Why Men's and Women's Brains Are So Different

By AMNW Intern

If you've ever been annoyed when your man doesn't seem to be listening to you, you might be relieved to know he isn't doing it intentionally but his brain is making him do it! Certified Emotional Intelligence Consultant Susan Zabriskie had some interesting facts about the differences in our brains and what you can do to improve communication with your spouse.

To build authentic relationships, it’s important to step back from what society or culture tells us who men and women are or “should be” and instead take a look at our differences from a brain-based, physiological perspective.  Doing so can really be insightful and help us gain an awareness that can make a big difference in how successfully and effectively we relate to each other. 

It's important to know that we’re speaking in generalities and not trying to stereotype anyone – male or female.  Some men are very adept at expressing their emotions.  In general, though – there are basic brain differences both structurally and hormonally that explain some of these classic stereotypes.

Difference #1:  A man’s brain isn’t wired for language to the same degree as a woman’s. (We discussed this in the segment on empathy, but it’s highly relevant to this episode, too.) Women have 6-7 language centers in our brains. Men have only 1-2 in their left hemisphere. 

Bottom line: A man’s brain quickly becomes overtaxed with all the language and starts to shut down. Their brains literally cannot take in any more words.

Difference #2: Women, on average, have many more neural pathways throughout the brain and especially to and from the brain’s emotional center; hence they tend to see the world from a more emotion-centered perspective.

The bottom line: Women process information far more in their emotion centers then do men.

Difference #3: men have a smaller hippocampus. Because of this, men don’t recall their emotional experiences as readily, so their conversation is not as focused on feelings as much as women’s.  Women can interpret this as being “insensitive”.

Difference #4:  Corpus callosum – bundle of nerves that divides left and right hemispheres. This structure is 25% smaller in men. Men don’t move as many “feeling-thoughts” to their verbal center so they have a harder time voicing their feelings.

Difference #5: Brain stem – males have more spatial centers and rely more on brain stem (primitive brain) activity. Process their world much more from a physical – spatial perspective, causing him to act first; think and feel later. They are more apt to choose a physical response to emotion.

Difference #6: Also – hormonally – women have much more Oxytocin – the “cuddle” or “bonding” hormone.  What allows us to bond with and nurture children, but also prompts us to seek social interaction much more so than men.  We feel really good when we’re sharing and talking with our friends – very soothing to us.

Important point: The above differences influences why men tend to go into a problem solving mode – their brain is being increasingly stressed (verbally and emotionally). If he starts to analyze the situation he can stem the tide of words, remove the emotionality from it and cause his brain to de-stress.

Both men and women:
- Don’t judge each other for our inherent differences, but seek to wholeheartedly understand and accept each other. 
- Honor theses differences. Allow each other the benefit of the doubt.
For women:
- Share your feelings in shorter, more targeted segments. 
- If you’re just looking to be heard, let him know this up front. 
- Preface your feelings with a request that he just listen; that you’re not looking for a solution.
- While you are sharing, periodically ask him to paraphrase back to you both what he is hearing you say and how he thinks you are feeling. Keeps you connected!


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