Asking for directions

men and women and impression management.

Do you have a good sense of direction?

Guys, if you are driving and you are lost do you stop and spend time asking for directions, or are you sure you will work it out for yourself?

Ladies if you are driving and you are lost, if it is safe to do so, do you stop and would you be asking someone for directions?

 In 98% of cases guys will argue that they have a good sense of direction and given long enough they will find their way to their destination. Women on the other hand will, in 96% of cases, stop and ask for directions.

Why men aren't good at asking for directions.

Asking for directions. One study on this behaviour interviewed men and asked why they wouldn't ask for directions.

The almost unanimous response was ‘we might ask someone but if they didn't know they wouldn't say so and would still try to give us instructions and we could get even more lost than we were before.' Huh!

Asking for help.

If a man and woman are in the car together and he is driving he can get very annoyed at her navigational skills. For many women their spatial awareness is different from that of a man. That is why she so often turns a map upside down to try to orientate herself with the direction of travel.

She is more likely to be the person suggesting they ask for help and usually if the man concedes that they stop, generally he suggests that the woman be the one to ask for directions rather than him doing it.

I ran a course in Edinburgh and one of the delegates was travelling by car from the North of Scotland.  He was almost an hour late for the start of the session and he admitted sheepishly that he had crossed the Forth bridge three times.

When he got to the Edinburgh side he took the wrong exit and ended travelling back to Fife. On his last journey (this was when the tolls were still in operation) he was let across without paying as the toll booth operator recognised him – and gave him instructions on how to head for Edinburgh.

Impression management and impact in the workplace.

Not asking for directions is part of impression management and can have implications in many different situations.

One female Doctor that I know was completing her last year in hospital as a student. She would go on rounds with the consultant and a number of other students – all male – and being a very bright woman asked lots of subsequent questions as she wanted to learn all she could.

She noticed that the guys weren't asking any questions but quietly writing notes. When it came to her assessment she was horrified to find that she had been marked much more poorly than she had expected, and lower than all her male colleagues.

This was despite the fact that she had been top of her year. She asked the consultant why this had happened and he said ‘well obviously you didn't know as much as the other students as you kept asking me questions’.


 In the workplace impression management can hold many women back as most of them are unaware that it is happening.

If asked to do a new task most men don’t ask for every little detail and go off and hope to find out the information they need. Usually they do so but we have found on occasions that they go off in a completely mistaken direction because they didn't clarify what was needed.

On the other hand women often appear less confident because they clarify and prepare a defense against failure, just in case. ‘I have never done this before, do you think I will manage,’ are phrases that are often used. However they then generally take a thorough briefing are willing to ask and clarify as they go along, just to be sure and do a very thorough job.

These instances illustrate how generally men and women look differently at the world. Most men perceive the impression they give to be very important and can be reluctant to ask for help while women ask for help much more quickly and are happy to accept that other people know as much – or even more than them.

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