Yet these misunderstandings and mutual accusations are no accident. Communication pat­terns or preferences are deeply engraved in our brains, and the programming is very diffe­rent in men and women, in boys and girls. Due to the instincts that we inherited from our ances­tors, we still behave like them in many respects. For example, the perceived lack of emo­tions of males can be explained by the fact that their forefathers had to learn to suppress or at least hide these in order to be successful. When hunting wild animals or fighting enemies, the practical use of emotions was rather limited. On the contrary, they could cause mental conditions such as fear, stress, timidity or high spirit, which in turn lead to errors or mental paralysis. What men needed in their daily job was logic and rationalism, which enabled them to foresee dangers and to react accordingly. For a woman, on the other hand, there was little reason to keep her emotions in check. Her feelings and compassion were a convenient tool when dealing with physically superior males. She had to rely on cues to read other people’s tempers, general dispositions, or moods on any given day, in order to be able to respond in the right way. Thus, women are accustomed to trusting their guts.[1] Fur­ther­more, in their function as nest-defenders, harmony and openness were a necessity. They knew that they had to be co-operative and show vulnerability, especially when they were in a situation where they solicited help from others. The opposite is true for men: By nature, they are more contained, suspicious, defensive. For them, staying in control is their life. Emo­tio­nality is a sign of being out of control, a sentiment that most men do not like and find threa­tening. The legacy from ancient times that males must be brave and show no weakness can still be found in today’s teaching of young lads to “act like a man” and that “boys don’t cry”.[2]

Similarly, hunting or fishing required men to be patient and to silently wait for animals to come across their path. Any sound could have scared away the prey or expose the tracker. If the beast was coming closer, they had to remain all the quieter. They could not just talk about their stress and hope that it would vanish.[3] That way, they learned to say words only when they had to, at the same time becoming more acutely aware of their own needs, which more or less corresponded to what was essential to protect themselves in the wild. Not so with women: In the home cave, their job consisted in caring for others. For this, they had to be able to identify people’s sensitivities, anticipate their emotions, and foresee conditions and defi­ciencies. Then, in order to gather information and to interpret it properly, they had to ask questions, to share their impressions, to express their opinions, etc. Joined by other women and their children, it was crucial for them to build and maintain relationships.[4],[5] If one of them had problems or was worried about something, she could talk about these with the others. They would then confabulate and try to support her. Letting everyone know made it easier to receive help. Moreover, performing tasks with the group gave them the oppor­tunity to chat, thereby creating bonds, getting to know each other better and streng­thening the sense of community. Members who refused to participate, were aloof or did not commu­nicative enough, faced the risk of getting marginalised, or, in the worst case, expel­led from the tribe. Once on their own, their chance of survival was much lower. The incen­tive to actively contribute to the daily cackle could therefore not be any stronger.

Under such premises, it is not surprising to see contemporary women enjoying great verbal and language skills, being more intuitive, emotionally expressive, and more in touch with their feelings than their male counterparts.[6] These advantages are the results of thousands of years of evolution, during which time our brains developed in opposite directions. As this diver­gence has its roots in biology, it would be delusive to assume that our brains (and there­fore our habits, preferences, communication styles) could suddenly adjust to the new reality of gender roles, as we are experiencing now.[7] Collisions between men and women, misunderstandings and frustration are inevitable and here to stay. There will always be some­thing to complain about in every couple. The art of love resides in tolerating each other’s weaknesses and quirks, to accepting that nobody is perfect, not even one’s soul mate. Couples work at their best when both partners manage to avoid sexist behaviour and free them­­selves from gender preconceptions, in other words, when the colloquial crow feels loved as well.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

也要马儿好,也要马儿不吃草

yě yào mǎ ér hǎo, yě yào mǎ ér bù chī cǎo

You want a good horse but won’t give it grass to eat.

Nothing is perfect. Don’t have unrealistic expectations.

 

瓜无滚圆,人无十全

guā wú gǔn yuán, rén wú shí quán

No melon is completely round, and no person is perfect.

Nothing is perfect.

 

水至清则无鱼

shuǐ zhì qīng zé wú yú

No fish can survive in absolutely clear water.

One should not demand absolute purity or perfectness.

 

十个指头不一般齐

shí gè zhǐ tou bù yī bān qí

Ten fingers, all of different lengths.

You cannot expect everything to be perfect. There are always good and bad in everything.

 

知者不言,言者不知

zhī zhě bù yán, yán zhě bù zhī

He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak.

(Quote by Lao Zi, 老子, lǎo zi)

 

 


 

Notes

[1]    Satana (2007), p. 65

[2]    Pease / Pease (1999), p. 162

[3]    Gray (2012), p. 37

[4]    Pease / Pease (2002), p. 161

[5]    Gray (2012), p. 36

[6]    Townsend (1998), p. 204

[7]    Gray (2012), p. 37

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