BOYS AND GIRLS COME OUT TO PLAY.
Life is a game which boys play competitively and girls play companionably.
Tolerance to risk.
Risk taking, stepping into the unknown, is a part of our passage of discovery through life. This is an area where male and female risk taking is often very different.
People have different tolerance levels towards risk – for some it is an exciting challenge, the chance to win, to show what the can do, while for others it is something to be avoided – if at all possible. To be part of the group, not standing out, being different.
We risk winning, or losing, succeeding or failing whenever we do something new, something that will take us out of our present comfort zone.
For many this fear of risk can be traced back to childhood. To the way we learned to survive, and male and female differences in how we cope with the world of interaction with others.
Girls at play
While there are always exceptions to the rule, when observing male and female risk taking, generally observing a group of four-year-old girls, who meet for the first time, they will exchange names, details of their family and home, and then decide what they are going to play together.
Whatever they decide to play will be as a group. The bossy little girl who tells the others what to do is not popular. So most little girls try to conform to being part of the group and hide any inclination to take control, or do something different.
However there is one exception to the rule. If the girls are playing at families then the girl who plays mother is allowed to boss everyone else and this is seen as perfectly acceptable!
Boys at play
If you observe a group of little boys meeting for the first time, they may, or may not, bother to introduce themselves to each other, then they will decide what they are going to play.
Invariably it will be something competitive, and each child knows that he will be in a situation of risk taking. He will either win or lose. There will be power play, and the leaders will emerge. Most little boys want to be that leader, and they compete for this, not worrying if it makes them popular or not, knowing that power itself is attractive.
What is success?
Male and female risk taking is very different. Brought up by these very different conventions of male and female risk taking it is understandable that most men and women look at success in different ways. But the fear of risk also goes deeper with women as a result. Most have not been exposing themselves on a regular basis to winning or losing, and when situations arise where this need arises, they are not always comfortable dealing with the situation in the same way as most men.
Competitive versus collaborative.
In our education system there is growing concern that boys are under performing, and not reaching their full potential, while girls are increasingly leading the field. Studies suggest that the way in which school subjects are presented makes a difference to results. While in the past the system was based on exam results, and the competitiveness of knowing your ranking in the class, it has now generally changed, with a much higher emphasis in continual assessment. Once again this follows the pattern of male and female differences.
For boys, the lack of competition and challenge tends to lead to a lack of interest in learning, whereas the continual assessment suites the girls less competitive tendency better. In the few schools where classes are being divided by sex and each sex taught in the way that works best for them, there have been encouraging results.
Boys and girls play by different rules. It can be hard for many women to move out of the comfort zone of being part of a group, especially if that group is holding them back, or looks at the world in a negative way. It takes courage, conviction and focus if they decide to make this change.
You are criticizing me.
Male and female risk taking also covers how individuals perceive criticism. Men are more willing to accept that criticism is of some action or activity they have undertaken, and focus on what specifically they may have done wrong, while women are much more likely to take criticism personally, not seeing the criticism as being of the action, but of them personally - ‘He doesn’t like me’. This can create considerable difficulty, and is something which women need to learn to change by stepping back from the situation and accepting the feedback as a gift towards their own personal growth.
An interesting experiment was undertaken to assess male and female differences where men and women were put into a room by themselves and asked to solve a puzzle.
After half an hour the researcher entered the room. Almost all of the women came out with similar statements: ‘I am sorry, I am not very good at puzzles, give me a little longer to try to complete it’.
When the researcher went to check how the men were progressing all the men replied ‘I can’t get this puzzle to work, there must be something wrong with it’. The puzzle was flawed, however it was noted that the men made that assumption, while the women blamed themselves.
Male and female risk taking differences leads to people interpreting their world in different ways. That is not to say that one is right and the other wrong, simply that they are different. In the work environment, and in personal relationships, it is important to recognize and respect these differences and find a balance of both to build strong relationships.
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