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Why Women Seek Comfort and Men Seek Solutions

Gender Differences in Our Response to Stress

By Patti Wood, Body Language Expert

You won't believe what Frank did this time! He came in and told me to redo that report with the last quarter’s figures included! He never said I should include those figures! And now I'll have to work on it all weekend!"

How would you respond? Would the gender of the person making that statement affect your way of responding?

How would you respond if your female co-worker said, "Whoa, it’s been a long day”? What would do if a male co-worker said the same thing?

When women complain or state their stress they are seeking understanding and comfort. So women hearing someone say, “It has been a long day” may say, "Yes, it’s been a long day." The Interpretation: I care, I understand, I respect you. When men complain research says they tend to seek answers or solutions to their problems.

We have learned that men and woman need a different style first response, but do you know why? You may have learned in one of my programs that research done by female scientists after 9/11 showed that men under stress go to “fight or flight” but women have a different response. When under stress women nurture children, and share their stress with other women. Women talk to give and receive emotional support. A new scientific study reveals the differences between men and women may really begin in the brain. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used a high-tech imaging method to scan the brains of 16 men and 16 women. “Using this state-of-the art functional magnetic resonance imaging technique, we try to directly visualize what the human brain does during stress," says Jiongjiong Wang, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of radiology and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers then purposely induced moderate performance stress. Researchers monitored the subject's heart rate. They also measured the blood flow to the brain and checked for cortisol, a stress hormone. When the scans were completed, neuroscientists consistently found differences between the men's stressed-out brains and the women's. Men responded with increased blood flow to the right prefrontal cortex, responsible for "fight or flight." Women had increased blood flow to the limbic system, which is also associated with a more nurturing and friendly response. Some experts caution that hormones, genetics and environmental factors may influence these results, bringing to light yet another difference between men and women. Neuroscientists say the changes in the brain during the stress response also lasted longer in women. Women not only need an empathic first response, they need the empathy to last longer. They are also more likely to give an empathetic first response. Men respond to stress by taking action and wonder why women want to talk!

By Patti Wood, body language expert. Call or email Patti to book a speech, training class, team building program or one on one coaching.