To recap Part I of this post, men’s and women’s brains have evolved very differently. Men’s brains have evolved to be compartmentalized … to do one thing at a time, and do it very, very well. Women’s brains have evolved to be highly efficient at multi-tasking. Our genetic make-up and evolution means that men and women communicate very differently. In fact, we are genetically programmed to mis-communicate. Once we understand these differences, and we remember to apply them, I posit that many relationships will become more vibrant, happier and healthier. After all, it is often said and no doubt true, that communication is the key to such relationships. So let’s continue exploring this subject of communication differences between men and women.
Because men’s brains evolved to do one thing at time, when we speak we take turns. While we may interrupt each other, it is extremely rare that men will speak to each other simultaneously. Again, this is because we can either speak or listen, but not both at the same time. By comparison, women speak all together all at once. By the way, this is true across cultural and geographic boundaries. What befuddles us men, is the fact that women not only can carry multiple simultaneous conversations about a multiplicity of unrelated subjects and can actually follow, assimilate and respond to each! This is incomprehensible to men. When we hear a group of women speaking simultaneously, we think that no one is listening. How could you? But women can multitask, so they can and do speak and listen simultaneously.
Another difficulty in men-women communication is that women use 5 different tones of voice, but men can only identify 3 of those. A woman can be speaking on a particular subject and half-way through, introduce a different one by using one of those 5 tones. Other women will instantly pick up the change. Most men don’t and we continue to think that the woman is still speaking about the same subject. As the woman switches from subject to subject, eventually the man gets … well, lost. If he is in a relationship with the woman, or has a close friendship with her, he may even say out loud: “What are you talking about?” If he doesn’t feel comfortable saying it, he will certainly think it.
Another reason women evolved to multitask is that, when harvesting the crops – a woman’s task – there was a definite advantage to using both hands instead of one as you can pick at twice the rate. In contrast, men only needed one hand, usually the right one, to throw the rock or spear at the target. Because men needed to identify this dominant right hand, we evolved a spot on the left side of the brain (Note: the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and vice-versa) to spot the right hand. Women, by contrast, didn’t need such a development since they tended to use both hands. This explains why most women can’t identify their right from their left. They’re not “stupid”, they just haven’t needed to evolutionary step.
In Part I, we also explored the visual-spatial skills men developed over the eons of our evolution. This skill means that men are capable of seeing in 3-dimensions. We can see height and width as well as depth. That is, what is beyond the object we’re looking at. Again, this is an important skill if we are to hit a target at a distance, whether it is a prey or the 8th hole on the golf course. This skill also allows men to mentally rotate objects so they can look at it, in their minds, upside down. Women cannot do that and this explains why they are, in general, very poor map readers and navigators. When a woman gets handed a map, one of the first things she’ll do is rotate it in the direction of travel. She’ll then look for an object in the distance which she can recognize on the map. Eventually, she gives up and in the process a “fight” between the man and woman typically ensues. Of course, this “problem” is rapidly becoming extinct as most of us are using GPS on our phones eradicating the need for paper maps.
I know that in my past relationship, asking my partner to give me directions was a recipe for disaster. She is a very intelligent and capable woman with a very high (i.e., 150) IQ. In her mind, she thought I was testing her intelligence which, by the way, I never did. When she failed to provide the directions (the place we were trying to get to was usually in the opposite direction in which she was directing us), she saw it as a failure of the partnership! Men would be wise to not ask their women partner for direction. By the way, visual-spatial awareness is also the skill needed to parallel park and merge on the highway! Before women take pen to paper, or electrons to screen, to skewer me, please remember that we are taking about most women in most situations and that this is not a criticism. Rather, it is a simple observation derived from brain scans.
This highly developed visual-spatial awareness also explains why men love sports. Whether it is watching NASCAR drivers race around an oval several hundred times, or watching a puck go into the net, or a ball being thrown for a pass … sometimes several times in slo-mo. This is highly appealing and stimulating to men. It engages us as we, simultaneously, figure out angles, speed, etc. Women think it’s a wasted Sunday afternoon when they could be strolling through the park hand-in-hand, go antiquing, lay on the beach, or some other more activity more conducive to romance. 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 Part III, we will conclude this summary of the way men and women have genetically evolved to mis-communicate. In particular, we will explore (i.e., offer some solutions) how we can cross this mis-communication gap.
As always, in love, Jean-Pierre
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This post is based on research done by Barbara and Allan Pease