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Coaches have tips for better male/female chats

Mary Jerris-DeLonge never expected to be divorced — and dating — at her age. But when her 15-year marriage recently ended, the 54-year-old communications trainer found herself having to relearn the dating game rules.

“That’s a peculiar experience,” Jerris-DeLonge said. “Dating in your 50s is different from 20s and 30s. In trying to adjust to this new reality I’ve got, I knew I needed to polish up my skills and start thinking about things in a new way.”

Having attended a similarly themed event in the past, Jerris-DeLonge quickly signed up for a free workshop titled “Understanding the Opposite Sex” recently offered by Ana Maroney, a community educator from La Jolla, and Patty Sommer, a life coach and group facilitator from Carmel Valley.

Although Jerris-DeLonge makes a living teaching business communication skills, she said it is a challenge to translate those same skills into a social environment: “I always considered myself a pretty good communicator, (but as) women, we’ve all experienced unsuccessful communication where men are concerned and we walk away from that experience wondering what went wrong. I had never really drilled down into what makes communication with men work.”

Jerris-DeLonge was one of about 30 attendees who participated in two introductory workshops held in early March. Following a presentation, the women had a chance to share anecdotes and ask questions.

The concept was developed by Sommer after attending a seminar presented by PAX Programs Inc., a business founded by Alison Armstrong that educates women about men. While there, Sommer met Maroney, who is currently training to be a credentialed PAX. As part of that training, Maroney is encouraged to share portions of the company’s curriculum with others.

“I felt like there was so much good information,” Sommer said. “It’s not male bashing at all; it’s really very positive. It’s more about empathy. It gives women something to be able to do to improve communication with all the men in their lives.”

After both workshops quickly filled up, Sommer had to put names on a waiting list.

“The fact that so many people are responding to this tells me this is something women really need,” Sommer said. “There is a gap in the information.”

“The principal question that PAX programs pose to women is, what if there’s a reason for why men act like they do?” Maroney said. “They teach you to look for these reasons and show you how to identify these reasons.”

One of the elements Maroney explored was the elemental difference in how men and women communicate. Back in the early days of existence, men were hunters and women were gatherers. The skills and behaviors needed to successfully perform these tasks — and survive — are still inherent, although contemporary men and women may have some overlap of these traits.

As hunters, men had to protect and provide, making them results-oriented and single-focused. But as gatherers and caretakers, women depended on connecting with others. That dynamic created diffuse awareness, a feminine skill better known as multitasking.

By educating women about these dynamics, they learn how to frame dialogue in a truly constructive manner rather than making assumptions that a man isn’t listening or doesn’t care about the conversation.

“We women talk nonstop,” Maroney said. “We often talk nonstop because we don’t feel heard. We repeat things because we think they don’t get it. Men are listening different than we do. Men need time to respond. There’s tools where we teach women to actually be quiet and count to 30 when they ask a man a question. Don’t ask, ‘Did you hear me?’ If they’re not saying anything, you just wait. If they stop talking, you count to 30 again.”

One of the reasons Maroney is such an enthusiastic male/female communications skills educator is that that the PAX information preserved her own marriage. Seven years ago while separated from her husband and preparing to enter the work force as a life coach, she attended a seminar to assess the content.

“I fell in love with the information,” said Maroney, who has been married — to the same man — for 23 years.

Based on the response to their introductory workshops, Maroney and Sommer have scheduled a series of seminars to begin in April. The topics include “Understanding the Opposite Sex,” “Understanding Chemistry with the Opposite Sex” and “Understanding Respect with the Opposite Sex.”

“What’s really beneficial is being able to sit in a room with other women who have had or are having the same experiences,” Jerris-DeLonge said. “You can very easily get caught up in the cocoon of your own relationship. Once you hear other women talk about the same thing, it’s almost liberating.”

Workshop series

  • ‘Understanding the Opposite Sex’

10 a.m. to noon April 6
6 to 8 p.m. April 7

  • ‘Understanding Chemistry with the Opposite Sex’

10 a.m. to noon April 13
6 to 8 p.m. April 14

  • ‘Understanding Respect with the Opposite Sex’

10 a.m. to 12 noon April 20
6 to 8 p.m. April 28

Registration information: Locations vary; (858) 945-8822,

www.essentialelementscoaching.com/Workshops.html