At a gut level we’ve always known that men and women are fundamentally different.
We didn’t need a research paper to tell us that men and women have very different approaches, motivations, thought processes and emotional responses to life…just listen to any couple arguing and the differences are apparent.
But nevertheless the research released recently from Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that reveals striking differences in the brains of men and women is beneficial for everyone to pay attention to.
While most of us might ‘know’ we’re different, the trouble is that we have a tendency to forget. Often.
When we’re trying to communicate with our partner, or worse are involved in a ‘heated difference of opinion’, we have a bad habit of thinking that inside they think, feel and act the same as we do…it’s just the external packaging looks a little different.
So we’re surprised when they don’t seem to ‘get’ us…when they don’t agree with us or see our point of view.
Even more dangerous is the assumption we make in these situations that our way is the ‘right’ way…and all they need is to be convinced of this and everyone would be happy (when in reality all it does is frustrate and annoy them).
Understanding our brains…
So if we only understood a little more about HOW we’re different, life could be so much easier.
This is one of the reasons that I began doing the work I do now…helping people around the world to transform their relationships. I find human beings fascinating…and when I began to look into and understand the differences between men and women so much became clear.
The reasons that so many people have trouble in their relationships and why I’d had so many difficulties with men in the past.
I was stunned to learn that it wasn’t all their fault!
It was that we simply didn’t understand each other…and had no idea how to communicate with someone so different to ourselves.
The more I understood, the more important it seemed to share this knowledge and information with others…because so many people’s lives could be made easier and far more enjoyable if we knew this stuff.
Now, before I continue I want to recognise that my work in this area often works with generalisations. Of course there are exceptions on both sides, but in my experience and research, this is what is true for the vast majority. If you’re different, that’s OK, if you’re not, that’s OK too. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, there just is, but understanding what COULD be going on, and what in my experience is likely to be going on can really help.
How are our brains different?
So what does the study tell us?
One of the things that the study explains is that in the largest part of the brain, men’s brains have a greater degree of connectivity within each individual hemisphere, whereas in women there is a greater degree of connectivity between the two hemispheres of the brain.
One of the implications of this is that men are naturally inclined to be better at focusing on one thing at a time, and women are naturally inclined to be able to move between not just different things, but also different TYPES of things. Now, neither of these approaches is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ – they’re just different, but understanding this could make a huge difference in your relationship.
For example if you’re a woman talking to your partner, the interconnections in your brain will mean that the conversation may jump about…one minute you can be talking about work, the next you’re onto what you’re doing at the weekend, the next you’re saying how you are feeling about something that’s happening with a friend of yours. If you’re talking to another woman she’s likely to be able to follow your thought-train and stay with you as your thoughts and ideas jump around from subject to subject. To you, there will be nothing wrong with this, and it will be perfectly normal and make sense for a conversation to move about in this way.
If you’re talking to a man though, he’s likely to get frustrated with a conversation that jumps around and doesn’t seem to achieve anything (by completing the individual topics as you go). He would prefer to speak about one thing at a time so you can have his full and complete focus on one item before moving onto the next topic, and he may want a moment to mentally make the switch to a new conversation.
If you don’t allow him to deal with only one topic at a time, not only is he likely to get frustrated, but he’s also likely to miss aspects of what you’re saying because his brain isn’t designed to jump around from topic to topic like yours. When that starts to happen it’s possible that you could get frustrated because you might equate him not following your conversation thread as ‘not listening’…when in reality his brain just isn’t designed to process information that way.
Likewise if you have to slow down and deal with only one thing at a time, you may get frustrated as you may not remember (and therefore be able to come back to) all the other thoughts that came up when you were discussing point number one.
If you understand this, and see the big picture, you can see how difficulties and arguments can arise.
When you understand the brains, you understand the relationship better
…and this is just one of the ways in which men and women differ! When you start to build up the full picture you can begin to spot the potential pitfalls before they even occur.
More importantly you can begin to work WITH your partner (sometimes with a little external advice or support) to figure out a way around these situations that takes into consideration both of your strengths and limitations…and that works for you both.
In a nutshell, this study tells us that men and women’s brains each do something really well that the other isn’t designed to be as good at. In many ways, they are opposite.
In other words, they are complementary….so if we can understand how to get them to work together, they’d be unstoppable.
So rather than looking at where you’re right and your partner is wrong, or trying to get them to do things ‘your way’…take this opportunity to realise that you both have strengths, and you both have weaknesses…but together you can be the best of both worlds.
If you can begin to understand each other better, you can avoid the arguments and learn to communicate in a way they can really understand.
…and that makes everyone happier.
Wishing You Love,