How Men Think How Women Think, Part One
Written by Randi G. Fine
For centuries the differences between men and women were socially defined. Men maintained their superiority over women by dominating them, and women rarely questioned their passive role. Men were expected to be genteel and chivalrous, and women reciprocated by being genial and gracious. It wasn’t until 1848 that gender roles began changing after sixty-eight women, the forerunners of the Women’s Rights Movement, rose up and demanded equality between the sexes.
The modern day feminist movement began in the 1960’s. As a result of the momentum they gained, millions of women now work in occupations that previously were considered “for men only.” But this shift in the workplace caused societal problems to arise elsewhere; it blurred the gender roles between men and women, especially in the home. Modern day Feminists continue the fight to tear down all the walls between the sexes, believing that the differences between men and women are socially constructed. But there is much evidence to the contrary.
It is obvious that men and women are anatomically different. The male and female bodies were uniquely created by nature for purposes of reproduction, functionality and survival. Men are built for physical endurance, confrontation, and force. Women are built to carry, birth, and feed their offspring. A man’s skull is commonly thicker and stronger than a woman’s. I guess that’s where the expression “thick-headedness” came from in regard to men.
Just as our bodies are built for different purposes, so are our minds. Based on our many observations and encounters with the opposite sex, few of us would argue that point. If that is so, then why do so many of carry the expectation that the opposite sex will think and act like we do, just because we want them to? Harmonious relationships are impossible when we try to change others to suit our needs. They are more easily achieved when we understand ourselves and accept the natural differences that exist between sexes.
The brains of men and women are physiologically different, so it makes sense that the way we use them will be different. Male brains are larger than female brains and contain more gray matter, also called thinking matter. But that does not necessarily make them smarter. Women have more white matter in their brains which allows easy connections between various parts of their brain and makes their thinking ability more diverse. A recent study discovered that the parts of the brain that control responses of aggression and anger are larger in women too.
The part of the brain that facilitates communication between the two hemispheres, called the corpus callosum, has been shown in studies to be larger in women. And studies show that women have more brain receptors, or neurons, transferring data to both the right and left sides of the brain, as men do. Since women have equal access to both hemispheres, they more easily process language and emotion than men do. Men rely more heavily on the left side of their brain. There is a disconnection between the right side, where emotion is processed, and the left side, where communication skills are accessed.
Men’s brains are highly specialized in areas like abstract reasoning and visual-spatial concepts. That is why they more easily use maps to navigate and generally have a better sense of direction than women. Men use the left hippocampus to navigate, women use the cerebral cortex and rely more on landmark cues.
Ladies–have you ever felt ignored when trying to get a man’s attention while he was watching the television or playing video games? You could have pole danced naked in front of him and he would not have noticed. Maybe he looked right through you, or even told you to move out of his way. Men have the ability to narrowly focus their brains on specific tasks or activities for long periods of time, blocking out distractions and unrelated information. Women do not understand how men do that because women can effortlessly divide their attention and multi-task. That does not mean women have problems focusing; they just have the ability to focus while doing a multitude of activities.
When it comes to problem solving, men and women do it equally as well, but they use different processes and approaches. Women tend to think in terms of the big picture; how everything is interrelated. They find it more difficult than men do to separate their problems from their life experiences. This causes women to become overwhelmed easily. Women like to share and discuss their problems; they are better able to sort out their issues when they talk them out. Women understand that about each other and often bond over their difficulties. They know how to listen to and encourage each other.
When a woman shares a problem with her male partner, she is not necessarily asking him to solve it. She does not want him to assess, minimize, or interfere with it. She just wants him to listen and show concern. The way he responds can strengthen or weaken her bond with him. If he responds the way she wants him to, she will feel more loved and more connected to him. If he gets it wrong, she will feel alone and disconnected from the relationship.
Men are solution driven; their instinct is to become authoritative in the face of a problem. Problems provide men with the prideful opportunity to demonstrate their confidence and resolve. They have an easier time than women separating themselves from their problems, an ability that minimizes the complexities of the issues. Men are linear thinkers; they like to sort out their problems piece by piece, one by one. And they prefer to handle their problems silently, on their own. Though a man does not want his partner to smother him with concern or interfere with his silent, inward process, he does want her to offer a vote of confidence in regard to his problem solving abilities. He needs reassurance that she knows he is the man of the house; that he can singlehandedly take care of everything.
