It is often said, and no doubt true, that communication is the key to a vibrant, loving and healthy relationship. Yet, most relationship come to an end (Hint: I prefer not to use the term “break-up” or “split”. See, On Being One … And The Power Of The Word “Break-Up”) not because of a lack of communication but because of a fundamental failure to communicate. The reason is simple: because of our genetic make-up and evolution, men and women communicate very differently. In essence, we mis-communicate. I’m sure this is far from a revelation to anyone. But, to paraphrase someone who had 10 minutes of fame sometime ago: “Can we all learn to communicate?” Well, let’s take a look at the differences in communication styles between men and women and the genetic and evolutionary reasons for them. Once we know them, we will be free to apply them (Remember: knowledge without application is, for all intents and purposes, useless.), or you may choose to ignore them. It’s really up to you.
As a starting point, let me state that what we’re about to review applies to the majority (i.e., 8 out of 10) men and women. Remember that it is the exception that makes the rule. So, the principles discussed in this post generally apply to most men and most women in most situations. They are not absolutes.
Let’s start with the basic principle that a man’s brain is a fairly simple mechanism. This will come as no shock to women who, by comparison, have very complex brains. It turns out that men’s brains are compartmentalized, with each compartment having a specific task and functioning independently of the others. Brain scans also reveal that men’s brains are more organized. That is, a place for every thing, and everything in its place. Brain scans of women reveal that functions are more evenly spread on both sides of the brain. In fact, for women, the cord connecting these different brain centers is, on average, 10% thicker and carries 35% more connections between the left and right brain, than in men. Meaning it can carry more data. This is a reason why more women than men are ambidextrous.
This thicker connection is also why women are more, in fact much more, efficient at multitasking than men. Research shows that women can carry between 2 and 4 unrelated tasks simultaneously and efficiently. She can be driving her car with her knees, applying her make up, talking on the phone, and sipping her latte from her favorite coffee-house, all at the same time. We men gasp at such skills. By comparison, men can and do one thing at a time, and one thing only … in our defense we tend to do that one thing very, very well. By the way, this explains why men will turn down the volume on the radio, or even turn it off, when they’re looking for directions. We men can either use our navigational skills or listen, but not both. (Hint for women: Don’t speak to your man when he’s navigating.)
Let’s go back to our evolution for a bit. Here’s an interesting fact, most men can always point to the North. This is true regardless of whether they are outside, or in a room with no windows and no way to look at the sky. Most women have difficulty with this “skill.” “Why would that be?” you ask. Well, from an evolutionary standpoint, there has to be an advantage. In fact, it turns out that this is a very important survival skill. Men evolved to be the hunters-gatherers of the tribe. For eons, men went out in search of food to feed the tribe and to fend off potential threats. That, and only that, was man’s job description. That means that we evolved to find a target and hit it. So men’s brains evolved to be very good at visual-spatial awareness. How far is the target? How fast is it going? Can I throw my rock or spear that far and kill the target? If not, how fast do I have to run and at what angle to intercept the target at a distance from which I can accurately throw my rock or spear? This is the main skill of any man’s brain in any culture. This explains why men have tunnel vision. We’re very good at seeing objects (i.e., prey) straight ahead of us, whereas our peripheral vision is quite limited. Now that “man” has hit the target and has gathered the food for the tribe, he needs to get home. For that he needs to find North! Otherwise, he’s lost and, while he has food, the tribe does not and perishes.
Because women evolved to take care of tribe at close quarters (protect the nest, so to speak), visual-spatial awareness is a skill they did not need to develop. However, women developed a high degree of peripheral vision. This was a skill needed to spot an animal entering the nest, or being able to judge whether another human approaching the nest was friend or foe. In fact, most women can see up to an angle of 60 degrees on either side of their eyes while seemingly looking straight ahead. Some can see up to 180 degrees, and a few can even see beyond 180 degrees. Ever been in this scenario: A woman tells her partner to check out the couple by the exit door which happens to be almost 90 degrees to her left or right. The man sitting next to her will automatically swivel his head to look at the couple, promptly followed by the woman’s admonishment not to be so obvious. But he can’t help it! If he doesn’t turn his head he won’t see the couple in question.
Long distance tunnel vision also explains why men can’t find things in the refrigerator, sock and/or underwear drawer, etc. All women have heard the complaint from a man that he can’t find the milk, mustard, butter, etc. in the refrigerator (though most men seem to be particularly good at spotting the beer!). That is until the woman comes around and hands the man whatever it was he was looking for and which had been right in front of his face the whole time! He’s not being “stupid”, he is exercising his long tunnel vision!
Once he gets home, “man” lies about how hard it was to catch and/or kill the prey and promptly sits down to gaze at the fire. His work is done. It is now time to relax. Modern man has not evolved far from this. He gets up in the morning and usually goes to a job (i.e., hunting-gathering) he hates so he can make money to put a roof over the family (i.e. the tribe) and put food on the table. Once he gets home, he talks about the hard day he had at work and sits on the couch to TV surf, or read the paper (one or the other at a time, not both). The latter is the fire gazing part of the day. At this point, brain scans reveal that he is hearing impaired. This is no joke! Women remember … men can only do one thing at a time.
Again, please remember we are talking about most men and most women in most situations. Also, remember that most men will exhibit some feminine traits and some women will exhibit masculine traits.
In my next post we will continue to explore how men and women are genetically wired to mis-communicate.
As always, in love, Jean-Pierre
You can now follow me on HeartWhisper
This post is based on research done by Barbara and Allan Pease