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Author Topic: Do men and women really think differently?
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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First caveat: I'm posting this here, even though it might be useful for characterization. Let's see where it goes.

Second caveat: I realize we're all human, and we all have the same basic needs and such, BUT there are times when I really wonder about how different people think and what their expectations are.

Maybe the problem I am going to present here is because I'm socially inept and geeky, and not because (as I have been told before, many times, I "think like a guy").

Problem will appear in my next post.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I am in charge of a small neighborhood committee that doesn't have to meet on any kind of regular basis, but does have to meet occasionally.

I approached the only other woman on the committee while we were both at a neighborhood party, and I asked her if she would be able to meet with the committee on an upcoming weeknight. She said she could.

So I found another committee member, male this time, and asked him the same thing. He said sure.

I talked to another committee member on my walk and I saw him outside his home. The third committee member I talked to at church.

All of the men seemed to "get" that I was actually setting up a meeting. The day of the meeting (I know, I should have done this earlier, but really!), I sent out an email, saying that the meeting I had talked to them about would be at 7pm at my house.

The men showed up. The woman emailed me the next day and said she didn't remember me talking to her about a meeting. I emailed her back and said I was sure I had talked to her at the neighborhood party, before I talked to any of the men.

I saw her later and she said that she remembered me asking her about a meeting, but I had never confirmed anything, and so she didn't know a meeting was actually going to happen.

So, yes, I should have emailed everyone earlier to remind (to confirm?), but the men all "got" it. One, who doesn't have email, even had his wife call me to find out the time, so he'd know when to leave work. (I had planned to call him when I thought he would be home from work.)

So am I just dense, or do people (not just women) expect more in such situations? Maybe it was just her, and only co-inky-dinkal that the men "got" it. Maybe it was me, and I became clearer as I talked to each person.

I'm mystified about the dynamics here, and if they are pertinent to the way women think as opposed to the way men think, I'd like to become a little less clueless.


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Probably just her KDW
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Hi KDW! To me it sounds like it was either a miscommunication or just that woman. My rule of thumb is 'show up unless you know it's canceled.'

As to the question in general, in my experience, men and women are very different. However, that could be because my husband is a GUY, and he's the one in my head all of the time.

Example: I have a hard time with male characters because I never had any guy friends growing up. There is some romance in my WIP, and I desperately want the guy characters to be realistic. We had the following conversation:

Me: Will, what do guys love about girls?

Will: *shrug, continues playing completely pausable video game*

Me: Will, this is research. I need your help.

Will: I don't know.

Me: Will! Come on!


Me: Will! You can do this! Why did you fall in love with me?

Will: Because. Love you. *kills onscreen monster*

Me: But WHY? What do you love?

Will: Everything.

Me: *shaking him in exasperation* Will! Be specific! I need help!

Will: Everything. Love you. 'Scuse. *leans around me and kills onscreen monster*

(this repeats itself for literally five minutes)

Me: Will! I just need a few qualities a guy might like in a girl!

Will: If she's hot. *character dies* DANG IT!

And that was the end of that. Like I said, though, it could be I married someone with the emotional complexity of a pencil. He's usually great.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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mythique890, that's a great depiction.

It reminds me of something I've read about what a couple are thinking about during a conversation on a date, and how the girl gets together with her girlfriends and analyzes every little word, expression, and possible nuance, while the guy doesn't even think another thought about it.

As for the woman on my committee, I think she's more typical than I am. I don't do the little thank you notes as I probably should, and a lot of the time social signals go right over my head (while I "get" puns and I make all kinds of word play connections, and so on).

Often, someone will say something and I'll keep thinking about it because it seemed kind of strange. Eventually, I will begin to realize that is was some kind of "hint" that I totally missed. That happens more often when the "hint" is from a woman than it does when the "hint" is from a man, or so it seems to me. (But hints tend to drive me crazy a lot of the time, anyway. Why can't people just come out and say things?)

Anyway, thanks, mythique890 and pdblake, for the vote of confidence.

