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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Differences Between Men and Women

People in relationships often have strong expectations that their partner will be just like they are: exhibit the same attitudes, values,  perceptions and behaviors.  However, we know that you will not change your partner's attitudes and behaviors unless they themselves are motivated to do so.  You are even less likely to change their basic gender characteristics.  So it is very important to educate yourself as to the basic gender differences which exist between men and women, and accept the fact that the differences are there, they are real, and they are not going away.  In this way you can learn to use the differences as a way to enrich your relationship rather than to damage it.
Are Men and Women really different?   Let's look at the evidence in a variety of areas of life.  Note that these findings are generalizations and summaries that apply to most men or women, but not to all men or all women.
1. PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES
  • Girls develop right side of brain faster than boys: leads to talking, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading earlier, better memory.
  • Boys develop left side faster than girls: visual-spatial-logical skills, perceptual skills, better at math, problem solving, building and figuring out puzzles.
  • Girls more interested in toys with faces than boys are; play with stuffed animals and dolls more; boys drawn to blocks or anything that can be manipulated.
  • Women use both hemispheres of brain; corpus callosum thicker in women.
2. SOCIAL INFLUENCES
  Studies of infants:
  • Both men and women speak louder to boys than girl infants; they are softer and express more "cooing" with girls. Boys are rarely told they are sweet, pretty, little doll; boys are told they are a pumpkin head or "Hey big guy".
  • Boys handled more physically and robustly than girls, bounced around more .
  • Girls are caressed and stroked more than boys.
  • Up to age 2, mothers tend to talk to and look at their daughters significantly more than than they do with their sons, and make more eye contact with the daughters as well.
  • Mothers show a wider range of emotional response to girls than boys. When girls showed anger, mothers faces showed greater facial disapproval than when boys showed anger. May influence why girls grow up smiling more, more social, and better able to interpret emotions than boys.
  • Fathers use "Command terms" with boys more than girls; and more than mothers gave.
 Developmental Differences Between Boys and Girls:
  • Nursery rhymes, books and cartoons perpetuate stereotypes,which often promote damsel in distress, frumpy housewife, helpless senior citizen, sexy heroine and swooning cheerleader.
  • Girls use more terms of endearment than boys.
  • Boys get away with more aggressive antisocial behavior in school and home than girls.
  • Girls who act as tomboys are accepted; boys who act like girls are severely reprimanded ("don't cry" "Don't be a sissy").
  • Girls tend to talk about other people; secrets in order to bond friendships; and school, wishes and needs.
  • Boys talk about things and activities. What they are doing and who is best at the activity.
  • Teenage girls talk about boys, clothes and weight.
  • Teenage boys talk about sports, mechanics, and function of things.
  • age 12-18: biggest event for girls: have a boyfriend
  • are 12-18: boys are equally interested in the following: sex, cars and sports.
  • This carries into adulthood when women talk about relationships, people, diet, clothing, physical appearance. Men talk about sports, work, money, cars, news, politics, and the mechanics of things.
3. VALUES AND SELF ESTEEM AS ADULTS
    MEN
  • A man's sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results, through success and accomplishment. Achieve goals and prove his competence and feel good about himself.
  • To feel good about himself, men must achieve goals by themselves. 
  • For men, doing things by themselves is a symbol of efficiency, power and competence.
  • In general, men are more interested in objects and things rather than people and feelings.
  • Men rarely talk about their problems unless they are seeking "expert" advice; asking for help when you can do something yourself is a sign of weakness.
  • Men are more aggressive than women; more combative and territorial.
  • Men's self esteem is more career-related.
  • Men feel devastated by failure and financial setbacks; they tend to obsess about money much more than women
  • Men hate to ask for information because it shows they are a failure.
   WOMEN:
  • Women value love, communication, beauty and relationships.
  • A woman's sense of self is defined through their feelings and the quality of their relationships. They spend much time supporting, nurturing and helping each other. They experience fulfillment through sharing and relating.
  • Personal expression, in clothes and feelings, is very important. Communication is important. Talking, sharing and relating is how a woman feels good about herself.
  • For women, offering help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength; it is a sign of caring to give support.
  • Women are very concerned about issues relating to physical attractiveness; changes in this area can be as difficult for women as changes in a man's financial status.
  • When men are preoccupied with work or money, women interpret it as rejection.
4. OTHER DIFFERENCES
  • Men are more logical, analytical, rational.
  • Women are more intuitive, holistic, creative, integrative.
  • Men have a much more difficult time relating to their own feelings, and may feel very threatened by the expression of feelings in their presence. This may cause them to react by withdrawing or attempting to control the situation through a display of control and/or power.
  • Men are actually more vulnerable and dependent on relationships than women are and are more devastated by the ending, since they have fewer friends and sources of emotional support.
  • Men are more at ease with their own angry feelings than women are.
  • Women are in touch with a much wider range of feelings than men, and the intensity of those feelings is usually much greater for women than men. As a result of this, many man perceive that women's feelings appear to change quickly; men may find this irrational and difficult to understand.
  • Men tend to be more functional in approaching problem-solving; women are aesthetically-oriented in addition to being functional.
  • Women tend to be much more sensitive to sounds and smells than men are; and women as such tend to place a greater emphasis on "atmosphere". 
5. CONFLICTS WHICH ARISE DUE TO BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN
  • The most frequent complain men have about women:  Women are always trying to change them.
  • The most frequent complaint women have about men: Men don't listen.
  • Women want empathy, yet men usually offer solutions.
  • When a woman tries to change or improve or correct or give advice to a man, men hear that they are being told that they aren't competent or don't know how to do something or that they can't do something on their own.
  • Men often feel responsible or to blame for women's problems.
  • Men always assume women want advice and solutions to problems, that that is the best way to be helpful and to show love; women often just want someone to sincerely listen to them.
  • Housework: men avoid it, try to get others to do it at all costs, feel demeaned by doing it. For women, cleanliness of house is a manifestation of warm, homey nest. Men and women have different thresholds for cleanliness and dirt.
  • Men often try to change a woman's mood when she is upset by offering solutions to her problems, which she interprets as discounting and invalidating her feelings.
  • Women try to change men's behavior by offering unsolicited advice and criticism and becoming a home-improvement committee.
6. HOW TO WORK WITH THESE DIFFERENCESÂ
  • When women are upset, it is not the time to offer solutions, though that may be appropriate at a future time when she is calmed down.
  • A man appreciates advice and criticism when it is requested. Men want to make improvements when they feel they are being approached as a solution to a problem rather than as the problem itself.
  • Men have great needs for status and independence (emphasis on separate and different); women have needs for intimacy and connection (emphasis on close and same).
  • Women need to receive caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance.
  • Women are motivated when they feel special or cherished.
  • Men need to receive trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, encouragement.
  • Men are motivated when they feel needed.   A man's deepest fear is that he is not good enough or not competent enough, though he may never express this.
7. SUMMARY
  • There are major, significant differences between men and women.
  • The differences are different, NOT better or worse.  Do not judge the differences.  Do not try to change the differences.   Do not try to make them go away.
  • These are generalizations! Individual differences exist; we all have some of these qualities.
  • To get along, you MUST accept, expect and respect these differences.
Be sure to remember these differences when communicationg about anything important, when expressing care and concern, and when solving conflicts

