It’s no secret men and women think differently. Men ask for what they want, while women fret over feelings. Sometimes it pays to think like a man. We have 5 reasons to give it a try. Therapist, Julie Hanks, says sometimes, women should think like a man.
Are gender differences in thoughts and behavior primarily biological or environment? No matter what the origin or our differences, nature or nurture or both life experience has shown all of us that men and women think differently.
According to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, more men fall under the category of systemizers, skilled at figuring out how things work (think car repair, computer technology, math, science) and tend to out-perform women in visual spatial tasks. More women are what Baron-Cohen calls empathizers who are interested in how people work, responding more accurately to subtle emotional cue and responding appropriately. Overall, research demonstrates that women are better able to accurately assess other’s emotions and respond to social cues. Women tend to outperform men in verbal tasks.
Interestingly, according to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, your gender doesn’t necessarily determine your brain type. Baron-Cohen found that about 17% of men have a female “empathizing brain”, 17% of women have a male “systemizing brain”, and some participants had a “balanced brain” with equal strength in systemizing and empathizing (source). Curious about whether you have a “male” or “female” brain?
Take a brain test here.
Regardless of whether the gender differences are based on socialization or biological differences, we can learn from men’s strengths and practice “thinking like a man” in situations where it will better serve us. Here are five ways that women can benefit from thinking like a man:
1) Be Decisive
For men, a problem shared is a problem to be solved. Men look for solutions, and confidently make decisions. Women are more likely to get hijacked by emotion first, delaying decision-making. When they do make a decision, women are more likely to spend time wondering if it was the right choice.
To think like a man give yourself a time limit on making a decision, and once you’ve made your decision, don’t second guess yourself. You will gain the confidence in your ability to make good decisions and reserve some of your time and energy to focus on other things.
I had a friend who looked for dining table for 5 years because she wasn’t sure she would make a good decision, didn’t want to choose the “wrong” table, and didn’t want to waste money. If she had given herself 30 days to look at tables and then was going to make a decision, she would have been just as happy with her choice and enjoyed gathering her family around a beautiful table for the past 5 years.
2) Move On Quickly After Making Mistakes
After making mistakes, men are better at leaving their mistakes in the past. Patricia Bryans at North Umbria University in England studied the recalling mistakes in the workplace. Though she wasn’t researching gender differences, Bryans notices that men generally told neat stories, found the details difficult to recall, and portrayed themselves in a positive light, whereas women told complicated, detailed stores and continued to be emotionally distressed about their mistake. (source)
To think like a man try framing your mistakes as “learning experiences”, not character flaws. Try writing down the situation in the simplest story possible. Include in the story facts and feelings, and then dispose of it the story. You’ll feel better about yourself because you will have contained the situation on paper and symbolically gotten rid of it, and you’ll have the emotional freedom to focus on other aspirations.
In my therapy practice, I’ve noticed that when talking with clients about a past divorce, men will likely say things like, “She just freaked out and I couldn’t deal with her anymore” or “I just decided that I wanted to be with someone else.” In contrast, women will go through this very complicated story with dozens of theories of why it failed, how they feel about it. Several years ago I worked with a female client who was distraught about her divorce that happened years earlier, and couldn’t seem to move past the despair and confusion. One of the ways I helped her was to simplify her story and boil it down to “the marriage didn’t work out” or “he chose to be with someone else”, take responsibility for her part in the marital demise, accept the simplified story, and stop ruminating over every detail of her past marriage.
3) Make Sex a Priority
A colleague recently shared this quote that I thought was right on when it comes to gender differences and sexual desire. “Men are willing as long as they’re able. Women are able as long as they’re willing.” Men are better able to focus on physical desires and enjoy the emotional and physical benefits of sex. Women will get to the physical intimacy if everything else is check off their “to-do” list.
To think like a man try putting sex at the top of your priority list one day each week. Plan for it, think about it, and initiate physical intimacy. Broaden how you view yourself to include “lover”, in addition to wife, or mother, or daughter, or employee. Prioritizing physical intimacy will help your husband feel more loved, adored, and attractive. In addition to the relational benefits of intimacy, there are personal health benefits to prioritizing and engaging in lovemaking — a stronger immune system, reduced stress, increased self-esteem, improved heart health, and burning additional calories.
A few years ago, I met with a couple struggling sexually. The husband was broken hearted and felt rejected by his wife sexually. He felt insecure, unattractive, and disconnected in his marriage because she seemed indifferent about their sexual intimacy. I helped his wife hear and understand his feelings of sadness and fear, and helped him understand what she needed from him in order to awaken her desire. I helped his wife prioritizing lovemaking relationship by scheduling one night weekly where she was “in charge” of initiating lovemaking. Additionally, we worked on ways to increase the number of times she thought about her husband sexually each day, and worked toward resolving some emotional blocks she had due to her early family history of sexual shame. I’m happy to say that they are now enjoying a fulfilling marriage.
4) Worry Less About Other’s Feelings
Men seem to have an easier time asking directly for what they want without guilt because they are generally less “in tune” about other’s feelings. They are unapologetically taking time off for self-care and recreation — a game of golf or watching sports, while women tend to spend time figuring out what they want, if they deserve it, and how their desires or choices will impact others.
To think like a man try asking unapologetically for what you want and need in order to feel rejuvenated and allowing others to have their emotional response without taking responsibility for their feelings. It’s OK is your kids are occasionally disappointed or your husband is irritated or inconvenienced.
Recently, a friend of mine, a high level health professional, was negotiating her employment contract at work. She shared with me how difficult it was for her to think of it as a business deal and not a relationship. In that situation, she had to practice asking strongly for what she wanted.
5) Take Things at Face Value
Men tend to believe what people say without over analyzing or digging for hidden emotional messages. They generally say what they mean and assume you’ll do the same. For example, if your husband asks you if it’s ok if he goes golfing and you say “Yes. That’s fine honey. I don’t mind.” He may hear “yes” even if you delivered the yes with sarcasm.
To think like a man try sticking to the facts of a social interaction, focusing on the actual words that were said. You may feel a sense relief as you give up trying to decipher other’s hidden messages. An added benefit is that you’ll send the message to others that you expect them to say what they really mean.
One of my personal pet peeves: women who don’t believe what I’m saying, or who try to second guess, or apologize incessantly. An example of this scenario is when a friend asks if I can babysit their children. Here’s how the conversations goes.
“Yes, I’d love to have your kids come over today,” I say.
“Are you sure? Are you sure it’s OK? It’s not too inconvenient?” she asks reluctantly.
I respond, “If I weren’t OK with your kids coming over I would have told you ‘no’. Trust me to mean what I say.”
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.
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