I am going to start with a broad statement, all of our communication is influenced by our emotions. For most of our daily interactions, that's true, very much so when we are communicating in emotional situations.
But there are differences in our communication behaviours, the major differences are between the sexes. In case you haven’t noticed, men and women communicate quite differently.
Here are some quick facts on how our brains work differently across the sexes when influenced by emotions and how this is reflected in our communications;
· The limbic system, where our emotional brain (the amygdala) is housed, influences our emotions and is the driver of our fight or flight reaction. Men have a much larger amygdala than women despite the fact that women have been shown to have greater emotional awareness.
· When in an emotional situation, men primarily use their right brain which is the defence side whereas women primarily use their left brain, the logic side.
· The same happens in the amygdala, women use more of the left side of the amygdala whereas men use more of the right side. This means that women will remember more of the emotional details whereas men will get the gist of what happened.
· Women use both brain hemispheres when communicating, men use only one. Similarly, women have thicker 'wires' joining the two hemispheres than do men's brains. Hence women are generally much better at communicating in depth of understanding than men.
· Girls are verbally more sophisticated than boys when growing up. They use more social interactive skills when communicating such as leaning towards each other, holding eye contact for long periods, and using touch to reinforce their communication. Men consolidate their social skills with physical activity.
· Men are more matter of fact in what they say, more direct. A woman will ask "Would you like to stop and have a coffee" while out driving. A man will answer "No." What she meant was "I want to stop and have a coffee."
How does all of this help us? If we want to communicate a little better between the sexes, we need to understand these differences to avoid often unintentional conflict.
Men should try to listen more, talk more about their feelings, ask questions of women when they are unsure of what she said, and stop going straight to problem-solving.
Women should try to be more direct in what they say, know that lack of emotion or eye contact does not mean that the man doesn’t care or is lying, and know that when men problem-solve they are just trying to help.
Or, we could just carry on as we are and enjoy our differences. I prefer this option because life is all about balance.