Why do people of the opposite sex act so weird at work?
Anyone who works in an environment where their sex is in the minority knows that men and women are different. Actually, anyone who's ever gone to school, ridden a bus, dated, read a Facebook page, been married, raised kids or walked through a mall knows that we're different.
In most cases, it's a good thing. Yet it can pose problems at work, especially if one gender has a set of unspoken rules that the other gender doesn't even know exists.
Shaunti Feldhan, author of The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace, conducted a nationwide survey and confidential interviews with over three thousand men to produce a startling account of what goes on inside the hearts and minds of men at work.
Or rather I should say, startling to women, because while men are usually pretty clear on their rules; women often don't have a clue as to what men are thinking.
For example, Feldhan found that men, with rare exception, view almost any emotional display as a sign that the person can no longer think clearly. And it's not just crying that conveys emotion. Her research reveals that when men see someone display any type of emotion, they assume that all logic is stopped.
Men don't usually realize that women's brains are wired for multi-processing. For example, when I get passionate about something, my thoughts actually crystallize. I become more powerful and logical as the clutter in my brain subsides and I hone in on one specific topic.
Feldhan says, "Women can process a thought and a feeling at the same time. We can even be getting defensive or hurt, and still be processing rational thought."
She writes, "Because men can't think as clearly when they're experiencing strong emotion, they assume women can't either. They don't realize we can, so they automatically think when you see someone getting emotional, by definition logic has ceased."
According to Feldhan, men are often afraid that they will be out of control and unable to think clearly, and the presence of anyone else's emotion affects them the same way. A typical male response is, "If she is emotional, my brain is going to shut down; I'm going to be inadequate; I'm going to be humiliated."
Good grief, no wonder my former male sales reps were on egg shells every time I got a little bit miffed about something. They assumed they were dealing with a crazy woman who couldn't think straight!
Feldhan found that the assumption that "emotion" means "you're not thinking" is nearly universal among men.
Her research (www.MaleFactorBook.com) reveals numerous other male-female disconnects. For example, the trendy clothes women often perceive as feminine are viewed entirely differently by men, and not in a good way. The heavy sigh that women use to mean "this is going to be a challenge" is interpreted as belittling and dismissive by many men.
Feldhan says that her purpose in writing The Male Factor wasn't to suggest that women have to change to accommodate men. It was simply to let women know how they're being perceived by their male colleagues. She writes, "The decision of whether or how to apply this knowledge will be very individual and different for every woman."
Bottom line: People of the opposite sex are weird. But if you want to be successful with them, you're better off knowing what goes on inside their heads.
Lisa Earle McLeod is keynote speaker, author, columnist and business consultant who specializes in sales and leadership training. Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth, has been cited as the blueprint for "how smart people can get better at everything." Visit www.TriangleofTruth.com for a short video intro.
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