Why can communication between men and women seem so difficult? A lot of this has to do with the differences in our brains. Here’s one example.
Connection Versus Focus
The corpus collosum is a band of nerve fibers that connects your right and left brains. This is 25-40% larger (by volume) in women than in men.
Having both hemispheres more in touch with each other makes it easier for women to take a holistic view of a situation. They easily make connections between different kinds of information. And they also can keep track of several different types of unrelated activities at the same time.
Because men have fewer connective fibers, their brains use a more compartmentalized approach. They are biologically designed to focus on one task, see it to completion, file it away, and start on the next one.
A Shared Rush to Judgment
But there’s something our brains do have in common. This is to “fill in the blanks”—why the opposite sex is doing something we wish he or she wouldn’t—with our own judgments.
When we don’t get what we want in the moment, we can create and believe nasty reasons why the other person is doing this.
Women: Have you ever tried to speak to a man who is watching TV or a mobile device? The truth is, he’s devoting all of his attention to this. If he doesn’t respond, your associative mind can go on a negative spree. “He’s ignoring me.” “He’s a poor listener.” “He’d rather watch that program than talk with me!”
Men: Have you ever asked a woman what you thought was a yes or no question? To your confusion, she may start talking about the subject from a number of perspectives—with lots of “what if?”s that exhaust you. And you’re thinking, “All I need is a one-word answer. Why does she have to make everything so hard?”
And this gets compounded by another commonality: confirmation bias. Once we believe an idea, we look around for information that supports this, and discount anything that disagrees with it. If I believe a male coworker ignores me, or he believes I complicate matters, it’s easy for us to get and stay polarized.
Combatting the “Oh, Yah?” Factor
This can turn us back into kids, basically sticking out our lower lips and saying, “Oh yah? Well you always …” That works just as poorly for us as adults as it did back then.
All because our brains have different sized corpus collosums!
Know the opposite sex’s brain thinks differently than yours. Men generally prefer the “one thing at a time” approach. Women often default to looking at all of the risks or options.
We can both benefit from the gifts the other offers that are not our strengths. It’s easier to do this when 1) we know they don’t process information the same way we do, 2) we take a deep breath, and 3) we choose to set aside our judgments and listen to understand rather than make them wrong.
Have other communication conundrums you need to address at work? Let’s talk.
Lynne Franklin is a neuroscience nerd, TEDx and Vistage speaker and author. She works with leaders and teams to stop losing money and opportunities because of poor communication. Connect with her atwww.linkedin.com/in/lynnefranklin, www.YouTube.com/LynneFranklin, @LynneFranklin and www.LynneFranklin.com.