He Speaks, She Speaks

A gender communication specialist unravels the mystery of how men and women communicate.

Do Women Take Things Personally?

In How Men Think: The Seven Essential Rules for Making It in a Man’s World (Mendell, 1996), the author summarizes childhood sex differences in the socialization of making mistakes and taking criticism. Read More

Flawed Summary

The summary of events and effects is flawed.

"When a boy makes a mistake, he is encouraged to go back and try harder." Not invariably. Freqently, he is villified and ostracised as "useless" and excluded from the group.

"Boys learn that making a mistake may be embarrassing but not fatal." It might not be immediately physically fatal, but it can be socially damaging enough to have such consequences. Plenty of boys amke fatal mistakes trying to impress their peers.

"Boys learn that you earn your team’s respect by striving to improve your skills after making a mistake". Frequently, the team regards the mistake-maker with contempt, expects him to make the same mistake again, and so ostracises him as unworthy of their friendship.

Faulty Generalizations

The referenced book (i.e. "How Men Think") sounds awfully sexist against women and men. It's no surprise either since it was published in 1996, so the author was probably writing about what society was like in the early 1990s. It's now 2014; I think it's time to move on. I also dislike all the faulty generalizations made in the blog post.


Little boys play a lot of competitive sports.
Little girls play dolls.

I didn't play "a lot of competitive sports" as a kid, and most boys I knew didn't either because it turns out different boys have different interests (e.g. reading, chess, arts and crafts, etc.). I suspect not all girls played with dolls either. Besides aren't "action figures" kind of like "dolls" given a different label? If the Olympics are any indication, more women are involved in competitive sports than ever before. Regardless, it seems like more and more kids are turning to virtual and online worlds for play.

Little boys make a lot of mistakes playing team sports.
Little girls can’t make a lot of mistakes playing dolls because there are no rules.

Rules exist outside play time; so every child has opportunities to learn from mistakes. There's nothing that prevents kids from making up rules for playing with dolls either.

When a boy makes a mistake, he is encouraged to go back and try harder.
When girls make mistakes, they are comforted.

When my friends and I made mistakes in school, the teacher would often comfort us first, and then encourage us to go back and try harder. This was true for girls and boys.

Boys learn that making a mistake may be embarrassing but not fatal.
Girls learn mistakes are something to feel bad about.

But why assume this is mainly due to socialization? Are all girls told that they ought to feel ashamed for making mistakes? I will say, though, that some girls and boys are taught that making a mistake is unacceptable leading to unhealthy perfectionist tendencies, but that applies to both genders.

Boys learn that you earn your team’s respect by striving to improve your skills after making a mistake.

Not necessarily. Skills don't matter as much as results. No one on a team of boys care how much you're striving to improve your skills as long as you can deliver results. This kind of behaviour has serious drawbacks too. It encourages groups of boys to engage in high risk activities for the purpose of "earning respect".

Girls learn you will be consoled if you call attention to your mistakes [p. 127].

That might work, but from what I've seen, it would only work up until (maybe) middle school...and kids can (and do) change as they mature.

Piaget studied the difference between boys and girls games.

There was no girl game with a rule set as sophisticated as the boys game of marbles. Something like baseball might as well be nuclear physics.

When disputes arise in boys games, the rules are argued with the intent of getting back to the game. In the event no resolution can be reached the game ceases -- they take their marbles and go home. Contrary to some mythology, fisticuffs and one-up power plays involving violence are rare.

When disputes arise in girls games, new rules are invented and one tries to impose her new rule on the other one. This is why it was humorous to watch the recent episode with the grown-up author of "Lean In" still trying to live down charges of being "bossy". Anyway, if no resolution can be reached appeals to authority (rather than abstract principles) are made.

But I have noticed it is impossible to use the word "women" in public without some one of them thinking you're talking about her.

When there are disputes

When there are disputes between women they use communication, social skills and empathy to resolve their problems. When men have disputes they threaten violence, beat each other up, pull out knives or guns, take sides, start violent gangs or go to war. Watch the nightly news or read some history for countless examples.

It depends on your

It depends on your environment and family.Plus,plenty of girls play sports now and plenty of boys do not play sports.Generalizing in this way now a days is just ignorant and it is not scientific at all.

Nothing is 100%. On average,

Nothing is 100%. On average, men play sports more than women, that's how science works. Besides, when women play sports, they behave in a masculine way.

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Audrey Nelson is an international corporate communication consultant, trainer, author, and keynote speaker.


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