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Women communicate in minutiae, men in broad strokes. This, of course, is a stereotype. But I've heard it said that women tend to be more right-brained than men, and the difference in communication styles could theoretically have something to do with that. If that were true, it would be left-brained people who may not always catch the hints of right-brained people, and therefore a problem not necessarily linked to sex.

Perhaps you are more left-brained? That could explain things.

Also, I never send thank-you cards. It drives my two (female) etiquette-minded friends crazy, especially the bossy one.

[This message has been edited by mythique890 (edited August 27, 2011).]

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I think I know where this woman is coming from. I might have done the same thing (I am a woman).

Unless the exact time and place is given, I would expect a confirmation. If one was never given, I would assume that the meeting wasn't going to take place. Now if I was on top of things, I would have called to make sure, but I'm not always on top of things.

I'm wondering if this woman is a stay at home mom while these men work. I'm a stay at home mom now, but I used to work before I had my kids, and I had a completely different mindset. So I'm wondering if this is a working person versus a stay at home parent thing and not necessarily a man versus woman thing.

When I worked, I was on top of everything. My mind was sharp as a tack. I didn't need a planner. I never forgot any meetings or anything (maybe I forgot one, but that was just one in six years). I also checked my e-mail several times a day. Just for a short break from work or to check for work related e-mails.

Now, I can go days without checking e-mail. I can't finish one thing without a billion interuptions (I have little kids). If I don't write something down on the calendar, there is a good possibility that it will completely escape my mind. I feel like I'm juggling a million things, trying to run my life and my kids life at the same time. And I'm not getting the sleep that I used to get, so my mind is no longer as sharp as it once was.

I can totally see myself doing this. I wouldn't have written it on the calendar until you gave me an exact time. It is very possible that I wouldn't have read my e-mail that day. I would have been very appologetic and felt really bad for missing it. And I would not miss the next one.

But if I was the me when I was working, I would have been there just like the men.

I'm not a typical woman either. I don't get the point of thank you cards. The person thanked me in person that was enough. They usually go straight to the trash when I get them, and I always think I should send them out, but I never do.

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Robert Nowall
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I suppose it depends on the women who were asked---individuals all. Sometimes it's hard not to paint everyone in broad strokes, to generalize, to make assumptions...I suppose some women would have remembered, and, of course, some men would have forgotten.
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I have some friends who write romances and I think their male characters tend to come out a bit flat in their early drafts. That's because they're trying to make their male characters "masculine", and so those characters start their life as swaggering, blustering jackasses.

If you keep in mind that every character in a scene is pursuing his own agenda, then work out the details of his dialog and action, then I don't think you have to have your men scratching their jock and making crude, sneering comments about women in order for them to be believable as men.

I think there are myriad subtle differences in the way women and men communicate, but these are by in large swamped by cultural and individual variations. Perhaps the biggest but still subtle thing about men that I think women writers often miss is how and men are supportive of each other. In our culture at least, the default mode of mutual support between men, and almost the exclusive one between men who are not particularly close, is a kind of aggressive nurturing. Men in our culture support each other by expressing confidence in the other guy's ability to take it, or do what needs to be done. If the men are close, this expression of confidence will tend to be ironic.

Let's posit the same situation with two groups of roofers, one female, one male. Roofer A hits his/her thumb with a hammer.

-- WOMEN --

Woman A: Ow! I hit my thumb!

Woman B: Are you hurt? Let me see.

Woman C: Ooh! I did that once, and it really hurt!

Woman B: We should take you to the emergency room.

Woman A: No, I'll be alright.

-- MEN --

Man A: Ow! I hit my thumb!

Man B: That's because you're clumsy retard.

Man C: Ha! I hit my thumb once and it was way worse than that. _I_ didn't bellyache.

Man B: What are you, a pussy? Want me to kiss it and make it all better?

Man A: Screw you guys.


Now I want to stress here that _almost precisely the same thing may well be going on in both scenarios_, but in different languages. Men and women aren't that different in my opinion, but they often have different styles of communication.

