How Understanding Gender Differences Aids Communication

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the personal development book I chose for February is Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps by Barbara and Allan Pease. One giant obstacle to communication is relating to one another and understanding someone else’s point of view. That can be magnified because of gender differences that aren’t often talked about or understood.

This subject can be controversial because our society wants to paint men and women as the same, even though there are unique differences. Men are not better than women; women are not better than men. But there are differences. And although this book wasn’t my style, it still had good information that can help us understand each other better.

We Are Unique

I would like to point out that every single person on this planet is different. The things I talk about below may seem limiting, but they talk about the majority of people in each gender. I completely understand that some women will not fit every female trait and some men will not fit every male trait, because we’re all individuals! Some people do not feel as if they fall into a male or female category, and there are people all over the spectrum. However, I think this post can still be applicable to anyone that doesn’t fall into these categories. It will still allow you to learn about the way people think, and maybe help you understand your own thought processes a little better.

That being said, welcome to the third month of personal and professional book discussions! In case you missed them, here are links to December and January‘s posts. December’s post was about 5 Ways to Ensure Success, and January’s post was about How to Take Advantage of Your Twenties.

How Understanding gender differences aids communication

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There were eleven headings in this book. The headings cover a broad variety of topics including communication, sex, biology, the workplace, etc. For our purposes, I would like to focus on the aspects that help us understand how to communicate effectively with the people around us.

Compartmentalizing VS Multitasking

Have you ever seen those graphics where the inside of a man’s brain is a bunch of boxes neatly labeled, and a woman’s brain is a tangled ball of yarn? According to research done by Barbara and Allan Pease, that graphic is incredibly accurate.

Men are more likely to be able to compartmentalize their thoughts, meaning that they can separate their thoughts into categories that don’t often mix. For example, if something goes wrong at work, a man can either go to the “angry box” or the “problem-solving box.” If they choose the problem-solving box they may feel anger about the situation later, but probably not at the same time.

Women, on the other hand, are quite different. Think back to that tangled ball of yarn. Women’s thoughts and feelings are all connected. Is something goes wrong at work, we are likely to feel man, annoyed, pressure to solve the problem, a little sad that the system isn’t working the way it should, which would remind us that the dishwasher at home is broken… You get the idea.

Since our brains are wired differently, it’s easier for men to perform a single task at a time and really focus on it. For women, we are masters at multitasking and get bored if we are told to focus on one thing. Understanding this difference is important, because it gets to the root of some persistent problems in many relationships and professional settings.

Indexing VS Talking

It’s common knowledge that most women talk more than men. But did you know there is actually science to back that up? Talking about problems, thoughts, and feelings is the best way for women to get them out of our heads. I think this is one of the reasons writing in a journal is so effective as well. It physically gets the thoughts out of your mind and allows you to think about other things!

Men are the opposite. They keep their thoughts, feelings, and problems in their mind and file them away. They are more likely to take time to sit on an issue and put them on hold to think clearly about them later. I’ve found this to be true in my marriage, and it drives me crazy (even though it’s probably a good thing)! I make decisions much faster than my husband does. The good thing about this is that it allows me to think more clearly about situations too by giving it time and making sure it’s not powered by the emotions of the moment.

There methods of dealing with problems causes tension between the genders, because they are essentially opposites. When women talk about all of their problems at the end of the day, they simply want to discharge, but men think the women are giving them a list of problems to solve. The best way to handle this situation is for the woman to say, “Hey, I would love to talk to you about my day. Don’t feel like I’m bombarding you with problems to solve, I just want you to know what’s going on in my head.”

Turn-Taking VS Engaged Interrupting

One thing I’ve learned from this book that I actively try to utilize in my life is how interrupting comes off to different genders. For women, we love to talk together and nod along with what someone is saying, and “Mhm!” and “Oh, right!” while they’re talking. It shows engagement, camaraderie, and builds rapport. Which I personally love!

The problem is when women try to apply this to talking to men. Men rarely interrupt each other and only do so when they perceive another man as being aggressive or competitive. So when women try to apply the way they speak to other women, it comes off as aggressive. And when men try to speak to women the way they speak to other men, they come off as disinterested and not engaged.

Finding a middle ground and understanding that there are key differences can help us learn to communicate better. It can also help us understand why people act the way they do. Try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, no matter what situation you’re in.

Although these categories may seem limiting, they fit the majority of people! I encourage you to put them to the test. See if adopting these tactics help you communicate better with the people around you. AND, If you’re looking for more interesting personal and professional development books, here’s a list of books to read in 2018. I hope you’ll join me in reading one every month!

Have you found any helpful, effective ways to communicate with others? Share them in the comments. We would definitely benefit from your thoughts and experiences.


