It’s not that women “don’t want solutions.” It’s that men don’t listen to the problem.

I recently published 6 Things Men THINK They Know About Women… That Are Totally Wrong. Among them:

“Learning if-then statements will help you better understand and connect with women.”

Because women aren’t algorithms. Believe it or not, their values, just like their breast size and their hair color, vary dramatically from person to person.

I gave a few examples of this in my post. But you want to know the worst one of all?

Myth 6.2: <If> a woman talks to you about her problems, <then> she’s looking for a shoulder to cry on, not an actual solution.

Yes, this statement may be true for some women, some of the time. It’s also true for some men, some of the time. You might even be bold and say it’s also true for all people some of the time.

Because sometimes, all people get frustrated by a situation they can’t control. Or! They feel closeness with you, and want to help you understand what they’re experiencing. Or! They simply want their feelings to be validated. After all, validation is the very first thing you learn about in Mediation for Dispute Resolution.

But… a lot of the time, people — both male and female — talk about their problem because they want advice.

Lots of dudes will jump in with that advice before they’ve actually listened long enough to understand the problem. Then the woman gets annoyed, because it’s like:

From Hyperbole and a Half.

Men. Women. Boys. Girls. PEOPLE.

In order to come up with a solution to a problem, you need to understand the problem. This is true in business and science as well as in your interpersonal relationships.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from Albert Einstein, who once supposedly said:

Or, as Dwayne Spradlin, Buzz Points CEO and author of The Open Innovation Marketplace: Creating Value in the Challenge Driven Enterprise, wrote in the Harvard Business Review,

Most companies aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve and articulating why those issues are important. Without that rigor, organizations miss opportunities, waste resources, and end up pursuing innovation initiatives that aren’t aligned with their strategies.
[So often], someone in the bowels of the organization is assigned to fix a very specific, near-term problem. But because the firm doesn’t employ a rigorous process for understanding the dimensions of the problem, leaders miss an opportunity to address underlying strategic issues. The situation is exacerbated by what Stefan Thomke and Donald Reinertsen have identified as the fallacy of “The sooner the project is started, the sooner it will be finished.” (See “Six Myths of Product Development,” HBR May 2012.)

Or… just read or watch anything by Tina Seelig.

Then you will (hopefully) understand the importance of understanding the problem before coming up with a solution.

One last piece of advice, which I shared in The Most Obnoxious Stereotype About Women EVER Can Teach You a Valuable Business Lesson:

Sometimes, people of all genders are looking for input/advice. And sometimes, people of all genders are looking for validation/sympathy. If you’re not sure which of these your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/co-worker/buddy/mother/brother wants, you know what’s a really clever thing to do?
“It sounds like you’re going through some pretty complicated stuff right now — I’d be upset, too! [← Validation] Do you want to tell me more about it, or do you want to think about possible solutions? [← Clarification of their intentions]
And don’t forget: in business, and in life, if you don’t fully understand the problem, you’re probably going to come up with a stupid solution. Read more >

No, but seriously. Just ask. Your partner isn’t a mind reader, and they don’t expect you to be one, either.

Anyone who knows me knows that I think it’s always wise to address the elephant in the room.

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