Besides allowing for more satisfying interactions, gender-flexing has many personal benefits. There is a correlation between androgyny and self-esteem. People who have expanded their behavioral repertoire feel better about themselves. They have a bigger bag of tricks and more options available to them. Their interactions are more successful. In fact, they can appear more familiar to the opposite sex, which increases comfort levels and allows for more fluid communication. A woman engineer of my acquaintance was the envy of some of her female colleagues because she was like "one of the boys." JoAnn grew up with brothers and told me that it was a breeze for her to float into male culture. The other women couldn't believe that she read the sports page cover-to-cover, played a good game of golf, and placed bets on football games with her male counterparts. And John was the ultimate androgynous teacher. All the women on the faculty claimed they would forget he was a man because he could join in on their conversations about "girl stuff"--no problem.
You might think of gender-flexing as a way to strengthen and tone your nonverbal muscles. After all, nonverbal behaviors are in great part centered in the body. We all have masculine and feminine nonverbal behaviors at our disposal-it's just a matter of using these oft-ignored "muscles." Who doesn't recognize the feeling you get when during a workout you use a muscle you haven't stretched in a long time? You often feel sore and uncomfortable. But the more you work that muscle, the stronger it gets, and the more secure you become in your newfound strength and flexibility. Using the same analogy, think about those steroid-popping muscle-heads at the gym who work exclusively on building their arms and shoulder, but ignore their legs-they almost look like burly lollipops (especially when their overdeveloped shoulders engulf their necks). In the same way, if we rely exclusively on masculine or feminine ways of communicating nonverbally, our nonverbal physique can be way out of balance.