Do men and women always understand what each other is saying? Definitely not, there are important differences in the way men and women express themselves which lead to misunderstandings.
Two ways to communicate
Men tend to communicate in a brief and straightforward style using language simply and with little emotional content. Women on the other hand tend to use more metaphorical language and often communicate in a way that contains another level of implied meaning. This greater complexity of expression can be a problem for men who fail to understand the true meaning of the conversation they are having.
This lack of understanding can be made worse because women often assume men use language in the same way that they do. They interpret a simple statement with a layer of meaning that was never intended.
Clearly if the conversation is about the weekly shop at Tesco then there are not too many layers of meaning when discussing the need for and choice of breakfast cereal. However, in the emotionally charged atmosphere of trying to explain your reasons for divorce to the partner you wish to leave is never going to be easy.
If you go to counselling such as Relate then these differences will come into sharp contrast. Talking about a failing relationship is often made easier if the counseller provides interpretation to help each partner to fully understand the other's point of view.
You are just not listening to me
This different approach to the use of language leads to the classic accusation, "You are just not listening to me." By which the accuser is saying you do not understand what I really mean. This accusation can be made both ways but more often is made by women who believe (usually quite correctly) that the man has failed to understand the more subtle nuance of meaning and its implications.
How did this happen?
These different approaches to the use of language have evolved over thousands of years to be appropriate to individual needs. In the days when men spent a lot of their time hunting there was no room for nuance or ambiguity when issuing orders on the battlefield! Women in those times were at home rearing children and a conversation between two mothers about the best way to bring up their children will require language with emotional depth and subtlety.
What can we do about it?
Perhaps the best way to reduce the problems caused by these different ways of speaking is first to recognise that they exist and then for men to try to develop more emotional awareness and for women to develop a more straightforward approach to some of the most difficult conversations any of us are likely to have in our lives.