more times?

KS: Well, you could do that, but then you’re probably going to have another discussion about how she feels that was wrong.

KM: You can’t escape!

KS: I’m sorry, Phillip. I don’t know if I can help you there. (Laughs)

PC: What have I gotten into here?

KM: We need a women’s support group for your wife. Girl, it’s okay.

KS: Too funny. But yeah, so. And it helps you know sometimes if a man is dealing with emotional things, sometimes they just need space. They don’t necessarily always want to talk about it right away. But I’ve learned how to kind of ease my husband into discussions when he doesn’t want to talk about something. And he doesn’t even realize I’m doing it. It’s pretty fun to play counselor at home. But it doesn’t work very often.

KM: You haven’t figured out that you’re doing therapy on him, right?

KS: No. It doesn’t work very often. He usually says, “Hey, cut that out. I know what you’re doing!”

KM: “I’m not going there!”

KS: Exactly. But yeah. But you might be surprised, too – this is kind of jumping ahead but – you might be surprised at the number of couples that I see that actually I’ve talked to that want the same thing as one another but because they approach it differently, or because they communicate it differently, neither one of them sees, “Hey, we’re both looking, wanting the same thing.” So they may want the same solution, but because they can’t talk about it in a way that’s effective, they’re both missing the mark. They have no idea that they’re actually looking for the same thing.

KM: They just take their time.

KS: Phillip looks very confused right now.

PC: What’s the same thing?

KS: Well-

PC: What is that thing?

KS: For example, someone really… in fact one occasion springs to mind where a couple just really want to, in their words, make each other happy. And do what made the other one happy. But that was actually what they said. But at the same time, they were both trying to make each other happy in a way that they would want to be made happy, if that makes sense. So you know, to a male, making wife happy might mean fixing everything – fixing all the problems. But what wife really wants is, “I just want to be able to talk to you.” And even though they both wanted to do things to make the other happy, because of the way that they couldn’t bridge that gap of communication, neither one of them realized, “Hey, you’re just trying to do things to make me happy. You’re just trying to do things to show that you care for me.”

KM: They forgot how to be best friends forever when they weren’t courting. They just totally forgot about that.

KS: They did. Because we do go that extra mile when we’re courting to- we read every cue, read something into everything that the other person wants. But then you kind of start taking that for granted later so.

PC: Okay so, I’m willing to listen. But she knows I don’t really care. I mean, I care about her and everything. But she’s going to give me a list – her torture list – here’s the list of things in my life I need to talk about. Here’s a list of pork chops we’re going to talk about here. And you can’t do anything about them. And why don’t you want to listen to me?

KM: Honey, how can I best serve you today? I hear what you said. How can I help you? How do you need for me to be? I see your struggle. How can I best serve you with this? How can I be your best friend while you’re talking through this?

PC: That can’t possibly work.

KM: It does.

KS: It does.

KM: It’s magic.

PC: But the answer is, “Nothing. Just listen to me complain.”

KM: There’s a lot of pride by asking that because you think you’re supposed to have figured it all out, but sometimes I can’t like, okay I clearly forgot how can I best serve you with this?

KS: You sometimes have to take you, “I’m king of the house” hat off for a second. Or “I’m the fix-it man” hat off and have to put on the “I’m the best friend” hat, or “I’m the partner hat” and you just need me to be here by your side for a minute.

PC: No, I get that. I do. I get that. And I’m willing to grovel – been doing it 33 years. I’m good at it. Rock star good! It just drives me crazy why anybody – whether I’m married to them or not – doesn’t do something, act on, whatever it is that’s got them upset and do something about it. They just want to complain about it. That’s the thing that drives me over a wall.

KM: And I think women have to realize that their recovery is based on understanding that frustration from their mate.

KS: Right. That is a huge part of it. And part of –

PC: Is this costing me money? Two counselors here. Okay.

KS: I promise. You get the friends and family discount.

PC: Oh, I get a discount.

KS: But, no. You know, part of finding the solution might be to talk about it first and feel validated, and then we say, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do about this.” But we need to feel heard first to get that frustration out. So it’s kind of a-

PC: So what does that do for you? When you go through your laundry list of whatever, when you get done, why do you feel better? Nothing is- I’m not, that’s the way it is. I get it. But why does that work?

KS: Because we feel heard and understood and we feel like there’s somebody on our side, you know, that’s supportive. And I think that’s not even just a woman thing. I think that’s an anybody thing – wanting to feel understood and supported. But I think part of, because we are emotional creatures in communication-wise, we just need that verbal or sometimes even non-verbal affirmation of just someone listening and nodding and smiling.

KM: Well sometimes I need to know when to stop my emoting. I just need to cut it out because it’s not helpful.

KS: Sure.

PC: What are you looking at me for?

KM: (Laughs) Because you told me to cut it out yesterday and you were right!

PC: Oh.

KM: You were right!

KS: And that is when a man may need to step in and say, in a kind way, “Honey, I understand you’re upset about this but it’s not going to help you to upset yourself more. We need to talk about what I can do to help.” Sort of like Kathleen said, what can I do to help? And sometimes we, sometimes you do have to stop us in our tracks a little bit.

PC: Do I actually have to be awake when I’m listening?

KM: Yes.

KS: Unfortunately. At least look like you’re awake.

PC: Well this is interesting.

KM: This has been a great topic.

KS: It’s been a hot topic. I think Phillip’s over there getting a little antsy. He wants answers.

PC: Here’s my takeaways from this whole event.

KS: Oh no.

PC: I got two of them.

KM: Be honest.

PC: Number one: guys, get a dog.


PC: Gals, become a cougar. He’ll listen. Maybe not. Okay. So, what else do we have here?

KM: Not much. Kim, where can people reach you at

KS: Well, you can reach me at 972-234-6634 ext. 305. You can email me at

KM: Counselor page at Life Tree Counseling? Read all about her. She’s awesome.

KS: You can schedule online with me.

KM: You’ve got the heart to serve.

KS: Thank you.

KM: Your clients love you.

KS: I do love, I love them. I love helping folks.

KM: You can tell.

KS: Thank you.

KM: You feel much better at the end of the hour.

PC: There you go. All right, and where can people find you Kathleen?

KM: Same place. Same number. 972-234-6634 ext. 104 and How about you, Phillip?

PC: I’m still Phillip Crum, content marketing coach. No cards and letters, please, at And that’s about it. So thanks for listening. We’ll do this again. We’re going to pick this up again, girl.

KM: Yes, we are.

KS: Okay.

PC: Yeah. Because I’m still processing stuff.


KM: He’s trying to still figure out. He hasn’t figured it out yet.

KS: I’ll do the volume two.

PC: There you go. Thanks for listening, everybody.

KM: Thank you, Kim.

KS: Thank you, Kathleen. Thanks, Phillip.

PC: On we go.

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