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Battle of the Sexes


Laura has been fascinated by the study of communications or rather miscommunications, since 2007, when she picked up a copy of John Gray’s book entitled Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.  This talk is a lighthearted look at a few of the ah ha moments she has discovered from some of her research since then.  There is so much more to explore that she plans to expand in her Level 5 speech on Professional Speaking.  In the meantime  with this talk entitled Battle of the Sexes please welcome Laura McHarrie

Battle of the Sexes

Hands up those of you who have dredged your own story from your deepest darkest memory. Fellow Toastmasters, let’s get stuck right in and share those memories.  

In the interest of time, you have three words and three words only to describe your brutal battles.  Your story might be a partner issue, perhaps a parent or maybe it was  a colleague at work.  To give you a chance to summarise your memory here’s mine: Italian Navigation Debacle.

Brilliant – thanks everyone for sharing.  My Italian Navigation Debacle resulted in the demise of my second marriage.  Not wishing a third divorce, my interest in understanding how men and women process language has grown significantly.  

The battle of the sexes isn’t always behind closed doors.  In 2017 after Arianna Huffington commented during an Uber board meeting that having one woman joining the board paves the way for others, her fellow board member David Bonderman replied that having another woman on the board would simply lead to “more talking.”  eeek! The outrage led to his resignation later that day.

‘Joking apart’, women are equally as well educated as men nowadays – you would think both could manage our communication faux pas without shame and blame.  There are some fairly major differences in how we communicate, here are just three physiological reasons.

1.  It’s our wave lengths

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, men are twice as likely to experience hearing loss, particularly in the 20-60 working age group.

As they get older, men tend to lose their ‘hearing’ in the higher frequency levels of women and children. Comprehension is comprised largely because they have difficulty understanding consonants.  Women’s hearing loss generally occurs in the lower level hearing frequencies. They are less likely to understand vowels. There are 21 consonants and just 5 vowels. That’s a big imbalance, just in the ability to hear.

Moreover, Dr Michael Hunter University of Sheffield claims that “The female voice is actually more complex than the male voice. Differences in the size and shape of the vocal cords and larynx between women and men causes a more complex range of sound frequencies. Women have a more natural ‘melody’ in their voices.

To make sense of what women are saying men use the more complex auditory part of the brain that processes music rather than the mind’s eye where they process mens voices.

Oeer so could we then blame it on the brain?

2. It’s our hardwiring

A quick survey of brain differences might help us understand why it sounds like a different language even though we use the same words.

The left side of the brain performs tasks that have to do with logic, such as in science and mathematics. On the other hand, the right hemisphere performs tasks that have do with creativity and the arts. Both hemispheres are connected by the corpus callosum.  

By tracking blood flow in the brain, Dr Ruben Gurr has compared which part of the brain each gender uses for different tasks.  He found women use both sides of their brain for most activities (Multitasking!) whereas men tend to use very specific parts of the brain for individual activities.  (Focus!)

Dr Ruben Gurr also claims that compared to men’s brains, women’s brains were almost never off. There was as much blood-flow activity in a resting woman’s brain as there was in a thinking man’s brain. 

Which brings us onto the 3rd point …

It’s our hormones

There are some 200 hormones in the human body that have been discovered so far.  When they are all nicely balanced, all sexes and I mean all sexes can play well together.  But any number of hormones can go out of synch for all sorts of reasons and then WALLOP! Houston we have a problem.  In particular CORTISOL, the stress hormone that provides the fight, flight or freeze response, can have a massive effect on the other hormones and disrupt the  perfect playground dynamics.

Men have always wanted to take action when pumped with TESTOSTERONE, and celebrate their wins with others to get their OXYTOCIN (feel good kick). If they need to lick their wounds they like to do it alone.

Women want to mull over the problem, look at it from different sides, check out the options and agree with others the best course of action. Then they get their OXYTOCIN (feel good kick).  If they need to lick their wounds, they like all their friends and family to really care.

It’s what both sexes have done for millennia and how could we expect it change that much in centuries let alone decades.

One day fellow toastmasters I will regale more details of the Italian Navigation Debacle but for now I’d like to finish by returning to the Uber board room.  The women’s response to Bonderman’s ill thought through quip about women talking too much did as much harm to themselves as it did to Bonderman.  Women do want a harmonious relationship with their male colleagues they really do.  Throwing down this sort of furious gauntlet invokes fight, or flight or freeze.  I ask you fellow Toastmasters … How do any of these work for HR harmony?

Speech 23 from the Presentation Mastery manual – Managing a Difficult Audience.

This project covers common behaviours of difficult audience members and how to address each behaviour in a calm, effective and professional way. 
The purpose of this project is to practice the skills needed to address audience challenges when you present outside of your Toastmasters club.

PS – did you like this? If so, please comment and/or forward to a friend?

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