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41 thoughts on “How Understanding Gender Differences Aids Communication

  1. We have the end of day issue at home! The females unload worries accumulated during day and males view them as problems to solve! Thanks for sharing this from the book. We can communicate about this at home and see if we are sharing to be heard or asking for advice/collaborative problem solving.

    1. That’s so great! I’m glad you were able to identify that in your own life. Let me know how it goes when you talk about it with your family. I hope it goes really well for you!

  2. I feel like you excellently summarized how I feel about gender differences: we all have great things we can bring to the table, but we are different. We perceive the world differently, and we understand concepts differently. That’s the great thing about it though – because we perceive information differently, we therefore create value differently. As a result, we can make a great, comprehensive team!

    1. I love that! I think you made a super important point about creating value differently. I think differences are also important because people need different perspectives sometimes! For example, there are things I would ask my mom’s advice about and other things I would go to my dad about.

  3. I loved this! It’s funny, my girlfriend and I actually had a conversation about her constantly interrupting me while I was talking; she told me it was her way of actively listening to what I was saying. I never stopped to think if it gender played a part. Thanks for your article.

    1. You’re so welcome! I hope it makes your girlfriend’s life a little easier hahaha Understanding gender differences is definitely a start to better communication. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. “This subject can be controversial because our society wants to paint men and women as the same, even though there are unique differences. Men are not better than women; women are not better than men. But there are differences.”

    Damn Girl, Preach!!!!

  5. It’s an interesting post. I do find that the older I get, the differences between us are greater. though what you describe here above is actually the opposite with me and my BF, haha… He loves talking about his day, while when I’ve resolved my issues at work, I don’t feel the need to talk about it at home. I just do, because he asks about it :p. Loved reading this point of view! xoxo Sarah

    1. That’s awesome! I think it’s important to point out that this post is about the “average” or “usual” attributes of men and women, so it’s totally fine to be outside the norm! I think my husband and I both fall directly into the male and female categories without exception, even if I’d like to think that’s not true haha

  6. My girlfriend, who has way more masculine energy than feminine, always tells me “Wait! I don’t multitask.” Lol this is so true. Awareness of the differences helps, thanks for this post.

    1. I wish I could read a map haha I am definitely grateful for GPS. I thought this book was interesting because it talks about the average for each gender, but there are definitely people that fall on different parts of the spectrum!

    1. I’m glad I read this book when I did, because I feel like it’s helped me with my current job. I am a little more self-aware and recognize how the way I’m talking to others is perceived.

  7. Well written Makayla. Men and women are indeed different and we are all uniquely created. Another book I’ve found helpful in communicating and relationships is understand the other person’s love language. The book, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman is a great read.

    1. I’ve never read the book, but I feel like the Five Love Languages are brought up a lot! I think it’s really important to understand how other people like to communicate because it shows that you respect them and want to make them feel comfortable.

  8. I’m a bit older than you (54 😜), but I remember having to preface to my dad, “I’m going to talk about (fill in the blank), but you don’t have to fix it.” When we finally figured this out, it made our conversations run much smoother. My husband and I communicate well. We are both extremely logical, so the conversations flow easily. But I still have this knowledge at the ready in case I need to use it.

    1. I love that advice, I think people should be more like you and learn how to be open about the intentions of their conversations. Saying right at the beginning, “I’d like to talk about something that’s bothering me, but I’m not mad at you at all,” can help the other person relax a bit and get into the right mindset. Thanks so much!

  9. So I hated this book with a passion. Its probably the reason my first blog tanked haha. But I do enjoy how you sum it up and while there were many issues I saw with the book it does make a few good points.

    1. I can definitely see why you’d feel that way haha It certainly wasn’t my style either, but it did have some applicable points. At least you tried to get through it, right? Haha and you have a new blog now 🙂

  10. I need to read that book. Because SO many things of what you said describe me and my boyfriends communication clashes CONSTANTLY. This will help me understand him sooo much better. Girl this was GOLDEN, thanks!

    1. I totally understand that, I had the same thoughts! The book is pretty cheap and it’s a quick read, so I’d definitely recommend reading it if this applied to you at all! There’s a link in the post if you’re interested. Thanks so much for reading!!

    1. My goodness, me too! Sometimes I wish I could change that about myself, but on the other hand it makes me who I am, you know? Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  11. I started reading the book recently . It offers great knowledge however i dont why but i feel that it says Men should be tolerated and women should be shown mercy for how they behave and act. It favors men in a way

    1. That’s so interesting! I see that you’re saying. My biggest problem was that I felt like they portrayed men as stupid… Which they aren’t. And they portrayed women as having little control over their actions. It’s certainly a flawed book, but there are applicable things as well! Let me know what your thoughts are when you finish reading it, I would love to chat more!

    1. I’m glad you were able to gain something from the post! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

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