Lesson 2 of 7 - learn to communicate effectively

How Gender May Affect Your Communication

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW


The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/gender.htm

Updated April 11, 2015

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        This YouTube video previews what you'll read in this article. The video mentions eight lessons in thus educational Web site - I've simplified that to seven.

        This is one of a series of Lesson-2 articles on learning to think and communicate effectively. It offers perspective on how gender affects interpersonal communications. When communications are troublesome, use awareness to see if gender-differences may be a factor. 

       In their interesting, well-researched book Brain Sex (1991), geneticist Anne Moir and David Jessel say that the development of a person's brain and certain glands are mainly programmed early in pregnancy by the presence or absence of male hormones - specially testosterone. 

        All embryo brains start out wired "female" (!) Moir claims that social programming is an important but much weaker factor in determining whether a person has "male" or "female" traits and response patterns. Male and female brains are structured and process information differently. Adults' and kids' brains are on a continuum from "very male" to "very female," and function largely independently of the gender of the body they're in (hence "tomboys" and "sissies").

       Because of this, Dr. Moir urges that we stop the "battle of the sexes" - for neither gender is right or better, we're just "wired" differently. Thus in communicating, it would help if men and women stop judging and trying to convert each other ("You are so illogical!; Yeah? Well you have the sensitivity of a tree stump."), accept our different abilities and skills as complementary, and blend them cooperatively to manage our life challenges! This seems to answer Henry Higgins' question in My Fair Lady "Why Can't a Woman ... Be More Like a Man?!"

           Some of these innate, largely biological differences seem to be:

High-Testosterone People
("Male brains") prefer:

Low-Testosterone People
("Female brains") prefer:

_  things

_  facts, reason, and logic

_  power / rank / status

_  competing / achieving

_  winning

_  teams

_  analyzing / figuring out

_  assertion / aggression

_  reports / information

_  intellectual understanding

_  sex (intercourse / orgasm)

_  companionship / doing

_  teaching / leading

_  being focused / specific / "logical" /

_  order / rules / structure

_  thinking

_  how things work


_  people

_  feelings, senses, and meaning

_  relationships

_  harmony / relating

_  sharing

_  groups

_  intuiting / "knowing"

_  co-operation, mutuality

_  rapports / bonding

_  empathizing

_  love / intimacy / sensuality

_  closeness / being

_  nurturing / growing

_  being "wide-angle" / organic /

_  organic, fluid patterns

_  feeling / experiencing

_  personal and social impacts


       You and any partner's respective profiles and rankings of these factors shape how you communicate and react with each other. How would you rank-order yourself and your key communication partners (including kids) on these attributes? How do your preference-patterns (above) affect your thinking and communication effectiveness?

       Implication - if a communication partner has a different profile of these priorities than you do, it's useless and disrespectful to criticize or try to change them. Trying to do so is like demanding that s/he change her or his fingerprints. What do you think?

       See "You Just Don't Understand - Women and Men in Conversation" (1990 Ballentine paperback, by linguist Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.) for more interesting perspective on male/female communication traits and differences.

       Becoming aware of these gender-differences and how they affect your communications is part of self-improvement Lesson 2 here. The goals of this vital Lesson are for your family adults to...

  • learn and adapt seven skills to your individual communication styles;

  • harmonize them over time; and...

  • help each other become fluent in using the skills to improve everyone getting more of their primary needs met, in a mutual-respectful way. As you do...

  • teach your kids to know and use communication basics and these powerful skills. This will help break the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle!


        This article proposes that male and female brains are "wired differently" and process information in different ways. It summarizes typical priority-differences between typical males and females, and encourages you to appreciate these complementary differences, rather than criticizing or trying to convert communication partners of the other gender to be like you. 

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  For more perspective, see this research summary on men's health

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