It's extremely important to realize that the men here aren't necessarily being nasty or mean to Man A, although they _could_ be. It's dependent on context. If the guys have a close and positive relationship, they're being extremely supportive here, in fact more intensely supportive than the women are being because they're presuming on their intimacy with A. If they have a relationship of disrespect, they're being every bit as mean as they sound.

Closeness *and* distance can produce the same external results with men. If our male roofers didn't know each other, the dialog might go like this:

Man A: Ow! I hit my thumb!

Man B: Well, it happens.

Man C: Everybody does it now and then. I've done it myself.

Man B: How bad is it?

Man A: I'll live.

These kinds of subtleties in male communication are why men often get annoyed with women who are trying to be supportive. Unless you're close, they see sympathy that comes a little to easily as a lack of respect. The one thing that is absolutely certain is if the other guys talked to Man A the way the gals talked to Woman A, Man A's feelings would be hurt.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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if the other guys talked to Man A the way the gals talked to Woman A, Man A's feelings would be hurt.

And probably vice versa for the women, MattLeo. Thanks, good things to consider.

MAP, the woman teaches school, which started around here on the day of the meeting (so I could see her not checking her email, come to think of it). Yup. Should have sent it sooner. (I was involved in something else that was new to me and crazy-making during the days when I should have sent the earlier email, though. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!)

Thanks for the insights, y'all.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Another possibility to consider in the men-to-men supportive communication versus the women-to-women supportive communication (as in MattLeo's examples above) is that they are saying different substances are generated and provide "good feelings" (or some such) for each gender.

Researchers claim that when women are supportive of each other, their brains produce more oxytocin, which is a good feeling substance for women.

And they claim that when men are supportive of each other, their brains produce more testosterone, which is a good feeling substance for men.

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It might be a male/female thing, but it could also be a style thing. I'm a planner, but rely upon specifics. If someone says something vague, i'll mentally pencil it in and then somewhat obsess about whether that's become a real thing or not.

For instance, this week I've had a number of things on my "will happen this week" calendar but haven't been nailed down to specific days and times. I spent most of today nailing them all down and feel loads better about the week, even though what's happened is I've loaded up my week and I have a ton to get done (some in anticipation of meetings scheduled, some was already part of the nebulous load of the week.)

Maybe she's more of a planner and without a specific, tangible plan she ignored the discussion as a maybe that never materialized.

Of course the teacher going back to school thing makes perfect sense, too, it's a crazy time of year for teachers...

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I think this was more of a personality thing then a male/female thing. Planners and organizers like details early and often. I sit on a Board of Directors for the local soccer league. I get very frustrated when there is not constant dialogue between us about what is going on (or what is not going on). I like details as soon as possible and often as possible.

I seem to relate with females more so then with males, despite being male myself. I have more female friends then males (thank goodness my wife is not the jealous type). I enjoy writing in the female POV, and it comes easier to me.

So do men and women really think differently, in my case not really. I think in many ways if comes down to the stereotypes as well.

There is certain behavior expected of Men and Women and many tend to fall into that trap. I am a stay at home father, and it amazes me how many people (men and women) will make comments that I am not fulfilling my male obligation to provide for my family.

Some have even looked down on my wife for allowing me to "sit on my ass" while she does all the "work". Rewind two years ago, when my wife was the stay at home parent and I worked, those same people never once said a thing about my wife "sitting on her ass". In fact most of them would say, "being a house wife is a lot of work. Raising kids, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, and so much more."

I do those same things now, and it is not easy. But because I am male I am a dead beat for not working, while my wife "slaves away" at her job.

Of course these stereotypes early on lead to "thinking" a certain behavior is required for males and females. Like the roofers example used above. The male may be thinking "This hurts like heck and I need to go to the ER." But that is not what they say.

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I'm married with kids, but will never make any claims to remotely understand women.

With only one other woman attending, the given example is not sufficient to demonstrate a trend. Maybe she is the only one in a blue house, but one cannot surmise that people in blue houses need more explicit invitations.

My wife's family will give ambiguous invites that sometimes leave me in question, where my parents are very clear and will confirm again later. I don't know what compels the differences in communicative expectations. Perhaps it just has to do with the way one is raised.

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