Both Men and Women Tend and Mend People With Problems But Start Out Differently! Part 1

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A woman tends and mends people with problems. A man tends and mends problems that people have. Both tend and mend. But they start in different places. Allow me to explain.

Gender Traits

Over the years research has repeatedly found masculine and feminine traits that differ.

Generally speaking, women evidence these traits: gentleness, modesty, humility, sacrifice, supportiveness, empathy, compassion, tenderness, cooperative, connectivity, nurturance, intuitiveness, sensitivity, expressiveness, responsiveness, sentimentality, verbal, and unselfishness. I believe most women agree with these qualities about themselves and view these as evidence that they are caring human beings and wish to be loved because of these qualities.

Generally speaking, men evidence these traits: strength, protectiveness, provider-ness, courage, strong will, competitiveness, self-confidence, ambition, independence, less risk averse, assertiveness, initiative, rationality, logic, analytical, and emotional control. I believe most men agree with these qualities about themselves and view these as evidence that they are honorable human beings who wish to be respected because of these qualities.

Objections and Exceptions

Of course, in reading these two lists more than a few individuals do not feel comfortable with what they feel are “stereotypic descriptions of male and female.“

The truth is, we all know women who are extremely ambitious and men who are not. We know of men who are extremely humble while some ladies are prima donnas.

My own mother started her own acrobatic studio in her early teens, moving to another city with her mom to advance her business. Mom was courageous, strong and athletic, self-confident, ambitious, independent, assertive, and emotionally controlled. Even so, I know my mom. She would put herself in the woman's list any day of the week. Those characteristics in the women's list dominated her relationship with my sister and me, and with all her close friends.

This is why we must talk about our core leanings and how we honestly view ourselves, while acknowledge our secondary leanings as was observed in my mom.

There are women who are heads of companies and nations who have leadership talents that are off the charts. Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of England, was known as the Iron Lady. She had a ton of courage, strong will, self-confidence, assertiveness, and emotional control. Yet, she voiced that when she went home she would have a good cry with her husband. Women cry not because they are weak but because their nature feels things so deeply. Instead of acting like women don't cry, or telling them not to cry ("There's no crying in baseball!), why not acknowledge the empathy, compassion, tenderness, sensitivity, expressiveness, responsiveness, and sentimentality that drive these tears?

Let's take the pastor of visitation I hired for our church. Reverend Royce was off the chart empathetic. He had the spiritual gifts of mercy and service that manifested themselves in compassionate and gentle ways. He would sit next to someone on a deathbed and exude compassion, sensitivity, and tenderness. But Reverend Royce would punch you in the face (in love, of course!) if you told him he was feminine. This boy from Louisiana could wrestle any creature coming up from the swamps, and just as quickly put you there. He wanted to be respected for his empathy but also for his manliness.

So, am I making the case against these two lists as representing male and female? No, I am saying traits from each cross over but the crossover must not be used to deny the core traits of men and women.

Research Agrees

There continue to be traits from birth entrenched in our natures. Research on preschool boys in social settings has shown that they can be twenty times more aggressive than preschool girls, whereas we observe the girls being very cooperative.

We also know certain chemicals flood the physiological makeup of the female in the womb that causes her soon after birth to look at the human face way beyond what boys do. The eye contact of little girls is phenomenal. Women cannot not look at the human eyes when talking to each other. The vast majority of females gaze at the human face in order to connect at an emotional level, whereas most men will look away, down, or to the side, especially when things are heated.

Brain research (beyond socialization of women) has shown a physiological response in a part of the female brain, referred to as the nucleus accumbens, that "fires" when a woman sees a baby. We see this in little girls who see a baby. What do they do? You got it. They move toward the baby, to look at the baby, to smile at the baby, to hold the baby, to feed the baby. What about the little boy watching the baby? He is soon outdoors playing. Is anyone watching the beauty and wonder of all of this?

Hollywood Agrees as Well

These lists of masculine and feminine traits are not antiquated. Hollywood has made billions from knowing these traits. Hollywood doesn't care about exceptions. They know where the majority of men and women fall on the bell curve and write movie scripts accordingly. Men and women attend movies that appeal to their femininity and masculinity. Who loves Sleepless in Seattle? Who sleeps during Sleepless in Seattle? Who tears up watching Saving Private Ryan or Gladiator?

For women, it is about love, as Julia Roberts shares in the movie Notting Hill: "I am also just a girl . . . standing in front of a boy . . . asking him to love her." And the movies for men are about "strength and honor," which is part of a famous line from Gladiator that captures the essence of masculinity quite well. And Hollywood knows this, enjoying their many trips to the bank.

Natural Nurturers 

Still not convinced? What do you think about the nurturing nature of women? I suggest to you that this is universal and undeniable. Though I did my Ph.D. dissertation on effective fathers, there is no way that the best of dads in this nation came close to nurturing like a mother, and not one of these dads would claim that they could.

The truth is, women see themselves as caring. They do not deny this but instead seek ways to help the men in their lives become more sensitive and caring, and they definitely wish their men appreciated their nurturing nature and thanked them for all they do to care for them and others. Every one of us needs what women bring to our lives and hearts. Why hijack this reality when at every turn of the research women are the caregivers? They truly love, and I thank God for this.

Whether in the home or a business, women care, and care deeply about the people they know. The great apostle Paul imitated this virtue when he wrote, "we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

Women And Men With Their Friends

What woman does not care deeply about her friends, especially her BFF? In the academic literature women are described as tending, mending, and befriending. They connect heart to heart.

For instance, does anybody pay attention to the pairs of women who walk and talk on the sidewalks in our neighborhoods or on the race track? Many walk to talk. They wish to connect by giving the report to build rapport.

What do women talk about when together? When two women who are best of friends get together, 95 percent of their conversations revolve around the relationships and people in their lives. I have been studying this for four decades and still wonder how people miss the beauty of what women are talking about. These can be intellectual women who run businesses, but with their girlfriends, their default conversation is about the people in their lives that they deeply care about, like their children, their aging parents, and their friends going through happy or sad times. They are conversing about human beings to whom they tend, mend, and befriend.

On the other hand, men, when talking with other men, will focus more on activities. The first question one man asks another when meeting for the first time is, "What do you do?" And from that point on the nature of their conversations revolve around what he (and others) is doing, has done, and will be doing.

“Emerson, you’ve just spent well over a thousand words explaining how different men and women are from each other. How in the world could they ever tend and mend problems together when they’re coming at the situation from such different viewpoints and natures?”

I’m so glad you asked. Please stay tuned for part 2 where we explain the beauty of men and women working together in conflict.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. Generally speaking, do you agree with the gender traits that Emerson shared men and women have? Why or why not? Do you see any exceptions in you or your spouse? Do those exceptions negate what Emerson shares as the core leanings of men and women?

  2. Is there any part of the research Emerson shared to back his point that surprises you (i.e., aggressiveness among boys, eye contact for girls, etc.)? What else have you noticed among the different sexes that further research has probably verified?

  3. Wives, do you see yourself as the more caring person in your marriage? How does that make you feel? Men, do you see your wife as the more caring person in your marriage? How does it make you feel when she doesn’t understand why you are not as naturally caring as her?

  4. Emerson uses the phrase “give the report in order to build rapport,” meaning women share with their female friends in order to build the relationship, in contrast to how men “do” (i.e., take part in activities) in order to build relationship. Do you agree? Is this how you see the friendships in your own life play out?