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Men, women and emotions - or why he never tells you how he's feeling!

He just won't talk! - women's most common complaint

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times. Women everywhere seem to say the same thing about their male partners and it goes like this: 'He just shuts off to emotion! He never tells me how he is feeling!' Or 'He'll leave the room and refuse to talk about it!'
So when Rosemary, a client of mine, started telling me about the difficulties she was having with her partner, I listened sympathetically and let her pour out her frustration without telling her that I had heard it all before. And when she finally came to a stop, I began to explain why so many men are uncomfortable exploring their feelings and why this is a good thing!
I think I had her full attention.

Going quiet - emotional upset versus problem solving

Male friends have told me they hate it when a woman asks them during a quiet moment: 'What are you thinking?' Women find this a natural question because women tend to go quiet when they feel hurt or lied to. If a man is quiet, a women may assume his silence indicates that he is upset. Men, on the other hand, stop communicating when they have a problem to solve.
Understanding better how your partner processes emotions can clear up misunderstandings and bring greater tolerance into your relationship. The fact is that men and women are different in more than just the obvious physical ways.

Emotional arousal is bad for male health

This all reminds me of the old song: 'Why can't a woman be more like a man?' Except in this instance it's: 'Why can't a man be more like a woman?' There are things you need to know about how most men and women relate differently to emotions.
And a prime difference is that men have to protect themselves from emotional arousal for the sake of their health.
The 1970s therapeutic ideal was about 'getting in touch with your feelings.' However, more recent research shows that strong emotion - particularly for men - can be physically dangerous. Women used to be dismissively known as the 'weaker sex' - but in some ways men are actually more vulnerable. Women not only live longer but at every stage of life the male is more likely to die than the female. Even in infancy, premature boys are more likely to die than premature girls.
Rosemary was surprised and relieved to learn that there are sound reasons why her male partner may 'button up'.

