Male/Female communication.

Imagine this scenario. A storm has just blown up, and the rain is beating against the house. Realising that the bedroom window is open, I set off upstairs to close it before the bedroom carpet gets soaked. I am halfway up the stairs, and Rachel calls to me.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

“What?” I call back.

No reply. I tut, and head back down the stairs, across the hall, through the living room and into the kitchen.

“You what?”

“Can you shut the bedroom window if you are going upstairs.”

The key to successful communication


It’s no secret that I am inattentive. According to the optician (suddenly, opticians have decided that just specialising in eyes is not enough) my hearing is fine. And yet, I am oblivious to much of what is going on around me. It may be a case of that eternal male condition ‘selective hearing’ or just the fact that I live my life in a daze. Whatever the reason, I am regularly told “You never listen to half of what I say”. I once suggested that ‘half’ was being a bit optimistic, and that eighty percent of what she said didn’t need to be listened to. Oddly, she didn’t argue with that.

Women generally (this is not just a Rachel thing) have an inbuilt need to say stuff. It is as though they are constantly playing the TV gameshow Catchphrase and saying what they see. There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is a hard-wired connection from the brain to the mouth that renders inward and silent thought impossible. If they think it, they say it. It is a subject I have touched on in past blogs.

Why you will never know how to understand women

Reaching the sound barrier.

But I digress. The reason I miss so much of what Rachel says to me is a phenomenon known as the sound barrier. This is not to be confused with the speed of sound. It is to do with the distance sound can travel before it becomes undetectable. It is an invisible boundary line, located a few dozen feet away from Rachel, beyond which I cannot make out what she is saying.

If we are on opposite sides of the house, she instinctively detects the moment I step beyond the sound barrier and she starts talking.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

The same thing happens if I happen to close a door between us.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

Hush hush.

But, distance is not the only factor. The sound barrier is also related to ambient noise. For example: I might be in the kitchen; it is silent, and I switch on the kettle. The sound of the water heating up gets louder, and at the instant it reaches the critical noise level, Rachel remembers something vital that I need to know.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

It’s uncanny. And I fall for it every time. I often find myself traipsing back and forth across the sound barrier while trying to make a cup of tea.

I reach the kettle.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

Back to the living room to find out what she said.

Back to the kitchen. Pop the bag into the mugs.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

Back to the living room to find out what she said.

Back to the kitchen. Pour the water.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

Back to the living room to find out what she said.

I regularly get a good cardio workout, just by having a tea break.

Breaching the sound barrier.

I am convinced it is a fundamental law of physics that passing through the sound barrier is a trigger for conversation. And you can prove it with this simple experiment.

Fill a box with screwed up newspaper, take it upstairs, and start rummaging. Rustle, rustle, rustle.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

Stop what you are doing.

Call out to ask what she said.

When you get no answer, resume the box activity. Rustle, rustle, rustle.

“Mumble, mumble, mmmm mm, mummmm mimmimm.”

After a few repetitions, go to see what she said. You can guarantee, it will be to remind you that you need to sort out the crumpled newspaper in the cardboard box.

Does it only happen to me, or is there always a sound barrier between male/female communications?