Underlying many of the 9 Whopping Mistakes is this one.   It’s like a mega-whopper!  It’s called “Ignoring Gender Differences” and it underlies many of the unfulfilled expectations we have.

Why is she so emotional?  Why doesn’t he answer me?   Why can’t she trust a babysitter for a few hours so we can have time alone?  He tries to control me.   I don’t understand why she worries so much.  Why does he ignore me?  When we have expectations of how others should act – no matter what the source of those expectations – we are disconnected.  We are not dealing with them soul-to-soul or heart-to-heart; we are dealing with them through roles not based on who they are and based on unexpressed requests that lead to disappointment.

Of course, we are all different – no two people are alike due to differences in culture, family, education, experiences, and gender.   Even identical twins have some differences.  In some cultures, girls are encouraged to go after their dreams. In other cultures, girls are raised to be wives and mothers as children  In some cultures, boys are be raised to fight and be aggressive to get what they want; other cultures, boys are raised to be more relationship-oriented.

In my book “Why did you load the dishwasher like that?: 9 Whopping Mistakes That Push Love Away,” I provide a list of several differences that researchers report.  Several of them have been my observations and experience as well.

Here are five examples from the book of typical differences between men and women:

Characteristic Women Men
Sense of Self From relationships and connections From what they accomplish on their own
Connect by Maintaining appearance of equality; asking questions to connect Using opposition and put-down to show power; avoid asking questions which might reveal a lack of knowing
Focus Multi-tasking – juggles multiple tasks at same time Single focus – one task at a time; can’t listen while doing; linear
Goal of Conversation Rapport talk – goal of inclusion, emotional consensus, support. cooperation Report talk – the goal of exchanging information with little emotional engagement; value competition (a result of testosterone)
Listening style Active, clarifies, head nod shows listening (but men assume she agrees) Neutral listening (women assume he’s bored)
Listening for “What do they need from me?” or “What does this have to do with me?” Listening for “What’s the point?” or “What’s the problem you need me to fix?”

In these examples, can you see how the differences can lead to misunderstanding?  Most of these actions reflect a woman’s concern for connection and rapport talk – it’s about taking care of the relationships and a man’s concerns for getting things done or gaining information. A woman asks questions to connect and a man avoids asking questions which could make him appear weak. Each misunderstands the motives of the other; the things she is unsure of herself and she thinks he is selfish because he doesn’t ask questions of her.  She listens for how to serve and he listens for what needs to be fixed.

This information is not “the truth,” but it might help you be aware that when another person acts in a way that doesn’t make sense to you, you might be misunderstanding them, or they might be misunderstanding you!

I watched the movie “What do men want?,” about a woman who is a sports agent who is locked out of promotion by the “boy’s club” who are the other partners.  She is very competitive and is always looking how to outsmart the partners to prove she is worthy. She gains the ability to read men’s minds and uses that to beat them at their own game; however, in the end she realizes she has lost herself in the journey to the top.  She finally realizes she can find her own way of working with clients that resonates with who she is instead of trying to fit in.   The point of this is that we may try to fit in with others but, in the end, the goal is to be yourself.  And I would add… to act consistent with your values – such as respect, honor, kindness or whatever else is how you want to show up in the world.

The message here is be who you are.  If you are not being “yourself,” then you are in survival, trying to get attention, love or admiration from others.  Men and women who are trying to outcompete others to get ahead in an organization rather than operating from their values often have regret or shame at how they treat others.

To be who you are requires that you know who you are … and that is a journey worth taking.