Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps

Some of you might wonder how I could follow the Brain that Changes Itself with something as fluffy as this.  Well, sometimes it pays to be open-minded.  A book like this wouldn’t ordinarily catch my interest because I don’t like stereotypes and I particularly dislike “being” stereotyped but the title “…. and women can’t read maps” was a glaring challenge to me.  Top that off with the marketing claim of “over 6 million copies sold”, I felt obliged to give it a go.

This book tries to justify stereotypes with science.  When I’m feeling generous, I think it does a passable attempt and at other times, I think it fails miserably.  These were the occasions when I wondered why I was wasting my time reading it.

What do you see in this picture?  The young lady with her face turned away or the old woman with her chin tucked in?

Apparently, women are more likely to see the old lady and men the young woman.  This was the first of many generalisations that didn’t work for me.  I saw the young lady.

The other things that didn’t resonate were:

  • Women have a wider peripheral vision – I have lousy peripheral vision
  • Men offering solutions instead of listening – I’ve been frustrated by many women who’ve done exactly that
  • Men using language like “never”, “none”, “absolutely” – again, I’ve often heard these words from women (myself included!)
  • Women can’t read maps without turning it around – I can very easily read a map without turning it around

There was a test in the book that was supposed to help determine how male or how female your brain was.  As with many of my experiments, I recruited my husband to do the test.  It seems most males score between 0-180 and females between 150-300.  My husband scored 150 and I scored 140.  With this sort of result, it would be easy to conclude that I have a “male” brain hence my lack of resonance with the examples in the book.  However, there were many female traits that did describe me including:

  • Having poor hand/eye co-ordination and therefore not excelling at sports – Computer games were included as an example but this didn’t apply to me
  • Not being able to find “north” – Very true!
  • Being emotional –   This was particularly difficult in corporate life.  Very un-CEO-like!
  • Needing to talk to process thoughts.

I finished the book but must admit that I had to skim parts to get through it.  This book will work for those who relate to the examples given but it didn’t work for me.  While “understanding” why you are different is a key component to better communication, I would have liked to see more about how to bridge these differences.  There’s no point knowing and understanding you are different if you still can’t get your message across!

If you are really interested in why people and not just those of the opposite gender are different to you, I highly recommend an exploration into the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI).  The MBTI is a personality test that does a far better job in explaining differences and is particularly useful when like myself, you don’t fall into a “stereotype”.  As a personal interest area, I intend to write a bit more about the MBTI in future posts.

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I’m a business coach passionate about helping women make the impossible possible! Do get in touch. I would love to have a chat to see how I can help.

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