Men act, women talk

Firstly, men's brains are wired for action during high emotion, whereas women's brains are wired for talking things over. If a man instinctively knows his anger is likely to lead to action (and possibly regrettable violence) he may try to stop it going that far by putting a lid it on it. Or 'clamming up' as his partner may describe it.
Secondly, from an evolutionary perspective men would have had to shut off their emotions while out hunting, so over time it has become natural for them to do so.
But there is a third and even better reason why men typically may shut themselves off more from emotional arousal.

I'm out of here! - the male survival mechanism

In an emotionally-arousing situation, a man's first instinct is to leave and calm down. This is partly due to how emotions affect men. They are a cue to physical action - the consequences of which could be terrible. If a man stays put and becomes very emotional, his blood pressure skyrockets and he is at risk of having a heart attack. It also takes much longer for a man's blood pressure and immune system to return to normal after high emotion than it does for a woman. Therefore a man will instinctively try (without even knowing that this is what he is doing) to protect himself and escape the situation.

Young boys are more stressed by emotion than girls

This difference in male/female emotion processing is evident from a young age. Women need to be more tuned into their emotions than men because they are, more often, the ones who rear children (of course, this is a generalisation and there are always exceptions). One research study showed that young boys were much quicker to try to switch off a recording of a baby crying than young girls were. The researchers at first reasoned that this was because of male insensitivity. But it turned out that the boys had much higher levels of stress hormone in their bloodstreams than the girls did on hearing the emotionally arousing trigger. Men are actually more sensitive to emotion and so more likely to avoid it.
This gender difference persists through life and old men are much more likely to die soon after the loss of a partner than an elderly wife when she loses her husband.

Let's have some understanding

The best way to relate to one another is for men to appreciate that a woman needs to off load sometimes and for a woman to know that a man may prefer to talk about practicalities rather than how he is feeling.
So a man, when he realises that his partner is upset or worried about something, can ask her if she would like to talk about it. But then he needs to resist the temptation to offer advice or tell her what to do! Just listen and affirm her feelings.
Conversely, a woman who notices something is up can think twice before asking that frightening question - 'How do you feel?' or before starting to say 'I feel'. A good alternative might perhaps be to say 'It might be a good idea if we do such-and-such about that - This makes it action orientated and therefore less threatening to her male partner. Remember strong emotion physically harms a man and is a cue to action rather than discussion.

Rosemary's relief

As you can imagine, Rosemary felt much happier when she had grasped all this. She suggested that this difference accounts for why far more women than men seek therapy - because they are more comfortable discussing their emotions. Knowledge is power and Rosemary is now confident that her relationship can survive.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to get along with people

We all know how it feels to ‘get along with people’, but what is really happening at these times? What are the ingredients of the secret sociable sauce?

It is clear that some people are more offensive than others. It seems that either they don’t care or they don’t know what they are doing.

If you have problems getting along with people there are three possible reasons why:

1. You know how you are upsetting people but you don’t care

2. You don’t know you are upsetting people

3. You are aware that you are upsetting people but you don’t quite understand why. This article is for the benefit of all you 3’s out there! (And possibly some 2’s too!)

Why people get offended

"I feel put down, put out, misunderstood, threatened, ignored, cheated and deeply offended." Well not really, but I could - why? Because I am human and therefore have basic emotional needs that can be transgressed by other human beings.

We all have basic emotional needs, and to feel happy your needs have to be met at least some of the time.

Emotional needs include:
  • The need for safety and security
  • The need to give and receive attention
  • The need for a sense of status
  • The need for purpose and goals
  • The need for physical wellbeing
  • The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves - community, ideals, beliefs etc.
  • The need for intimacy
  • The need to be stimulated and stretched (but not stressed)
  • The need for a sense of control.
So how can you offend people?

You offend people by stepping on their basic emotional needs.

One common way this occurs is by mistakenly assuming that communicating the problem ‘as you see it’ is the only thing to be considered when ‘giving feedback.’ Anyone can say the words, but it takes thought, practice and skill to deliver unpalatable messages without causing undue hurt.

Of course, there are situations in which the message is more important than the method. If I’m administering mouth to mouth resuscitation to someone I may yell at a friend or colleague for assistance. Yelling at them normally (in a non-emergency) would infringe upon their needs for:

• Status
• Safety and security
• The need for a sense of control

But as long as they get the message who cares?” Well that depends whether you want to get along with people; on whether you consider friendship and the morale of those around you important or not…

Next, why getting on with people is all about emotional needs...

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