By DAN HALL
Neanderthals? Maybe… But cut us some slack
Allow me to thumb my nose at political correctness and simply state: Men and women are different.
Harvard clinical psychologist William Pollack demonstrates this in his book “Real Boys.” Referencing horrifying statistics such as dropouts, juvenile crime, ADD diagnoses and alcohol/drug violations, Dr. Pollack goes into great detail on simply the biological differences and their implications.
Dr. Pollack explains how a man’s brain has more white matter, with a longer, more complex nerve system head to toe, leading to greater gross motor skills. A woman’s brain has more gray matter, able to deal with the quicker acquisition of information, leading to better communication skills.
Another study shows why men and women deal with conflict differently. The part of the man’s brain that deals with problem-solving is connected to his motor skills; the part of a woman’s brain that deals with problem-solving is connected to her communication. Simply put: When men want to solve a problem, they want to do something. When women want to solve a problem, they want to talk about it.
Often, when I share this, I get knowing chuckles from women. But stick with me here.
I use this principle whether I’m doing corporate training on conflict resolution, or personal relationship coaching. I see the light come on in many eyes.
It’s the age-old exasperation between a man and his wife. In all sincerity, he seeks to “solve the problem.” She throws her hands up, declaring, “I’m not asking you to solve it. I just wanted you to listen!”
I’ve heard it in many sessions. Heck, I have lived it!
So I try to warn women that the most terrifying words to a man are some combination of: “We have a problem. Would you please sit down so we can talk about it?” You literally have asked me to go against my natural, internal wiring.
I’ve learned I talk better if we are doing something: walking, driving, painting a room or rearranging the closet. ANYTHING but making me sit and concentrate without my hands doing something. Yes, some men have learned this discipline. But why make it complicated?
Anna Mulrine wrote in “Boys: The Weaker Sex?” for U.S. News & World Report about the changes at Thomas Edison Elementary School in Joplin, Missouri. Third-grade teacher Denise Young allowed her boys to stand while doing classwork and play with stress balls when solving problems, which gave them more thinking time to process a question. Principal Debbie Murphy began dealing with boys sent to her by taking them for a walk around the playground rather than lecturing them in her office.
The results were staggering: The school went from some of the lowest test grades in the state to the top 10, and experienced a 92 percent drop in ISS (in-school suspensions) in three years.
Yes, when it comes to communication, men might occasionally act like Neanderthals, but we really do care what you think. We just hear you differently than you do.
So if you have the grace for it, cut us some slack, and shoot some hoops with me so we can “talk about it.”
Dan Hall is an executive and strategic coach to leaders and executive teams. He also works with organizations on team building, conflict resolution and communication skills. He and his wife, Hazel, have six children and four grandchildren. You can reach him at Dan@OnCourseSolutions.com.