"What we got here is a failure to communicate"
Captain, Road Prison 36
Cool Hand Luke
Each Friday I wake up and find my brother Jim’s weekly blog in my mail box. For the most part, I enjoy his anecdotal wisdom and try to find ways to apply the message to my own life.
A few weeks back, Jimmy (as he is affectionately known among family and friends), offered his readers the opportunity to become a guest contributor. This allowed for a different perspective from other members of the "tribe" as well as giving him a chance to take a one week vacation.
Within minutes of receiving this invitation, I called him to secure my spot as the inaugural guest host.
This opportunity gave me excitement as well as conjuring up my own fears of living up to my older sibling’s style and standards as a first-time blogger.
So here goes....
One of my great passions in life is trying to find ways to understand and bridge the gender gap.
...Well not so much as bridging, more like "honoring the gender differences".
Have you ever been in a spirited discussion with your significant other and in an attempt to gain empathy, you try and put the present situation in his or her terms... perhaps by uttering... "It’s just like when you (fill in the appropriate situation)...".
This approach never seems to work too well since the recipient usual response is something like, "This is nothing like that situation because (fill in the rebuttal)..."
I’m often befuddled as to why it’s so difficult to feel heard when I’ve made such a brilliant and compelling argument in the course of the debate... why can’t she just see my point of view?
The crazy thing is that I’m almost certain that she’s thinking the exact same thing!
So the million-dollar question is why do men and women tend to communicate so differently?
There have been many theories and thousands of books written on this very subject, but I’d like to offer my own opinion as to why these differences occur.
First and foremost, men and women have different biology.
One of the primary differences is the higher levels of the hormone testosterone in males and higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in women (note: testosterone and estrogen are found in both males and females but typically at a level of only 10-14% than that of the primary hormone for the respective sex).
Extensive research has shown that the hormone testosterone affect the cognitive functions of the brain in areas of memory, attention, and logical reasoning. There is also a positive correlation between high levels of testosterone and aggression, risk-taking, competitiveness, and sexual activity.
On the other hand, estrogen and progesterone affect the creative and spacial areas of the brain such as verbal and artistic skills. These hormones also positively affect the senses of smell and taste.
The different chemicals (hormones) found in both men and women might actually be the most predominant reason for differing communication styles between the sexes.
Men and women are just wired differently... it’s simple biology.
Men want to quickly analyze a problem (logical reasoning) and fix it. Since men are driven by success, overcome the problem and success is had.
Women on the other hand are not necessarily interested in fixing a problem. They are most interested in the discussion, reviewing a situation, looking at it from all angles and perspectives. To women, it’s not a problem but rather an interesting piece of artwork to be contemplated from all directions.
Of course I’m oversimplifying the issue as not all men nor women are created from the same mold. There are varying degrees even among the sexes. To say that all men do one thing and all women do another thing is really just "genderlizing".
However there are some positive correlations to these biological conclusions.
Beyond biological differences between the sexes, could there be additional explanations as to the sexual communication gap?
Life experiences and social norms most assuredly play an important role in the differing communication styles.
These differences can be traced all the way back to the newborn child being dressed in blue or pink.
From the time they were born to the present day, communities, media, schools, religion organizations, and cultural standards have treated boys and girls differently.
Our belief systems are generally inherited from our environment (for example, if your parents were practicing Catholics, there is a good chance that you will also follow suit in the Catholic faith).
Therefore if the people within our environments (family, friends, teachers, church members, neighbors), treated the genders differently, then those young boys and girls would tend to act and think differently.
It’s nearly impossible for adult men to fully understand what life was like for girls growing up because they were treated differently. Equally stated, I’m sure the same can be said for women to grasp the challenges boys encountered throughout their childhood and adolescence.
We all have our table top of beliefs that are supported by the legs of our experiences.
Or in other words, our experiences are seen through the glasses of our own belief system. We will typically only look for experiences to reinforce not counter or question our learned beliefs.
If men and women are expected to act a certain way, and they are taught this at an early age, and then it is reinforced through a life of experiences, then they will act differently because this is their reality.
The key to bridging the gender gap is to try and attempt to see things from their perspective rather than your own.
Effective communication is not a debate competition where winners and losers will be crowned.
In the end, communication is about sharing ideas and perspective not about determining who is right or wrong.
It is important to listen and respect another’s opinion, even if you fundamentally and diametrically oppose their conclusions. What has helped me to communicate better is to give the benefit of the doubt and honoring THEIR reality.
In the end, we all just want to feel heard, and the ones that get heard the most, are the ones who listen the best.
I hope this has been some help to the readers... good... now the problem is fixed...
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