One of the frequently expressed complaints women share about the men in their lives is their lack of listening skills. It seems not only do our words go unheeded, they are blocked from entering half of the male brain. Believe it or not, there’s now research that proves it!
Recent advances in brain imaging have produced several surprising new wrinkles to the great gender divide. It goes without saying that those of us who lived through the women’s movement are especially fascinated by the topic of nature versus nurture. In fact this particular conundrum laid the foundation for many a heated skirmish at the height of the battle between the sexes. Now it looks like nature plays an even greater role than we’d thought—especially when it comes to the human brain. One of the most striking differences between the brains of men and women involves how we process language.
To the utter dismay of many a long-suffering woman, it appears that men do not listen well! One cause for this phenomenon may come as a result of their lower oxytocin levels. (Oxytocin is the hormone involved in bonding—sometimes dubbed “the cuddle chemical). Unfortunately, the lack of the cuddle chemical makes our guys likely less inclined to want to bond and connect—especially through conversation.
However, hormones aside, the main culprit for their turning a deaf ear to us is that their brain is actually “deaf” on one side. When brain images of live subjects were taken, they showed the neurons on both sides of a woman’s brain were activated while she listened to the voices of the researchers. However, in males, only one side of the brain displayed activated neurons. And, when verbal tasks were given, women showed higher blood flow to various areas throughout their brain. They could remember what was said and, therefore, recall what they were told to do. No surprise, this increased activity did not occur in men.
Consequently, it seems a biological determinate that when you have a need to send a verbal message to your male partner—especially when it concerns a task you want them to do—you’ll need to be extra certain that your message will actually sift through to the side of his brain where he’ll hear it.
As many of us will attest, dealing with the guys in our lives can prove challenging… and this frustrating brain-fact makes Tammy Wynette’s words even more on target: “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman!”