When it comes to language skills, women have the advantage. In general, women are better conversationalists than men, and they enjoy it more. That is how they form relationships and bond with others. Women are naturally adept at flourishing their words with emotion or drama to express and relate the feelings behind what they’re saying. Since women place great importance on being heard, they are typically better listeners. A woman will encourage the other person to speak by pausing, being agreeable, and using gestures like nodding.
Men use language to make a point or relay information; they do not talk just for the sake of talking. They speak literally and do not flourish what they are saying like women do. Men rarely gesture or act agreeable to the person who is speaking. They offer little or no encouragement to others when it comes to conversation. And for the most part, men only want to listen to someone if they feel there is a point to the conversation.
Communication between the sexes is a learned skill. Without an understanding of how the mind of the opposite sex works, simple conflicts that start out as logical discussions may escalate into emotionally charged arguments.
Men expect discussions to be logical and factual. When there is a point of contention between the sexes, men expect each side to have the chance to back up their point of view. When a woman confronts a man with an issue, he views it as an expression and defense of her position, therefore expects to get the chance to voice and defend his position. He does not understand that all she really wants is for him to hear her and try to understand how she is feeling. If the man walks away from the argument thinking it is over before she thinks it is over, her anger will escalate to fury and she will find it very hard to let it go. The longer things go unresolved, the longer it will take her to forgive him, after he makes an attempt to repair things. This behavior is very confusing for men.
A common scenario looks like this. A man and a woman are having a calm discussion. A topic comes up, they have a difference of opinions, and the conversation becomes oppositional. The man continues to approach his point of view with logic. The woman begins interjecting feelings into her point of view in order to win the argument and before long her side of the argument becomes emotional. The man stays cool-headed and continues using logic to present his side, but now she is upset and frustrated with his use of logic. She becomes confrontational. She tries to suck him into her emotion; blames him for not understanding her side. He has been blindsided; now he is confused. The argument has become personal and he does not know why. His ego is bruised so he becomes defensive. The argument spins out of control. She runs out of the room crying, leaving him frustrated and helpless.
Ladies–the truth is that men really do want to get it right; they do not want to hurt you. So teach your man ahead of time how to treat you when you are upset. Otherwise he will be clueless and the pattern will just keep repeating itself.
Another common problem between the sexes is the misconception on women’s parts that men are mind readers. Women are adept at reading the emotions of others through their facial expressions and vocal intonations, and they are naturally intuitive, so they think men have the same abilities. A woman believes that if her man truly loves her, he will know what she wants without her having to ask for it.
Ladies–consider all your man does for you on a daily basis, all the ways he comes through for you, and all the ways he shows his love. It is the big things that count. Stop putting his love to the test. If there is something you want or need, just ask for it. If you do not ask for him to help you around the house, do not be surprised if he does not do it. If you want to go out to somewhere nice, tell him where you want to go and when. He wants to help out and please you but he truly cannot read your mind. Stop frustrating yourself and give him a break.
Men want to be appreciated for what they do; they do not respond well to demands and criticism. They respond more favorably when requests are prefaced with “Would you” or “Will you.” “Could you” or “Can you” makes a man feel like the woman is questioning his abilities. If a woman expects the answer to be “yes dear” and “I’ll do that right now honey” every time she makes a request, he will view all requests as demands, become resentful, and will become noncompliant. To get what you want from your man ladies, respect, acceptance, kindness, and patience works; nagging backfires. And yes–you do have to ask him to do everything. Men are result oriented. Once he has been appreciated for completing a task that you have asked him to do, he thinks he is done. Appreciation does not motive him to do more. Women do not understand his way of thinking because as they see it, as long as they feel appreciated, they will continue giving and doing. The truth is, a man’s basic instinct is to take care of his own needs, even if it means sacrificing the needs of others; a woman’s basic instinct is to care of others, even if it means sacrificing herself.
This is an excerpt from my November 17, 2011 show on A Fine Time for Healing. To listen to this show in its entirety, please go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/randi-fine/2011/11/17/how-men-think-how-women-think-reading-the-opposite-sex
I am available to talk about any life issues that are concerning you. Private, confidential. http://clarity.fm/randi-g-fine
Read Other Relationship Articles: Managing Relationship Conflict Part One Managing Relationship Conflict Part Two Dysfunctional Romantic Relationships Compromising Opinions Maintains Close Relationships Personal Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships Emotional Relationship Boundaries