Male-Female Communication Challenges

…Real-Life Issue, or “All in Your Head?”

by David B. Bohl

If you’re male, do you find yourself frequently misunderstood by persons of the female persuasion?

If you’re female, does making your needs known to the men in your life feel like repeatedly banging your head against a brick wall?

Great news for both sides: communication problems between the sexes really are “all in your head!” Research shows that there is a significant difference in the way male and female brains are wired, as well as the way each processes information.

As a coach and business owner, I’m constantly reminded of the difference between the sexes. Often, clients talk with me about marital or dating challenges, as well as issues with opposite-sex bosses or coworkers. Communication, temperament, timing, work style, and basic approach or come-on can make for tricky relations between the genders.

And yet, I always think to myself… there are so many amazing character traits that are associated with being male or female. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of focusing on whatever we feel we’re not getting from the Other Sex, we learned to manage the differences in a complementary way. Just think of how much more males and females can accomplish together, rather than separately. (For starters — we’re pretty good at reproducing – and life is the greatest creation of all!)

I for one, enjoy productive professional and personal relationships with many women. I’ve always had a great time conversing with women – swapping viewpoints, exchanging ideas, sharing plans, and exploring perspectives that I may not have considered. I feel that women bring to the table certain strengths that may not come as quickly or easily to me, a male of the species. And I hope those women whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing feel the same about me!

Indeed, the perfect balance of male and female can be a beautiful dance — if we just learn to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. I recently pulled together a collection of evidence pointing out the areas where each gender excels.

Let’s hear it for the ladies!

  • Women are generally better at communicating, carrying out detailed and pre-planned tasks, and remembering lists of words or paragraphs of text. Verbal abilities arise earlier in girls than in boys. Women typically use around 20,000 words per day, while men use 7,000.
  • The female brain is designed to respond more sensitively to sensory stimuli. Women receive a wider range of sensory information and are able to relate to it with greater ease. (Maybe that’s why he keeps asking you “where the milk is” while staring into the fridge — when clearly, “it’s right there!”)
  • Females hear better than men, which explains why women often have to ask men the same question several times!
  • Women are better at picking up nuances of meaning from tones of voice or intensity of expression, which explains a lot about that famous “female intuition.” Women excel at knowing people’s feelings, while men have difficulty identifying feelings unless it’s highly obvious — for example, someone crying.

Let’s hear it for the guys!

  • Within the male brain there is less interactivity between the two hemispheres – which explains why males seem to be better at separating emotion from reason in everyday tasks. Their brains actually “switch back and forth” from one mode to the other, while women seem to blend both logic and emotion simultaneously. (Try to remember this difference the next time you’re engaged in a heated argument with someone of the opposite sex!)
  • Men show an advantage in tasks requiring quantitative and reasoning abilities, and excel in science and math. In young boys, these areas of the brain mature about four years earlier than in girls.
  • Males display greater efficiency in visual-spatial ability. This relates to being able to visualize things, their shape, position, geography, and proportion and demonstrates itself as boys aim at stationary or moving targets and notice minor movements in their visual fields.
  • The part of the brain that relates to mating behaviors is 2.2 times larger in males than in females and has nearly twice as many cells.

Imagine if the world were only males. What kind of world would that be?

Now imagine if the world were only females… what would that be like?

Some tips for success in relating with members of the opposite sex:

Men, recognize that women want to communicate with you “all the time” because the action literally triggers a pleasure center in their brains! And women, don’t be offended by his long silences… he’s just busy plotting the route for your next trip together.

Men, learn to be more sympathetic to women’s feelings – although you may not be feeling what she’s feeling, learn to read the “signs” or nonverbal cues that tell you something may be making her upset. Often, the best thing you can give her is a willing ear and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Women, do not be offended when you come to a man wanting to express emotion, and the man immediately attempts to “solve” the problem. While you may simply want a venting post, it is a male tendency to reason out the situation and try to come up with a solution. He’s not being insensitive; this is just his “way” of trying to help.

Women, remember that maybe he doesn’t want to ask for directions because he’s ready to rely on his exceptional navigation skills (so bring a map next time, and let him plot the route!).

Have a sense of humor about the differences between men and women. At times, your partner, boss or coworker may seem like a “typical” male or female… and that can surely make for some comical moments together.

It is healthy to seek out members of the same sex at certain points when you feel you may not be connecting with those of the opposite sex. If you crave an all-guys or all-girls night out, by all means indulge… it will likely improve things between you and your partner when you return to each other after time away.

Partner up on tasks together where each person can control areas that he or she excels at. Of course, each person is different… so don’t stereotype what you assume will be “guy” or “girl” behavior. Lots of guys are exceptionally tenderhearted, and plenty of women kick butt at chess. The point is to be aware of what each person can offer, and then put that to work for greater productivity and success.

I challenge you in your daily life, to observe the differences in members of the opposite sex with appreciation and understanding, and without judgment.

Remind yourself that “different” does not mean “bad” or “negative.” The individual strengths of males and females make up two halves of a whole… and when you put them together, you get one strong, balanced, and super human being!


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